Rackspace’s European Cloud really is Green. No Coal Power, All Renewables, Low Carbon Intensity

At GreenMonk we think its important to get under the skin of sustainability assumptions, to try and understand the underlying data, complex though they may be, which is why we have been skeptical of claims by vendors that cloud is by definition green. We are also disappointed by the Carbon Disclosure Project’s position on the subject. We might as well say cloud is by definition secure, or by definition offers 100% uptime. None of these statements stand up to scrutiny. Cloud can be greener, but a lot depends on where the energy to run that cloud comes from. We need to analyse the inputs, as well as the outputs. If you run your cloud on coal then its not green – its dirty cloud.

My colleague Tom does a great job talking to the issues in this video, with transcript.

Tom also points out that the Google Apps cloud has a surprisingly high carbon intensity. Of course sustainability is about more than energy – which cloud providers have published data on water consumption and use?

I met Rackspacee recently to talk about its European business and I was pleased to discover that its European data center, here in the UK, runs on certified 100% renewable power. If only other cloud providers made such clear and unambiguous commitments to sustainability. Well done Rackspace. Now if we can just get the company to be programmatic about sharing data about its performance, to encourage other cloud providers to become more transparent.

update for extra bonus points from the good people over at Mastadon C, a project to enable organisations to choose where to deploy Hadoop jobs based on the carbon intensity of a chosen data center location. On Mastadon C’s blog today they also commend Rackspace, confirming GreenMonk’s position, also supported by Greenpeace.

“So Rackspace London rocket up the leaderboard as a green option, and we can build moar big data in the UK without doing bad things to the planet! Happy campers all round.”


A six year old on trees: stories for Jubilee Woods

Eastern Lesser Bamboo Lemur, Marojejy National Park, Madagascar


My son this morning told me about a book he was reading at school about the environment. He said he was worried about pollution from factories and carbon dioxide. He wanted to go to the shops and buy some explorer’s clothes and fly to?Madagascar to replant trees that had been cut down there. I said that flying might not be the best way to help the planet, but that we could invest in forestry online. I got some excellent responses on twitter when I asked for ideas there, such as looking at the Woodland Trust, by @martinhowitt. I also spent some time at Treebanker’s site?- you should too. Rainforest reforestation using pilot canopy trees is a very interesiing idea. I had no idea teak grew so fast.

Malee Dharmasena also pointed me at Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Woods effort- to plant six million new trees.?One of its activities is a story competition for kids to make up 60 word stories about trees, with the prize a trip to see the movie The Lorax, which is based on the Dr Seuss story – a warning about deforestation from 1961. ?As an avid twitter user, with its 140 character limit, of course I like the idea of a short story, constrained to 60 words. Also makes it easier for kids too. Anyway-= my boy has been working on ideas all afternoon, and here are two of them. Hopefully they will inspire someone to plant a tree. Haven’t decided what to do about that yet, but I am making a contribution to the Woodland Trust; I like its local focus.

Ha! My son just said: “that’s a lot of writing…” Well over to you then, boy:

“It would take one hundred years to replant forests all over Earth and so if any more cutting down happens, then in fifty years all the rain forests will have gone. we need to stop the carbon dioxide so that the air is healthier and the seas, so lets do it for it the environment. my favourite is an apple tree.”

I looked at the website to find trees to buy so that we could try and help the environment. there might not be enough trees in Madagascar. all the other rain forests have been cut down. rainforests are green green green green all over, green green green all over, it is very very wet, the trees help make the rain.”


Do you want to influence EU policy on green cloud computing?


European policymakers are reaching out to ask European citizens for their help in crafting legislation for the better of all its citizens. This is a nice departure from the lobbytocracy which exists in some countries.

Currently, as part of the Digital Agenda for Europe, there is a process in place called the Digital Agenda Assembly which has a call for discussion and feedback on a number of hot IT issues such as Cloud, Data, Security, and Social Media.

Anyone can sign up at the site and contribute.

Via Paul Miller I came across a discussion on Green Cloud, which regular readers here will recognise as an issue I have an interest in.

The Cloud group moderator posted the following question:

The recent report by Greanpeace [sic] ( cast a light on importance of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources for cloud environments and data centers.

Should policy address such issues in future EU cloud strategy and how ensure a green and sustainable cloud development?

Your ideas on this subject are more than welcome.

