Rackspace claims cloud is Green but fails to provide data

Rackspace

Rackspace’s Director of Sustainability Melissa Gray, wrote a piece recently on the Rackspace blog titled The Greenest Computing is Cloud Computing.

Given that Cloud computing’s impact is a topic we cover regularly here on GreenMonk, we were excited to see a cloud provider address this issue, especially when this provider is one we have covered favourably in the past.

However, we were disappointed with the article due to it’s lack of any specific data to prove its case. Here are some quotes from the piece:

Every watt Rackspace uses is tracked — It came from somewhere (a power company, a generator) and it went somewhere (an office, a data center to power a server or power infrastructure).

Great – so how myuch power does Rackspace use, and what are its emissions?

We continually take steps to improve energy efficiency and reduce consumption of other natural resources.

Nice, so how much were Rackspace’s emissions in 2010, how much did you reduce them by in 2011, and what’s your target for 2012?

How much of those emissions were produced by your cloud infrastructure? And how much emissions did you displace by doing so?

We left the following comment on the Rackspace blog – it hasn’t shown up there yet, it is probably stuck in moderation somewhere (obviously they wouldn’t refuse to publish it):

Hi Melissa,

Nice article – well written but I notice you managed to avoid mentioning Rackspace’s emissions anywhere in the piece.

You need to publish some hard data to prove that “the Greenest computing is Cloud computing” – it is not enough just to say so.

If an organisation has an in-house email server, we can relatively easily measure its energy utilisation, and from that calculate its emissions. If it moves to a Rackspace server for the organisation’s email, we now have no way of knowing its emissions. If you are not publishing them, for all we know, their emissions are significantly higher than they were when they were in-house.

If, as you say, “Every watt Rackspace uses is tracked”, then it should be straightforward to report on energy use to your customers (my utility co. can do it). Will Rackspace do this? Or better yet, will Rackspace build this functionality into OpenStack, so all OpenStack users can do this?

Btw, I assume your new data center in Australia was sited based on access to renewables?

We await Rackspace’s response.

Image credit Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Carbon Disclosure Project’s emissions reduction claims for cloud computing are flawed

data center

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a not-for-profit organisation which takes in greenhouse gas emissions, water use and climate change strategy data from thousands of organisations globally. This data is voluntarily disclosed by these organisations and is CDP’s lifeblood.

Yesterday the CDP launched a new study Cloud Computing ? The IT Solution for the 21st Century a very interesting report which

delves into the advantages and potential barriers to cloud computing adoption and gives insights from the multi-national firms that were interviewed

The study, produced by Verdantix, looks great on the surface. They have talked to 11 global firms that have been using cloud computing for over two years and they have lots of data on the financial savings made possible by cloud computing. There is even reference to other advantages of cloud computing – reduced time to market, capex to opex, flexibility, automation, etc.

However, when the report starts to reference the carbon reductions potential of cloud computing it makes a fundamental error. One which is highlighted by CDP Executive Chair Paul Dickinson in the Foreword when he says

allowing companies to maximize performance, drive down costs, reduce inefficiency and minimize energy use ? and therefore carbon emissions

[Emphasis added]

The mistake here is presuming a direct relationship between energy and carbon emissions. While this might seem like a logical assumption, it is not necessarily valid.

If I have a company whose energy retailer is selling me power generated primarily by nuclear or renewable sources for example, and I move my applications to a cloud provider whose power comes mostly from coal, then the move to cloud computing will increase, not decrease, my carbon emissions.

The report goes on to make some very aggressive claims about the carbon reduction potential of cloud computing. In the executive summary, it claims:

US businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion can cut CO2 emissions by 85.7 million metric tons annually by 2020

and

A typical food & beverage firm transitioning its human resources (HR) application from dedicated IT to a public cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years

But because these are founded on an invalid premise, the report could just as easily have claimed

US businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion can increase CO2 emissions by 85.7 million metric tons annually by 2020

and

A typical food & beverage firm transitioning its human resources (HR) application from dedicated IT to a public cloud can increase CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years

This wouldn’t be an issue if the cloud computing providers disclosed their energy consumption and emissions information (something that the CDP should be agitating for anyway).

In fairness to the CDP, they do refer to this issue in a sidebar on a page of graphs when they say:

Two elements to be considered in evaluating the carbon impact of the cloud computing strategies of specific firms are the source of the energy being used to power the data center and energy efficiency efforts.

