Use open source platforms to find cloud computing’s energy and emissions footprint

Dials

Regular GreenMonk readers will be very aware that I am deeply skeptical about claims that Cloud Computing is Green (or even energy efficient). And that I talk about the significant carbon, water and biodiversity effects cloud computing can have.

One of the biggest issues with any claims of Cloud Computing being energy efficient, or Green, is the lack of transparency from the Cloud Computing providers. None Almost none of them are publishing any data around the energy consumption, or emissions of their Cloud infrastructure (article updated from “None of them” to “Almost none of them…” after comments from Memset and Greenqloud in the comments section below). Without data to back them up, any claims of Cloud computing being efficient are worthless.

Last week, while at the RackSpace EMEA Analyst day, we were given a potted history of OpenStack, RackSpace’s Cloud Computing platform. OpenStack was jointly developed by NASA and RackSpace and they open-sourced it with an Apache License in July 2010.

Anyone can download OpenStack and use it to create and host Cloud Computing solutions. Prominent OpenStack users include NASA, RackSpace (not surprisingly), AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, HP and IBM.

What has this got to do with Cloud Computing and energy efficiency I hear you ask?

Well, it occurred to me, during the analyst day, that because OpenStack is open source, anyone can fork it and write a version with built-in energy and emissions reporting. What would be really cool is, if this functionality, having been written, became a part of the core distribution – then anyone deploying OpenStack, would have this functionality by default.

And, OpenStack isn’t the only open source Cloud platform – there are two others that I’m aware of – Citrix’s CloudStack and Eucalyptus. Having the software written for one open-source platform, should allow reasonably easy porting to the other two.

Of course, with the software written as open-source, there could be constant improvement of it. And as part of one of the cloud platforms, it should achieve widespread distribution quickly.

Having energy and emissions information available, will also allow inefficiencies in Cloud infrastructure to be quickly identified and fixed.

So, the next step is to get someone to write the software – anyone up for it?

Or, what are the chances of getting someone like HP, IBM, RackSpace, or even NASA to sponsor a hackathon whose aim is to develop such software?

Photo Credit Jeremy Burgin

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

HP publishes paper on enabling next-generation cities

City life

Ha!

No sooner do I criticise HP for being shy about their work on Sustainability than I start to receive all these great links to stuff HP is doing in this space – result!

Overnight I received news that HP has opened a new research facility to advance sustainable data center technologies (more on which in a subsequent post) and I was sent a link to a really interesting paper HP published called Sustainable IT Ecosystems: Enabling Next-Generation Cities [PDF].

Having talked to the IBM people who are bringing their Smarter Cities product offering to market later this year, and having also talked to Living PlanIT‘s CEO Steve Lewis a bunch of times, I can see that the whole making cities more efficient market is set to explode – and at city scale, it will be a big market!

The HP paper describes an approach for building next-generation cities – which, while we already have plenty of cities, with the growing trend towards urbanisation, more and more will need to be built. Currently about 3.3 billion people (around half the world’s population) live in cities. The UN estimates this will increase to nearly 5 billion (by then 60% of the world’s population) by 2030.

The sustainable IT ecosystem introduced in this paper is based on five principles which are fleshed out in considerable detail in the paper:

  1. Ecosystem-scale life-cycle design;
  2. Scalable and configurable infrastructure building blocks;
  3. Pervasive sensing;
  4. Data analytics and visualization; and
  5. Autonomous control

The paper uses two case studies – one an urban water distribution for a city of 1.5 million people spread over 1500km2 and the other is for the efficient generation and distribution of power for an Arizona city with a population of 48,000 with an average electrical demand of 12MW. While these case studies themselves are quite interesting, they would have been far moreso if they were actual cities, as opposed to notional ones.

The paper reaches the following conclusion:

The ability to integrate IT into physical infrastructures provides a unique opportunity to improve the design and management of these infrastructures. This paper provides a framework for creating sustainable IT ecosystems: infrastructures wherein information technology is leveraged to achieve sustainability through need-based management of supply-side and demand-side resources. Future work will seek to apply and demonstrate the proposed framework to a diverse array of urban infrastructures

This kind of research is incredibly important if we are to try to live within our means on this planet – something at which we fundamentally failed to do to-date.

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Photo credit Medhi

HP’s shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

HP CEO L?o Apotheker addressing the HP Summit

So I wrote a post the other day entitled Have HP?s senior executives lost interest in Sustainability? after attending a HP event in San Francisco. It was a little unfair because I concentrated on the lack of mentions of Sustainability by senior management on the first day of the event while leaving out the fact that I had interesting discussions with people involved in sustainability initiatives within HP the following day.