Wow – an opportunity to influence EU policy and possibly make cloud computing more Green – I couldn’t resist. I posted the following response:

Greenpeace are correct – data centers are using dirty power to run their clouds.

Unfortunately this is often outside their control – especially in the US where the utility companies are regional monopolies and there is no choice in energy provider.

In the EU, there is more competition, and data centers should be encouraged to use energy from renewable sources and to site new builds where renewables are available. The greater the demand for renewable energy, the more will be built out.

I think the best way to encourage this is through transparency. Data centres need to be required to report fully and regularly their complete energy and emissions.

Iceland is currently running one of the world’s most reliable energy grids (it doesn’t have any outages). As well as being highly reliable, it has the cheapest energy in the western world and it is 100% renewable.

Iceland is due to become a full member of the EU in the coming year – so that should help the EU in attracting cloud providers looking for a renewable energy source.

But that is quite a local solution.

The real requirement is to move our all energy generation away from fossil fuels as soon as possible – this is important not just for cloud computing, but for every aspect of our life.

As Paul says above, mandating data centres to use Green power is not an answer, moving our generation to renewables (and requiring full transparency and reporting from data centres) is.

So there you have it – my recipe for making Cloud computing Green is to require full (auditable) reporting from all data centres (and every significant energy consumer, why stop at data centres?) of the entirety of their energy and emissions. This will create a significant demand for more renewable energy, leading the generators to re-double their efforts to bring more renewables resources on-line and rewarding those who have already done so.

So if you want to influence EU policy on cloud computing to make it more Green, why not head over to the Green Cloud discussion at the Digital Agenda and let your voice be heard too?

Photo Credit supertin


SAP talks up Sustainable Programming

Renewable energy source code

There is a lot of work happening to reduce the increasing energy footprint of ICT – at the infrastructure level, at the CPU level with ARM-based servers, and at the storage level. However, until recently, very little had been mentioned about the energy footprint of the software running on servers.

This is a topic I first raised with SAP back in 2008 at their TechEd event in Berlin. I urged them to have a Green coding theme to their next (2009) TechEd event, which, in fairness to them, they did.

SAP have now decided to address this issue at a broader level and recently published two blog posts (here and here) on what it calls Sustainable Programming. Accompanying the blog posts are two PDF articles which go into the topics in a bit more detail (here and here).

These blog posts and the accompanying articles are aimed at the many developers SAP has in it’s SDN community globally (over 1 million at time of writing).

These developers are typically working on large enterprise systems responsible for running organisations and often dealing with hundreds/thousands of transactions per minute. These transactions routinely involve database read/write operations and each has a discreet energy footprint. Reducing the energy requirement of these transactions can have a significant effect on an application’s power requirements (and consequently its costs and CO2 footprint).

Helping these developers learn sustainable programming techniques will benefit the organisations the developers are working for, SAP by extension and the reduced carbon emissions will help the rest of us.

Reading through the documents, I can’t help thinking that they are light on specifics and psuedo-code. I suspect this initiative could do with a wiki for developers to add in code snippets, have discussions and swap best-practices.

Photo credit Tom Raftery


Logica and SAP in exclusive joint bid for UK Smart Meter data provisioning

Smart meter

The UK has an interesting Smart Meter infrastructure model. Data from all the country’s Smart Meters will flow to a centralised data repository (called the DCC), from where, energy retailers will pull the data for billing purposes. The beauty of this system is that consumers dictate who has access to their data, and so switching energy providers, is not held up by data ownership issues.

The build-out of this system is still at very early stages with RFP’s expected towards the end of the year but SAP and Logica have come out of the blocks early with an announcement that they are going to put in a joint bid to become the data service provider for the DCC.

Logica and SAP are both heavily involved in the utilities sector in the UK, so it makes sense for them to bid for this – the interesting aspect is that they agreed to bid together and that their joint bid is exclusive.

The six main suppliers in the UK are all either involved in trials, or in the process of starting to trial smart meters. All six are using Logica’s head-end system for their trials, so if Logica and SAP win the bid, the transition to the DCC system should be relatively painless.

Talking to Tara McGeehan, Logica’s Head of Utilities UK on Monday, she said that the idea behind the bid was to move the debate away from technology and comms, onto the power of the data to affect things like micro-generation, energy efficiency and smart grids.