However, while this could be taken to imply that the CDP have taken data centers’ energy sources into account in their calculations, they have not. Instead they rely on models extrapolating from US datacenter PUE information [PDF] published by the EPA. Unfortunately the PUE metric which the EPA used, is itself controversial.

For a data centric organisation like the CDP to come out with baseless claims of carbon reduction benefits from cloud computing may be at least partly explained by the fact that the expert interviews carried out for the report were with HP, IBM, AT&T and CloudApps – all of whom are cloud computing vendors.

The main problem though, is that cloud computing providers still don’t publish their energy and emissions data. This is an issue I have highlighted on this blog many times in the last three years and until cloud providers become fully transparent with their energy and emissions information, it won’t be possible to state definitively that cloud computing can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo credit Tom Raftery

Friday Green Numbers round-up for March 11th 2011

Green Numbers

And here is a round-up of this week’s Green numbers…

  1. Progress Energy investing approximately $520 million dollars in smart grid technologies

    IBM today announced that it has been selected by Progress Energy as the lead systems integrator for the utility’s smart grid program. Together the companies will transform Progress Energy’s networks by improving power efficiency, increasing power quality and reliability, and enhancing capabilities for renewable energy, energy storage systems and plug-in electric vehicles.

    Progress Energy is investing approximately $520 million dollars in smart grid technologies through its two utilities that serve approximately 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The total investment includes $200 million from a read on …

  2. FIRST Green ‘e-Watt Saver’ 7W LED Lightbulb (Product Review)

    For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) is a non-profit founded by inventor Dean Kamen over 20 years ago. It aims to inspire young people to learn about science, technology, engineering and math through challenging robotics competitions. To raise funds, they sell FIRST branded energy-saving LED lightbulbs (better than chocolate!). I had the chance to get my hands on one, so here’s my review read on …

  3. Can a Whole City Go Zero Waste?

    We’ve already seen how pay-as-you-throw trash metering can cut landfill waste in half, and we’ve witnessed whole cities make composting mandatory. So there’s little doubt that much, much more can be done by most cities to cut waste, and keep precious resources out of landfill. That’s why an announcement from my hometown that it will completely eliminate waste to landfill within three years is particularly exciting. But is it enough? read on …

  4. Carbon emissions from every public building in England and Wales

    The carbon emissions of every public building in England and Wales have been released, thanks to an FoI request by the Centre for Sustainable Energy. See what the data says about the read on …

  5. When Earth’s Human Population Was 18,500!

    Scientists have calculated that for a period lasting one million years and beginning 1.2 million years ago, at a time when our ancestors were spreading through Africa, Europe and Asia, there were probably between 18,500 to 26,000 individuals capable of breeding (and no more than 26,000). This made them an endangered species with a smaller population than today?s species such as gorillas which number 25,000 breeding individuals and chimpanzees (21,000).

    Researchers have proposed a number of explanations , such as read on …

  6. $44m Energy Efficiency savings whets AT&T’s appetite for more

    When John Schinter joined AT&T in 2009 as the company’s first energy director, he was charged with revamping the way AT&T manages energy consumption and developing programs to reduce use.
    In 2010, the telecommunications giant implemented a whopping 4,200 projects aimed at improving energy efficiency, AT&T announced today. The effort has generated $44 million in annualized energy savings, setting the stage for an even more aggressive read on …

  7. February Arctic Sea Ice Ties For Record Low As Global Snow Cover Remains High

    New data coming out of the National Snow and Ice Data Center reveals two things which may at first seem contradictory at first but aren’t: The extent of Arctic sea ice in February tied for a record low, while at the same time snow cover for January and February in the Northern Hemisphere remained extensive, ranking in the top six extents on record.

    Resolving the apparent but erroneous contradiction first, in the NSIDC’s words:
    Both linked to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. A strongly negative AO favors outbreaks of read on …

  8. ABB wins $50 million solar order in Italy

    ABB has won a $50 million order from Phenix Renewables to deliver a 24 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant in Lazio, central Italy.

    Once connected to the grid, the Phenix solar plant will supply up to 35 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity a year, avoiding the generation of over 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the annual emission of over 10,000 European cars.

    ABB will be responsible for the read on …

  9. IBM Names First 24 Recipients Of Smarter Cities Challenge Grants

    IBM today selected 24 cities worldwide to receive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants. The grants provide the cities with access to IBM’s top experts to analyze and recommend ways they can become even better place in which to live, work and play.

