2017: Make Time for a Carbon Neutral Cloud
The digital revolution has a positive effect on the environment thanks to the dematerialisation of documents and procedures. With the increased uptake of cloud computing, this process is taken a step further: just think of the reduced environmental impact achieved with the introduction of cloud based e-readers and the obsolescence of printing and shipping books.
Another important positive effect of cloud computing on the environment is achieved by servers’ usage optimisation. When moving from local servers to cloud hosted ones, the average server utilization rate is increased from around 15% to approximately between 65% and 75% and up to over 80% for modern large-scale cloud providers. Using fewer servers & therefore less energy, organisations lower their bills and reduce their environmental impact.
However cloud computing per-se is not as green as it may seem. A massive amount of electricity is required, in particular for the data centres, that serve as the factories of the growing cloud-based ecosystem.
“If you aggregated the electricity use by data centres and the networks that connect to our devices, it would rank sixth among all countries,” says Gary Cook, Greenpeace’s international IT analyst.
With our society always more dependent on the ubiquitous accessibility to almost-everything, further exacerbated by the increasing widespread of smartphones, and the progressive cloudification of services and storage, these numbers are deemed to increase dramatically in the next few years. The good news is that there are concerns about energy costs, together with customer-driven reputation concerns about their carbon footprint, which is driving Industry to consider energy efficiency and environmental impact in their core strategies and investments for 2017.
Great progress is being made in architecture, hardware, and software innovations for raising data centres’ energy efficiency by improving the resource utilisation while maintaining high levels of performance. However, by considering only the energy efficiency parameter and its impact on the environment we have merely scratched the surface. It is important to consider also which kind of energy is used to keep data centres running: the key to a sustainable cloud is improving energy efficiency, but also sourcing renewable energy.
To shed a light on the complex area of green computing, we need to clarify some terminology first. Being carbon neutral is a first step towards environmental friendliness. A data centre can be carbon neutral by buying carbon offset credits. This doesn’t necessarily reduce fossil fuels being burnt: it means investing to counterbalance the environmental cost of burning coal in one part of the world (this can be done by buying/using clean energy, but also planting trees or generating clean electricity somewhere else).
The final step to environmental friendliness is to use 100% renewable energy: in particular locating data centres in places where clean energy is easily produced. As cooling systems contribute to almost 1/3 of the total energy consumption in data centres, building them in cold places is a simple but effective strategy for energy saving and reduced environmental impact. That’s exactly why low-cost, green data centres are popping up in Iceland: Iceland is able to generate inexpensive, 100%-green energy exploiting hydroelectric and geothermal plants. Plus these data centres can take advantage of the "free cooling" that the Nordic cold air provides.
Verne Global, with its data centre near Reykjavik powered by 100% renewable energy, with free cooling 365 days a year, offers a sustainable & energy efficient solution: “This is nice for the planet, and it may help some clients scratch the green itch. But it also makes running a data centre super-affordable”, says Tate Cantrell, chief technology officer at Verne Global.
Concrete results speak for themselves: “by moving 10 of its High Performance Computing clusters from its Munich facilities to Verne Global, BMW reduced their annual carbon emissions by 3,570 metric tons. That’s the equivalent of the carbon produced by burning 1.46 million litres of petrol. The move also enabled BMW to reduce the cost of powering its HPC applications by as much as 82%.”
Verne Global is one of our certified sellers in the ICTFOOTPRINT.eu marketplace, an online “business space”, free of charge, where sustainable ICT suppliers showcase their energy efficiency solutions and meet buyers’ requests. ICTFOOTPRINT.eu aims to grow this marketplace as its goal for 2017 to add further energy efficient suppliers to showcase their innovative products to an EU hub of sensitive actors wanting to save their environmental sustainability with their ICT solutions.
If you are a European ICT-intensive SME or organisation with a super low carbon solution or want to become more ICT efficient, then join the ICTFOOTPRINT.eu online marketplace: find your sustainable solutions (and save on your electricity bills) in a simple and straightforward way!
Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.
This is exactly where ICTFOOTPRINT.eu comes into play: raising awareness on ICT environmental sustainability, and following closely the development of the main ICT standards and methodologies for measuring the ICT carbon footprint.
- Have a look at our interactive map of ICT Standards, including the EN 50600 series on data centre facilities and infrastructures.
- Follow the registered webinar “Ways of minimising corporate ICT footprint & bridging the gap in standards for data centre facilities”, about data centre sustainability and much more.