Having seen Centrica’s Smart Meter Analytics application, which runs on SAP’s HANA, earlier this year, the proposition that there is gold in them thar data, certainly rings true.

Photo credit Tom Raftery


Normal service has resumed once more

Test Card

I was made aware of an issue with this site yesterday afternoon.

It appears a problem with a WordPress plugin meant that if you went to the main page of this blog (i.e. the most recent posting you saw was dated June 2nd of this year.

If, however, you were logged into the site, as I usually am, you saw all the posts, as normal. Even the ones posted after June 2nd, so I was unaware of any issue with the site.

When I was made aware of the problem, I mentioned it on Twitter and my good friend Abesh Bhattacharjee chimed in with the likely cause of the problem.

Abesh correctly identified the plugin which was causing the issue, I deleted it and now normal service has resumed once more.

Apologies for any apparent break in transmission and thanks for bearing with me.

Photo credit tm-tm


Cloud Computing’s Green Potential – my talk at the Green Economy conference

The good people in Business and Leadership invited me to speak at their Green Economy 2011 conference on the topic of “Cloud Computing’s Green Credentials”

The event was in Dublin and was attended by around 200 people from all walks of business. Fellow speakers were Yvo de Boer from KPMG, Dick Budden from the Carbon Disclosure Project and Dr. Willfried Wienholt from Siemens who talked about Sustainable Cities.

In my own talk, I said that intuitively, you might expect Cloud Computing to be more energy efficient, and in fact some Cloud Computing providers are making claims that Cloud Computing is “potentially” Green and energy efficient. However, seeing as Cloud Computing providers are not publishing any data around Cloud Computing’s energy consumption, then it is impossible to say just how energy efficient Cloud Computing is.

An exercise I tried out was – I asked everyone in the room to put up their hands if their company had deployed apps to the cloud – a good few hands went up. Then I said, keep your hands up if you know what the energy utilisation of those apps was before they went up – you can see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, no hands stayed up at this point. The final instruction I was going to put to them was to keep your hands up if you know the energy utilisation of your app now that it is deployed in the Cloud. If you don’t have that information (and no-one does because Cloud Providers are not supplying it) then you can’t say that Cloud Computing is energy efficient.

Sure, you can say that you deployed your CRM to the cloud for example, and you decommissioned the servers which were handling your CRM internally – so you are saving energy there. But those energy savings are simply outsourced to your Cloud CRM provider and you have no idea how much energy they are burning to provide you with your CRM solution.

As for whether or not Cloud Computing is Green, or not – this is a different question entirely. I gave the examples of FaceBook and Microsoft, for example. FaceBook have a massively energy efficient data center in Prineville Oregan. It’s PUE is 1.07 which is near the theoretical maximum (of 1.0) but it is powered by Pacific Corp 63% of whose electricity is generated by burning coal – very definitely not Green. Similarly for Microsoft’s Dublin data center – again a very respectably PUE of 1.2, but it is powered off the Irish electricity grid, 87.5% of which comes from fossil fuels – again, not Green.

On the other hand, Google have gone to extraordinary lengths, investing over $400m in renewable energy and signing 20 year power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers – so you have to suspect that their Cloud Computing platform is Green, as well as energy efficient (but again, until they start producing data to back such claims up, it remains a suspicion!).

I concluded on Flip Kromer‘s great quote:

EC2 means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10-machine cluster with 1TB of distributed storage for 8 hours

This is a superb example of Jevons Paradox whereby Cloud Computing leads to increased computer resource utilisation, not reduced – which is also, not very Green!

The organisers put some of my talk up on YouTube – this may help get some context around the slides above –


Have HP’s senior executives lost interest in Sustainability?

Bottled water at the HP Summit

I attended a HP analyst summit last week in San Francisco and I have been putting off writing down my impressions of the event because I was, frankly, very disappointed.

Writing recently about HP’s announcement of their new Energy and Sustainability Solution, I noted that HP’s new CEO L?o Apotheker’s legacy from his time at SAP, is SAP?s deep commitment to sustainability. And I went on to speculate that it looks like he is bringing his sustainability stamp to HP as well. Sadly, I set myself up for a bit of a fall!

Jeff Katzenberg speaking at the HP Summit

Jeff Katzenberg - HP Summit

The first day of the two day event was a series of talks from HP execs, starting, after the introduction, with L?o’s Keynote. After that there was a series of exec talks on Cloud, Connectivity, Digitization and Security followed by guest speaker Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks over lunch. During this he screened the trailer for Kung Fu Panda 2, which looked great!