One of those I talked to at the event, Deb Lyons, was concerned enough by my piece that she went to the trouble of emailing me some of HP’s more impressive Green initiatives:

  1. HP published a fascinating paper [PDF] to quantify the carbon savings associated with switching from analog to digital printing and came up with a savings of somewhere between 114-251 MMtCO2 eq per annum (MMt CO2 is million metric tonnes of CO2) – similar to the savings which would be achieved by a broad implementation of lighting automation or extensive implementation of telecommuting!
  2. When printing is absolutely necessary, HP have comprehensive paper conservation and sourcing policies which include “a goal that 40 percent or more of the HP branded paper sold will be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or have more than 30 percent post-consumer waste content by the end of 2011″, an Eco Printing Assessment for customers and a reduction of paper shipped “in the box”
  3. While HP has yet to release its 2010 CSR report, its 2009 one is online and, in fairness, it is one of the better CSR reports produced by a tech co. (though it has a long way to go to catch-up to SAP’s 2010 Sustainability Report, which was released this morning!).
  4. I referenced the fact in my previous post that HP is becoming a devices company (between desktops, laptops, and more recently tablets and smartphones) so it is heartening to see HP have comprehensive policies around sourcing conflict minerals in Africa
  5. and finally, HP announced the other day that it had exceeded its target of reducing the energy footprint of its products by 40% by the end of 2011 and now HP products are 50% more energy efficient than they were five years ago. The release from HP went on to assert that “if all makes and models of printers, notebook and desktop PCs, displays and servers shipped in 2005 were recycled and replaced with new HP energy-efficient models, customers could save approximately $10.4 billion in energy costs, and avoid more than 40 million metric tons of CO2 emissions within a year” – a pretty impressive numbers!

Another release Deb pointed out to me was an announcement that HP are helping Shell extract oil and gas more efficiently from the ground – personally I believe that any technology which helps increase the amount of fossil fuels we burn should be criminalised, not praised, but that’s just me!

So, leaving aside the oil and gas announcement, HP’s green credentials do appear to be completely genuine, laudable even.

Kudos to HP for these and their other Green initiatives – however, I still believe it was a mistake for their executives not to have them as a theme running through their talks. I understand the HP thinking that “Sustainability is part of our DNA, so much so that we take it for granted that it is built-in to everything we do” – I’m paraphrasing liberally. But, the issue is that if your executives are not talking about sustainability, your stakeholders may not be as convinced about your commitment to sustainability. If Sustainability was left out of the talks because there was a lot of content to be worked in which had to be prioritised, just how far down the list of HP’s priorities does Sustainability lie? From talking to HP, I know it is not far down at all, but listening to their executives, you would not get that impression.

HP has a messaging problem around Sustainability. It isn’t that they don’t do Sustainability, it is just that they seem to be shy about talking about it. With the rise and rise of Ethical Consumerism, this shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

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Photo credit Tom Raftery

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!

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Photo credits Tom Raftery

I want one of those cute energy dashboards IBM and HP are touting for my home

HP's Energy and Sustainability Management

Above is a screenshot of one of the slides from HP’s webinar announcing their new Energy and Sustainability Management solution.

What is most interesting about it for me is that, front and center there is a focus on Facilities and Buildings. We have already seen that IBM has identified Smarter Buildings as one of the major planks of its Smarter Planet program, now with HP chasing this sector as well, we are likely to see some major improvements in global building stock’s energy efficiency in the coming years.

It is nice to see HP re-discovering its interest in sustainability especially, since former CEO Mark Hurd eviscerated any programs related to sustainability in HP during his tenure. As my colleague James noted, the real legacy L?o Apotheker, HP’s new CEO, left SAP (where he was formerly CEO) is SAP’s deep commitment to sustainability. It looks like he is bringing his sustainability stamp to HP as well, but I digress.

As I noted in the post about IBM:

Smarter Buildings are obviously a big play what with buildings being responsible for anything up to 40% of the world?s energy use, and approximately 33% of the world?s greenhouse gas emissions ? and then there is the market size to consider ? every building on the planet potentially.

Though there is one qualification to that – I suspect in the cases of both HP and IBM, when they refer to Smarter Buildings, they are primarily referring to commercial real estate, not residential buildings. This is understandable, given that the commercial market is a far easier one to address – a single contract can be for hundreds of thousands of square feet of real estate, whereas the residential sector, by definition, is far more fragmented. However, according to the IPCC, the residential sector is responsible for 1,500MtC of carbon emissions compared to 1,000MtC for commercial buildings.

