Online Inventory Management with Application to Energy Procurement in Data Centers

Motivated by the application of energy storage management in electricity markets, this paper considers the problem of online linear programming with inventory management constraints. Specifically, a decision maker should satisfy some units of an asset as her demand, either form a market with time-varying price or from her own inventory. The decision maker is presented a price in slot-by-slot manner, and must immediately decide the purchased amount with the current price to cover the demand or to store in inventory for covering the future demand. The inventory has a limited capacity and its critical role is to buy and store assets at low price and use the stored assets to cover the demand at high price. The ultimate goal of the decision maker is to cover the demands while minimizing the cost of buying assets from the market. We propose BatMan, an online algorithm for simple inventory models, and BatManRate, an extended version for the case with rate constraints. Both BatMan and BatManRate achieve optimal competitive ratios, meaning that no other online algorithm can achieve a better theoretical guarantee. To illustrate the results, we use the proposed algorithms to design and evaluate energy procurement and storage management strategies for data centers with a portfolio of energy sources including the electric grid, local renewable generation, and energy storage systems.

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