    The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program in which IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide over the next three years. Teams of specially selected IBM experts will provide city leaders with read on …

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Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

Lockheed Martin Going Green!

Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor

When you hear the name Lockheed Martin – you don’t immediately think “Ah, now there’s a Green company” – they are after all, among the very largest defence contractors in the world. In 2008 70% of Lockheed Martin’s revenues came from military sales.

However, after a recent discussion with Dr David Constable, Lockheed Martin’s VP for Energy, Environment, Safety and Health, my impression of the company’s Green credentials has definitely gone up a couple of notches.

Lockheed Martin started their Go Green program in 2008 partially out of a desire to ‘do the right thing’ according to Dr Constable but also in response to increasing concern on their customer’s part to sustainability.

Submarine launch of a Lockheed Trident missile

Submarine launch of a Lockheed Trident missile

The US military, for example – America’s largest energy consumer, invested $2.7 billion last year to improve energy efficiency according to President Obama. The US Army’s Environmental Command (the US Army has an Environmental Command? Who knew?) has a comprehensive page of Sustainability Links to How-To Guides, Tools and relevant Green departments, facilities and organisations.

Similarly, the UK’s Ministry of Defence, and Royal Mail, two other large Lockheed Martin customers, both asked Lockheed Martin to participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project. According to Dr Constable, in their first year of disclosure, Lockheed Martin were amongst the top performers in their sector and, he said, this next year they aim to improve on that.

With it’s Go Green initiative, Lockheed Martin set itself a goal of reducing its carbon footprint, water footprint and waste-to-landfill footprint by 25% in absolute terms (i.e. not tied to sales revenue) compared to its 2007 baseline, by 2012. For a company with 136,000 employees, 572 facilities in 500 cities and 46 states throughout the U.S. and business locations in 75 nations and territories – this is an ambitious undertaking.

According to Dr Constable though, Lockheed Martin have already met their aim to reduce their water footprint by 25%, they are at 24% waste-to-landfill reduction and 15% carbon emissions reduction. “By definition, being sustainable is a lower cost option”, said Dr Constable, “and the biggest opportunity is in carbon reduction.”

Lockheed have taken a very comprehensive approach to energy efficiency and conservation. Part of it comes from strategic purchasing decisions – buying servers, routers, etc. which are more energy efficient and also purchasing renewable energy – Lockheed Martin are in the top 50 purchasers of renewable power in the US. Lockheed are also using video conferencing technologies more to reduce emissions associated with travel.

With a large portfolio of buildings on its books, LEED certification also plays a large part of Lockheed’s efforts. In fact, Lockheed have a corporate functional procedure (a written policy) in place which mandates that all new construction and renovation above $5 million has to achieve LEED Silver status. Lockheed currently have 19 LEED certified buildings and ‘a lot more in the works’.

Lockheed’s biggest challenges in its Go Green program, according to Dr Constable are getting to grips with the global supply chain – he is currently working with his Global Supply Chain Operations team to address that and they are looking at tools to help them understand the impacts of supply chains.

It remains to be seen if Lockheed Martin will achieve their aim of a 25% reduction in their carbon emissions by 2012 – but to-date they have made a very good start and we have a saying in Irish Tosach maith, leath no hoibre – (a good start is half the work).

And if defence contractors are starting to go Green – that’s reason to be optimistic, right there.

F-22A Photo credit Ronnie Macdonald

Friday Green Numbers round-up 07/30/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit Lauren Manning

And here are this week’s Green Numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday Green Numbers round-up 04/23/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

How not to implement a carbon tax

Smoke

Photo credit pfala

The decision by the French government to back down on plans to enact a carbon tax is very disappointing, and not a little puzzling.

President Sarkozy initially said plans to introduce a carbon tax were

a monumental act of the French Republic ? a measure so important President Nicolas Sarkozy ranked it beside “decolonization, election of the President by universal suffrage, abolition of the death sentence and legalization of abortion” in the list of national accomplishments.

However, implementation of the tax was dropped recently after President Sarkozy’s party lost disastrously in regional elections.

According to the New York Times,

The idea of a carbon tax had been widely opposed by France?s business lobby, which argued that it would increase costs, as well as by members of the governing party, which opposed the idea of a new tax.

The French government hoped to raise $4.7 billion to $6.1 billion in new annual revenues to finance state-funded ecological investments from the proposed tax.

This is crazy.