In the afternoon there were talks on HP Services, Go To Market and HP Labs followed by a brief break and then back for a Q&A with L?o and the rest of the execs.

I waited the entire day and the first mention of the word Sustainability was by Prith Banarjee, director of HP Labs in the final session where he made a brief reference to it. The funny thing was that that was when Prith became most passionate and enthusiastic!

Earlier in the day, in the talk on digitization, Vyomesh Joshi (aka VJ) did mention that 200bn pages are going digital annually but he then ruined it by talking about one HP printing station which is printing 80m pages a month (that’s a lot of dead trees!) but worse was when he went on to gleefully talk about how many “gallons of ink” that requires. And, in fairness to her, Ann Livermore did mention energy efficiency when discussing servers and data centers but it was a very brief mention, when so much more could have been said. However, the fact that during a full day of senior executive presentations, from one of the largest technology companies in the world, only one exec made any passing reference to sustainability was, to me a huge let down.

HP do have some good sustainability stories to tell – for instance, the fact that over the last five years HP managed to reduce the energy its products need to operate by 50%. Also, there is the previously mentioned HP Energy and Sustainability Management solution and then there is HP’s recycling efforts when it comes to its ink jet cartridges (HP recently announced that it has made more than 1 billion ink cartridges from recycled plastic) – the fact that ink cartridges are themselves totally unsustainable, is a whole other discussion.

HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

HP are in a funny position. They are ostensibly a printing company and now with the acquisition of Palm, they are set to become a devices company too (Smartphones and Tablets using Web OS). Neither of these businesses is particularly environmentally friendly and yet HP’s founders spoke of [PDF] HP’s commitment to the environment as far back as 1957 in HP’s first statement of corporate objectives, The HP Way.

I’m not sure why HP executives shied away from talking about sustainability at the HP Summit but for anyone attending the event, the lack of any mention of Sustainability was a surprise. Does it demonstrate a lack of commitment from HP executives to Sustainability, or does it signal that HP are abandoning their previous role as good corporate citizens? I don’t think either of those is the reason why but until I start to hear HP’s senior management talking about sustainability, I will have my doubts as to how seriously they now view it.

By the way, the photo at the top of this article was the table of bottled water at the Environment, Energy and Sustainability session on day two of the Summit!

You should follow me on Twitter here.

Photo credits Tom Raftery


SAP talks e-mobility!

I visited SAP’s facilities recently on their energy efficiency day and talked to them about their e-mobility initiatives and the rollout of their 16 Coulomb Technologies electric vehicle level 2 charging stations for their employees.

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone! Welcome to the GreenMonk TV. With me, today, I have Geoff Ryder from SAP and Henry Bailey also from SAP. Guys, we are at the SAP headquarters, here, in California, Palo Alto, because Geoff ?

Geoff Ryder: So, we started earlier this year taking a survey of all of our employees and are they interested in electric vehicles. It turned out they are. About 200 said they are in the market for one. So, how can we deal with that as a company? We can take advantage of that to show sustainability, thought leadership, we can also make this appealing to our employees, appealing place to work. So, you?re seeing today the culmination of our planning process. We are deploying 16 Coulomb Technologies charging sessions. These are level 2 charging stations, they?ll be across campus. And we?ll also —

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Tom Raftery: Level 2 charging stations, means what?

Geoff Ryder: It?ll be 240 volts, that?s the voltage that you run your dryer off of. So, that?s very capable. It can charge the battery in a faster time than if you trickle charge with 120 volts. So, we think that?s probably the way it?s going to go. People will want to see that in their public charging option. Even at home, I think we?ll see you know Level 2 charging stations coming.

So, today, we?ve actually turned our first charging stations on and as you can see we have a small fleet of electric cars here.

We have our partners from Nissan with LEAF. We have a plug-in Hybrid Prius, we have a Chevy Volt, and further down, it?s hard to see, here but we have a CODA Automotive, a demonstration car.

Tom Raftery: Okay.

Geoff Ryder: Yeah.

Tom Raftery: Henry you?re involved with the e-mobility solutions, so ?

Henry Bailey: Correct.

Tom Raftery: What?s that exactly?

Henry Bailey: So, what we have done is we have looked at — as Geoff mentioned, we?ve got our employees interested in electric vehicles.

