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HP joins ranks of microserver providers with Redstone

Redstone server platform

The machine in the photo above is HP’s newly announced Redstone server development platform.

Capable of fitting 288 servers into a 4U rack enclosure, it packs a lot of punch into a small space. The servers are System on a Chip based on Calxeda ARM processors but according to HP, future versions will include “Intel? Atom?-based processors as well as others”

These are not the kind of servers you deploy to host your blog and a couple of photos. No, these are the kinds of servers deployed by the literal shedload by hosting companies, or cloud companies to get the maximum performance for the minimum energy hit. This has very little to do with these companies developing a sudden green conscience, rather it is the rising energy costs of running server infrastructure that is the primary motivator here.

This announcement is part of a larger move by HP (called Project Moonshot), designed to advance HP’s position in the burgeoning low-energy server marketplace.

Nor is this anything very new or unique to HP. Dell have been producing microservers for over three years now. In June and July of this year (2011) they launched the 3rd generations of their AMD and Intel based PowerEdge microservers respectively.

And it’s not just Dell, Seamicro has been producing Atom-based microservers for several years now. Their latest server, the SM10000-64 contains 384 processors per system in a 10U chassis with a very low energy footprint.

And back in April of this year Facebook announced its Open Compute initiative to open-source the development of vanity free, low cost compute nodes (servers). These are based on Intel and AMD motherboards but don’t be surprised if there is a shift to Atom in Open Compute soon enough.

This move towards the use of more energy efficient server chips, along with the sharing of server resources (storage, networking, management, power and cooling) across potentially thousands of servers is a significant shift away from the traditional server architecture.

It will fundamentally change the cost of deploying and operating large cloud infrastructures. It will also drastically increase the compute resources available online but the one thing it won’t do, as we know from Jevons’ Paradox, is it won’t reduce the amount of energy used in IT. Paradoxically, it may even increase it!

Photo credit HP

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Corporate Social Responsibility – tech companies reviewed!

Corporate Social Responsibility

According to its Wikipedia definition, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large.

Companies are now starting to report on their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in greater numbers. Drivers for this include the rise in ethical consumerism, socially responsible investing, employee recruitment and loyalty, changing laws and regulations, increased scrutiny and transparency and risk mitigation.

According to the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst’s (SIRAN) 2008 report (pdf warning):

  • 86 of the S&P 100 companies now have corporate sustainability websites, compared to 58 in mid-2005, an increase of 48 percent;
  • 49 of the leading U.S. companies produced a sustainability report in 2007, an increase of 26 percent from 39 in 2005

In an attempt to define standards and make these reports cross-comparable, the Global Reporting Initiative has come up with a sustainability reporting framework. According to Wikipedia:

The GRI Guidelines are the most common framework used in the world for reporting. More than 1000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports.

A quick search of tech sites reveals:
IBM’s stellar Corporate Responsibility site – IBM’s site has a ton of good information and a downloadable CSR report (pdf) and includes the Global Reporting initiative (GRI) index. If there is a tech company with a better CSR site than this, please tell me, I haven’t found it yet!

From the Dell site you can see dell has been producing Sustainability reports back to 1998 (called Environment reports back then). The 2008 CSR report (pdf) is linked to from the company Values page and is a really good example of how to do these reports well.

SAP’s Sustainability site is pretty bare bones (and though found by Google, I couldn’t find a link to it on the corporate website! Having said that, their Sustainability report (pdf), linked to from their Sustainability site, is very good for a first effort. It includes a GRI index and while SAP admit that the report is prepared to GRI Application Level C, they give a commitment to producing a “report to GRI B+ standard externally assured and audited in second quarter 2009”.

Cisco’s CSR site includes a great 5 minute video on CSR from Cisco CEO John Chambers and some of his CSR related staff. Unfortunately the video is not embeddable and is all rights reserved or I would embed it here 🙁 Cisco’s CSR 2008 report is available in a Flash interactive version or the more traditional (and easier to consume) pdf version! Again this report has a GRI index included.