How do we square this circle?

Well, one player addressing precisely this market is Living PlanIT. In their model city in Portugal, they are creating residential buildings which are net energy positive! They are also creating a platform for the development of sustainable urban technologies and licensing them so they can be used globally. I spoke recently to Living PlanIT’s CEO recently about their plans and will be writing that up in a separate post.

However, the takeaway is that, while the commercial market is a hugely important one to address, it really is the low hanging fruit in terms of the global built environment’s energy footprint. We need to be actively chasing the residential space, at least as vigorously as the commercial one.

I want one of those cute energy dashboards IBM and HP are touting for my home. When we all have one of those, then we’ll have made some real progress.

Photo credit Tom Raftery

Tech company sustainability reports reviewed – Updated

Corporate Social Responsibility
Original photo by ATIS547

I was asked on Twitter recently where to find a list of links to tech companies’ CSR reports.

I didn’t know where to find one, so I built one and as well as just the links, I also added in a few extra observations I noted about the reports.

[table id=4 /]

As previously reported here, the 2009 SAP Sustainability Report is superb.

Another company in the list worthy of note is BT, whose report, despite the lack of interactivity, is the only other report to hit the GRI A+ rating.

HP’s site has gone heavy on design to the detriment of usability which is unfortunate because some of the content is really good.

After that, almost all of the companies who have a 2009 report published have done a really good job. The exception to this is Microsoft whose 2009 report, while an improvement on previous reports, still has a long way to go to approach a professional CSR Report standard.

Of the companies who have yet to publish their 2009 report, Oracle and Adobe’s 2008 reports are lacklustre attempts, at best. Neither report to GRI standards and both are long on pretty pictures and short on relevant data.

Having said that, at least Oracle and Adobe are producing Sustainability reports.

The three laggards in this list are Google, Amazon and Apple – none of whom are producing sustainability reports at the minute.

In their defence, Google has its Going Green at Google website and Apple has its Apple and the Environment site, both of whom go into considerable detail on each companies initiatives. In Apple’s case, it does go deep into a lot of the data you would normally see in a Sustainability report. Why it refuses to produce a formal report is beyond me.

In contrast, Amazon’s attempt at an Environmental site/page is an embarrassment. If this is the best they can do, honestly, they’d be better off doing nothing.

One issue I noted was that HP, Cisco and Apple [PDF] all report on sourcing 100% renewable power in Ireland. This is not possible for the reasons I outlined in this post.

What other companies should I add to this list? Please feel free to suggest any in the comments and I will update the list.

UPDATES:
Since publishing this, Nokia have brought out their excellent 2009 report and it is now included above.
Also, based on suggestions received on FaceBook I have added details about 3 other companies (NEC, Fujitsu and Indra Sistemas). It was also suggested there that I go over various telco companies CSR reports. I’ll leave that to a separate post.

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Cloud Energy Consumption: Google, Twitter and the Systems Vendors

Yesterday Tom posed a question: just how green is cloud computing? We have been frankly disappointed by Cloud computing providers reticence to start publishing numbers on energy consumption. We know for sure that energy is a big deal when it comes to the huge data centers the likes of Facebook are building- these firms are siting data centers next to rivers to take advantage of hydro-electric power, and in Google’s case are even looking at building their own wind turbine farms.

Some of you may remember the huge fuss when Alex Wissner Gross, a researcher from Harvard University estimated how much energy the net consumed, which became a Sunday Times story about Google Searches in terms of kettles boiled. The story claimed:

performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle” or about 7g of CO2 per search

Perhaps surprisingly, Google responded, to debunk the news story:

In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2.

The story petered out- which is somewhat of a shame. A real, open debate, with shared figures, bringing in all of the main players, would clearly benefit us all. With that in mind I was pleased to see that one of Raffi Krikorian, tech lead of the Twitter API team, chose to talk about power/tweet at the company’s Chirp developer conference last week:

In summary, Raffi estimated that energy consumed is around 100 Joules per tweet.

Before jumping to a conclusion that Twitter is more efficient than Google its important to note that Raffi’s estimates, unlike Google’s, don’t include the power of the PC in the equation. You should also watch the video of his presentation – for the simple reason that Raffi seems to channel Jay-Z in his presenting: the guy’s body language is straight out of a hip hop video.

I discussed Twitter’s “disclosure” with my colleague Tom this morning. He questioned its value because its an estimate, rather than a measurement. He has a point. It may be however that Raffi is just the man to take this debate to the next level. He is clearly deeply technical, can think at the level of the isolated API – and is finally a Sustainability advocate of note- I first heard of him through his seminal How Valentine’s Day Causes Global Warming riff.