We also have a lot of our customers interested in the how to deploy electric vehicles primarily utilities looking at how do they manage the infrastructure when these vehicles start showing up in their service territories.

So, as people buy electric vehicles, they drive them home, now suddenly they?re plugging them into the Grid, which in some cases using the Level 2 charging station that Geoff described could look like another small home being plugged into the Grid.

So, the Utilities have a couple of opportunities, they need to look at how do they manage this new load coming on to the Grid and then also with the purchasing of energy by the home owner and maybe by third parties who are offering these charging stations at retail outlets, parking garages of businesses how do they, basically, settle those charges back to the consumer so that they can, basically, charge anywhere they want roaming freely around the country if you will.

Tom Raftery: The example being, if I go to the local supermarket and plug-in there, how does that charge appear on my electricity bill?

Henry Bailey: Exactly, but there may be different types of settlement options that the consumer wants. They may want it come back to their home energy bill as a separate line item, so they can see exactly what their energy usage is both when they plug it into their home as well as when they are roaming around to different shopping malls, grocery stores, as you are talking about.

They may also want to settle it to the credit cards, they may want to settle it to cell phones and have it as a part of that infrastructure. So, we?re looking at all different options and we also see businesses taking advantage because – take the mall, for example. If you can attract people with electric vehicles to come and stay maybe an extra hour or two giving them some sort of incentive to stay that hour or two by either the convenience and/or electricity at maybe low or no cost to them directly, then that entices them to stay longer, shop more.

So, they?re looking at it as a way to incent the customers to come and visit their place of business.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. Guys, thanks very much.

Geoff Ryder: Thank you.


SAP’s Palo Alto energy efficiency and CO2 reductions

Cisco Telepresence

As mentioned previously, I was in Santa Clara and Palo Alto last week for a couple of SAP events.

At these events SAP shared some of its carbon reduction policies and strategies.

According to SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf, the greatest bang for buck SAP is achieving comes from the deployment of telepresence suites. With video conferencing technologies SAP is saving ?655 per ton of CO2 saved. This is hardly surprising given Cisco themselves claim to have saved $790m in travel expenditure from their telepresence deployments!

Other initiatives SAP mentioned were the installation of 650 solar panels on the roof of building 2 which provides for around 5-6% of SAP’s Palo Alto energy needs. This means that on sunny days, the SAP Palo Alto data centre can go completely off-grid. The power from the solar panels is not converted to AC at any point – instead it is fed directly into the data centre as DC – thereby avoiding the normal losses incurred in the conversion from DC->AC->DC for computer equipment. Partnerships with OSISoft and Sentilla ensure that their data centre runs at optimum efficiency.

SAP also rolled out 337 LED lighting systems. These replaced fluorescent lighting tubes and because the replacement LED lights are extremely long-life, as well as low energy, there are savings on maintenance as well as electricity consumption.

Coulomb electric vehicle charging station at SAP HQ in Palo Alto

SAP has placed 16 Coulomb level two electric vehicle charging stations around the car parks in its facility. These will allow employees who purchase electric vehicles to charge their cars free of charge (no pun!) while they are at work. SAP has committed to going guarantor on leases for any employees who plan to purchase electric vehicles. We were told to watch out for a big announcement from SAP in January in the electric vehicle space!

In its entirety, SAP has invested $2.3m in energy efficiency projects at their Palo Alto campus. This will lead to $665,000 savings per annum with a payback in under four years and an annual CO2 emissions reduction of over 807 tons.

This may sound like small potatoes but SAP intends to be both an exemplar and an enabler – so they want to be able to ‘walk the walk, as well as talking the talk’.

One of the points that SAP constantly mention in briefings is that while their CO2 emissions amounted to 425,000 tons for 2009, the CO2 emissions of their customer base, associated with their running SAP software is 100 times that and the total CO2 emissions of their customer base is 100 times that again! Consequently SAP sees itself as potentially having sway over a large portion of the world’s carbon emissions. SAP hopes to be able to use this influence to help its client companies to significantly reduce their emissions – and to use its software to report on those same reductions!

Two questions I forgot to ask SAP on the day were:

  1. if they were getting any rebates from their utility (PG&E) for energy reductions? and
  2. if the car charging stations were being run from the solar panels (and if so, were they also running DC-DC directly)?