Sun’s excellent CSR site includes a podcast, lots of great links to relevant information and its superb 2008 CSR report (pdf) – again with the GRI index data.

Oracle also has a good CSR site. Oracle’s site links to its 2008 Corporate Citizenship report (pdf) but it doesn’t include a GRI index link.

HP’s Global Citizenship site looks good until you check out their CSR report – it dates to financial year 2007 (which ended October 31, 2007). In its defense, it does include a GRI index but guys, come on, 2007?

Neither Intel nor AMD have reports for 2008. But while Intel have a very comprehensive downloadable pdf report on their CSR initiatives for 2007, the AMD offering consists of a disappointing four tables of performance indicators across the last few years.

If you are looking for Microsoft’s CSR report, you will find it buried under Resource Center -> Awards and Reports -> now click on the Reports tab on their Corporate Citizenship site. The most recent report is dated 2007-08. It is a 5 page document of mostly images, there is no mention whatsoever of GRI, there is no executive involvement, and in comparison to previous years reports, it looks like Microsoft’s limited focus on CSR has waned completely.

Having said that, at least Microsoft has produced a report! Apple didn’t even do that. When As You Sow, recently tabled a shareholder resolution that would require Apple to publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, The company issued a proxy filing asking shareholders to vote against this resolution, saying that the publication would be an unnecessary expense that would “produce little added value.”

Having said that, at least Apple have a section on their site dedicated to their environmental efforts, Amazon don’t even appear to do that. Their filed reports page makes no effort to include any reports about environmental stewardship or corporate citizenship although given the story which came out before Christmas about Amazon’s shocking employment practices, that can hardly be any surprise.

Ironically Google’s CSR efforts are supremely difficult to find! They do have a corporate website dedicated to their Green Initiatives but like Apple, they too don’t have any CSR report (that I could find!).

Who’d I miss? Who is better? Who is worse?

Original photo by ATIS547

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LEED certified buildings on the rise!

Adobe headquarters in San Jose received three platinum LEED ratings

Photo credit kqedquest

According to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) buildings account for 38% of CO2 emissions in the United States, buildings consume 70% of the electricity load in the U.S and CO2 emissions from buildings are projected to grow faster than any other sector over the next 25 years.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a Green building rating system which has been deveoped to provide a suite of standards for the design, construction and operation of high performance Green buildings.

According to the the LEED Wikipedia entry:

LEED certified buildings have healthier work and living environments, which contributes to higher productivity and improved employee health and comfort.

According to the USGBC January Green building by the numbers report (.doc warning):

By 2009, 82% of corporate America is expected to be greening at least 16% of their real estate portfolios; of these corporations, 18% will be greening more than 60% of their real estate portfolios

The green building products market is projected to be worth $30-$40 billion annually by 2010

With that in mind it was great to see the report that AMD’s Lone Star campus in Texas has achieved a gold LEED certification. Thanks to David Berlind for tipping me off on this.

According to the release this is the largest gold certified LEED commercial building in Texas and some of the sustainable design elements include:

  • Energy Use: Powered 100% by Austin Energy’s GreenChoice® electricity, which comes from clean, renewable energy sources such as wind power
  • Rainwater collection: Designed with a 1.2 million gallon capacity rainwater collection system, which is designed to provide water for the buildings’ cooling towers and irrigation
  • Construction materials: Incorporated more than 20% of construction materials based on recycled content, and with more than 20% of locally sourced construction materials
  • 100% Native Landscaping: AMD partnered with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to salvage the native trees, shrubs and grasses within the footprint of the campus, and replant them following construction.

AMD joins other well known tech companies who have rolled large LEED building projects like Adobe (Platinum) and Symantec (Gold).

To paraphrase Fr Ted – “Up with this kind of thing!!!