We need to encourage competition on the basis of power efficiency.

I’d like to close with a call to action. Surely its time for the major web players to get together with Dell, HP and IBM in order to agree standards so we can move from estimates to measurements of Cloud energy consumption, perhaps using AMEE ($client) as a back end for standard benchmarks. You can’t have sustainability through obscurity. Open data is key to working through the toughest environmental challenges.

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 03/05/2010

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.

Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 02/12/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

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

  • Iberdrola Renovables SA, the world?s largest operator of wind parks, agreed to buy Spain?s largest wind farm from Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA.

    Renovables, based in Valencia, paid Gamesa 320 million euros ($441 million) for 244 megawatts of power capacity in Andevalo, Spain

    tags: iberdrola, iberdrola renovables, gamesa, Wind farm, greennumbers

  • IBM recently ran a ‘Jam’ – an online discussion – on environmental sustainability and why it is important for CIOs, CEOs and CFOs to address it. The Jam involved thousands of practitioners and subject matter experts from some 200 organisations. It focused primarily on business issues and practical actions.

    Take a look at the check list below and it becomes rapidly apparent, C-level management need to tackle the issue before it is foisted upon them.

    IBM’s Institute for Business Value will fully analyse the 2080 Jam contributions, but this is the essential CIO checklist derived from comments made during the Eco-Jam.

    tags: ibm, ecojam, eco jam, cio, greennumbers

  • Data centers are, thankfully, getting a lot of attention when it comes to making them more efficient. Considering that roughly 60% of the electricity used at a data center goes to keeping the servers cool, focusing on smart cooling tactics is essential. HP has taken this to heart and has opened it’s first wind-cooled data center, and it’s the company’s most efficient data center to date.

    In this piece, HP claims that their data center is the world’s first wind-cooled data center – I’m not sure just how valid this is as I have heard BT only do wind-cooled data centers!

    tags: hp, bt, data center, datacenter, wind cooled, air cooled, greennumbers

  • “Sir Richard Branson and fellow leading businessmen will warn ministers this week that the world is running out of oil and faces an oil crunch within five years.

    The founder of the Virgin group, whose rail, airline and travel companies are sensitive to energy prices, will say that the ?coming crisis could be even more serious than the credit crunch.

    “The next five years will see us face another crunch ? the oil crunch. This time, we do have the chance to prepare. The challenge is to use that time well,” Branson will say.”

    tags: richard branson, oil crunch, peak oil, virgin, greennumbers

  • “Fertile soil is being lost faster than it can be replenished making it much harder to grow crops around the world, according to a study by the University of Sydney.

    The study, reported in The Daily Telegraph, claims bad soil mismanagement, climate change and rising populations are leading to a decline in suitable farming soil.

    An estimated 75 billion tonnes of soil is lost annually with more than 80 per cent of the world’s farming land “moderately or severely eroded”, the report found.

    Soil is being lost in China 57 times faster than it can be replaced through natural processes, in Europe 17 times faster and in America 10 times faster.

    The study said all suitable farming soil could vanish within 60 years if quick action was not taken, leading to a global food crisis.”

    tags: greennumbers, soil, topsoil, soil fertility

  • In response to an environmental lawsuit filed against the oil giant, Chevron has fortified its defenses with at least twelve different public relations firms whose purpose is to debunk the claims made against the company by indigenous people living in the Amazon forests of Ecuador. According to them, Chevron dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon between 1964 and 1990, causing damages assessed at more than $27 billion.

    tags: chevron, ecuador, greennumbers, amazon rainforest, amazon, toxic waste, pollution

  • Indian mobile phone and commodity export firm Airvoice Group has formed a joint venture with public sector body Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam to build 13GW of solar and wind capacity in a sparsely populated part of Karnataka district in south west India.

    The joint venture is budgeting to invest $50 billion over a period of 10 years, claiming it to be the largest single renewable energy project in the world.

    tags: greennumbers, india, airvoice, solar, wind, renewables, karnataka, renewable energy

  • Using coal for electricity produces CO2, and climate policy aims to prevent greenhouse gases from hurting our habitat. But it also produces SOx and NOx and particulate matter that have immediate health dangers.

    A University of Wisconsin study was able to put an economic value on just the immediate health benefits of enacting climate policy. Implications of incorporating air-quality co-benefits into climate change policymaking found coal is really costing us about $40 per each ton of CO2.

    tags: greennumbers, coal, sox, nox, particulate matter, greenhouse gases, health

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