A more sustainable cloud through transparency & change
As the world we live in continues to develop better technologiesand new and exciting ways of communicating, our demand forenergy grows.Data centers are the engines that drive our connected world,processing the billions of daily transactions, comments andinteractions in our digital society.More data equals more energy – and this is starting to become abig headache from a sustainability perspective. If a singular data center can consume the equivalent energy of 180,000 homes, exactly how large is the overall impact on our planet, and what is being done about it?
Data on energy & computingSourcing reliable figures on datacenter output and itseffect on the world is difficult, due in part to the fast rateof growth as well as rapidly changing technology andbusiness models. However, the main factor that defines alack of accurate data has been the unwillingness of majorIT brands to act transparently in their operations.Historically, cloud brands have not been willing todisclose information through fear of revealingcompetitive advantage or disadvantagein operations.
According to a 2007 report from iClimate on global e-sustainability,the world‟s data centers and telecommunications networks used acombined electricity of 623 billion kWh. What does that numbermean? Well, if the cloud were a country, it would have the fifth largestelectricity demand in the world, sitting somewhere between India andJapan on the global energy consumption charts.The report also indicates that cloud-serving data centers areresponsible for 2 percent of the world‟s annual CO2 emissions – afigure that has likely grown in the five years since the reports creation.Two percent may not sound like a massive amount, but when youconsider how much the ecosystem of data has changed since 2007,that 2 percent could easily become 4 percent in a very short timeframe.
The exponential growth in data consumption both at home with super-fast broadband and on the go with 3G and 4G data connections havemeant that 2007‟s figure really no longer applies. HoweverGreenpeace‟s 2010 report “Make IT Green,” predicts the demand fordata center electricity will more than triple over the next five years,resulting in an energy demand totaling that of France, Germany,Canada and Brazil combined. The largest culprit for the massive spike in data seen recently is the mobile industry. Mobile data traffic in 2011 was eight times the size of the entire internet in 2000. By the end of 2012 the number of connected devices is expected to exceed the global population. This mobile boom is largely down to large scale adoption in emerging markets. As of January 2012 India had 0ver 900 million mobile connections and could become the largest mobile market in the world in terms of revenue. As hardware costs fall and functionality increases, this adoption will only continue to rise, and the data serving providers need to expand to accommodate the increased demand.
Location, location, location So, what can cloud providers do about this mass demand for energy? The future of the industry and how it operates is largely down to 3 things; location, self sufficiency and transparency. When choosing siting for a new data center, there are a number of considerations. There has to be an adequate availability of affordable electricity, telecommunications infrastructure as well as tax incentives, climate and proximity to end-users.While many areas of the world can offer these considerations inabundance, the future of a green cloud is dependent on just two.Many cloud companies considering self hosted data are moving tocooler climes to make the most of the „free cooling‟ benefits. Freecooling is the use of external air for hardware cooling.
Traditionally nearly half of a data center‟s power consumption comesfrom cooling the rooms of servers that physically hold the data. Thesebehemoth computers generate a massive amount of heat, and assuch require constant chilling. By locating your data centre in an areaof naturally low temperatures, such as the Nordic countries, providerscan half their consumption by drawing in the chilled outside air. This shift is already starting to happen as providers find the financial benefits a driving force, and the green outcome an added perk.
The second consideration to location is positioning in relation to a renewable energy source. Many of the worlds largest data center‟s are driven by coal and gas. This is classed as dirty energy, however a number of providers are making the move to sustainability through renewable energy Facebook built its third major data center in Lulea, Sweden – a location chosen for the large amount of existing hydroelectric capacity at high availability. The data center is fully powered with renewable energy from an outer source.The problem with the location fix is that a huge number of data centersalready exist in areas that do not have access to renewable energysources. For these providers, often their only choice for external power iscoal. A growing number of cloud companies are taking matters into theirown hands and creating their own source of energy.
The one thing a data center has going for it is size. If we take i/o Data Centers as an example, their facility in Phoenix, Arizona has an enormous 580,000 sq ft footprint that has allowed them to install 5,000 solar panels in an array that will generate a total of 4.5MW at peak capacity. Though this is just a fraction of the 100MW demand, the solar panels will be married with thermal storage technology to reduce the energy drain of cooling during the heat of the dayApple has recently announced a 20MW solar array and has alsoinvested in a 5MW fuel cell device on site in Maiden, NC. The industry isstarting to sit up and listen.
A company like Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple has enormousclout in the areas they operate. These tech giants are big fish to thelocal utility firms, who will all be vying to supply them with power uponcreation of new centers. By negotiating renewable energy with theutilities, corporations can begin to change the coal driven ecosystemand drive the industry towards a brighter future. IT and cloud providers have a duty to research renewable energy sources and implement sustainable power solutions. As well as this duty to source green energy, they also have a duty to report on it. By releasing figures on energy output, full research can be engaged and better solutions and energy standards can be created.
The future of our technologicaladvancement is no longer down tocompetition and advantage.Providers need to work togetherto create a better plan for ourengorging power drain so that wehave a future to enjoy thetechnology in.
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Ospero_JasonC About OsperoAbout the Author: Ospero‟s distribution-as-a-service (DaaS) offering, helps business rollout global SaaS instances withoutJason Currill is founder and CEO of Ospero, a vendors having to worry about legal compliance,global Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) company. latency issues and privacy headaches. All of Ospero‟s data centers comply withThe company, through a federated cloud strategy, the ISO 4001 standard. The company believes inhas one of the largest ubiquitous, single vendor green and has recently been praised by externalcloud platforms in the world. Before founding assessors for the maturity of their environmentalOspero, Jason, a seasoned technology Executive management systems.with over 15 years international sales experience,worked with Cisco Systems, Business Objects (aSAP company) and NetSuite, in charge of bothEMEA and NA territories. Prior to his career in IT, www.ospero.comJason worked on the London International E: firstname.lastname@example.orgFinancial Futures Exchange (LIFFE) for almost 10years as a Futures Trader. @ospero_