Why did no-one propose enacting a carbon tax which was overall cost neutral?

To implement this – instead of just a carbon tax (i.e. an extra tax on top of existing costs) he could have
1. Reduced corporate tax by an amount roughly equivalent to the amount expected to be recouped by the carbon tax and then levied a carbon tax (overall take remains the same but polluters pay more) or
2. implemented it as a kind of tax break for carbon reductions (i.e. the more you pollute, the less tax break you get)

Given that the carbon tax was such a large part of President Sarkozy’s election platform it is odd that he didn’t attempt any alternative means of rolling it out. He has now effectively shelved the idea of a carbon tax for the forseeable future in France and he gives the appearance of backing down. Not something he has been keen to do up to now!

There is obviously more going on here that I am missing – anyone care to enlighten me?

NightWatchman saving energy

Night Watchman

Photo credit officer2975

Following on from my earlier post about the importance of turning things off, we had a briefing the other day from a company called 1E.

1E entered the power management space about 10 years ago when they wrote NightWatchman. NightWatchman is a PC power management application which aims to reduce the energy wasted by computers not being turned off at the end of the working day.

They were well ahead of the market (remember, they started 10 years ago, long before there was any power management built into the operating system) and, in fact, they had a hard time selling NightWatchman until about three years ago.

NightWatchman is now deployed on 4 million PCs worldwide savingcustomers US $360 million in energy costs and preventing 3 million tons of CO2 emissions, according to 1E.

As an interesting aside, the name NightWatchman came from the fact that the software was originally written for a company who had a security guard going around at night turning off computers and monitors! In fact, in the first seven years it was sold as a security and patching tool (it would allow companies to shut off computers in the evening and schedule a window in the middle of the night during which the computers would power up to download any security updates and patches which had been released).

In their whitepaper, entitled ?Why Power Schemes are not Enough?? [PDF] 1E make a great point –

It is impossible to monitor and report on the energy used by your PC estate (and therefore the cost and CO2 emissions this causes) using only the built-in tools that come with Windows. Because of the lack of built-in monitoring of energy usage, organizations are unaware of the lack of effectiveness of Windows sleep timers.

Windows power schemes should therefore not be used as the mechanism for reliable overnight and weekend energy saving for PCs.

Dell rolled out NightWatchman and wrote a white paper on the experience [pdf] – from the case study:

1E NightWatchman software saves files and closes applications and shuts down or places into sleep mode computers in the Microsoft Windows environment while preventing data loss and application errors. It also allows computers to be turned off from a central location, at a specified time, while providing extensive reports for management.

NightWatchman works with SMSWakeUp, which repowers computers in synchronization with Microsoft SMS. Administrators can boot computers from a centralized command so they can deploy security patches or new applications during off-hours.

By deploying 1E?s NightWatchman and SMSWakeUp applications to its 50,000 client computers, Dell expects to realize up to a 40 percent reduction in computer-related energy costs, which could translate into US$1.8 million in savings annually.

AT&T also installed 1E and from the release on AT&T’s rollout [PDF] it said:

[AT&T] is launching the NightWatchman? PC power management solution from 1E on 310,000 desktop computers across its domestic operations to help improve energy efficiency. Powering down corporate PCs during non-work hours is expected to save AT&T more than 135 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year and eliminate 123,941 tons of carbon dioxide emissions ? equivalent to the electricity required to power 14,892 homes.

1E also have a server version of their NightWatchman software – this program identifies under-utilised servers, allowing them to be either re-deployed or decommissioned – fewer servers means less energy consumed by server sprawl. NightWatchman Server also has an energy management component built-in which has the added benefit of reducing heat from servers and therefore the air conditioning load in data centers required to cool the servers.

All of this means less energy costs and fewer CO2 emissions for companies. Go 1E!

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 01/29/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

Here is this Friday’s Green Numbers round-up:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

LowerCarbonEconomy.com’s David Lockie

LowCarbonEconomy.com is a site dedicated to gathering and sharing information about low carbon products, services and lifestyles – everything from appliances, to government policy through to utility-related information. Considering our urgent need to lower our carbon emissions as a race, the information on this site is could be hugely important.

The site is wiki-like and makes heavy use of tagging search and RSS to make the information easier to find.

I had a chance to speak to Dave Lockie from LowCarbonEconomy recently and I asked him more about the site.

Btw, for the first time I added a bit of music to the start and end of the video – would love to know if you think it improves the show.