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Cloud computing’s lack of transparency – an update

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe

We have been talking here on GreenMonk about the lack of transparency from Cloud vendors for some time now, but our persistence is starting to pay off, it appears!

Some recent conversations we’ve had with people in this space are starting to prove very positive.

We’ve had talks with GreenQloud. GreenQloud are based in Iceland, so their electricity is 100% renewable (30% geothermal and 70% hydro). They already measure and report to their customers the carbon footprint of their cloud consumption – so what discussions did we have with them? Well, GreenQloud use the open source CloudStack platform to manage their cloud infrastructure. Given that CloudStack is open source, and we’ve previously suggested that Open Source Cloud Platforms should be hacked for Energy and Emissions reporting, we suggested to GreenQloud that they contribute their code back into the CloudStack project. They were very open to the idea. Watch this space.

We’ve also met with CloudSigma, an IaaS provider based in Switzerland. CloudSigma were very interested when I raised this discussion with them at the GigaOm Structure event in Amsterdam earlier this year and they hope to have energy and emissions reporting ready to demonstrate very soon. In a way though, the discussions with CloudSigma went much as expected. We were after all, preaching to the converted. CloudSigma have a good environmental track record having announced that they are carbon neutral back in June 2010.

And finally, last week at the SapphireNow event in Madrid, we had a discussion about cloud providers lack of transparency with Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP. Jim is an interesting guy. We’ve been covering SAP events for several years now, and every time we’ve heard Jim get up to speak, within the first few sentences he references resource constraints and sustainability. He drives an electric car. He’s totally bought into being green. He’s also a proponent of transparency. So when we raised the issue of the lack of transparency with Jim, his eyes light up and he got all excited. We had a great conversation on the topic which he concluded by saying “I want SAP to be a leader in this space”.

All very positive stuff, still no actual movement but things appear to be going in the right direction.

Image credits Tom Raftery

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SAP’s Sustainability announcements at Sapphire Now

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe at Sapphire Now 2012

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe at Sapphire Now 2012

Technology innovation plays a major part in creating a sustainable world tomorrow

So said SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe at this year’s SAP Sapphire Now conference in Orlando. He then went on to predict three major trends in computing for the coming years – according to Jim, in the next five years everything will move to Cloud, everything will be in main memory and everything will be mobile.

This wasn’t just some off-the-cuff remark – these three developments are core to SAP’s product roadmap – even in the Sustainability space.

In the mobile space for example, at Sapphire Now SAP announced a new version of a mobile app for incident management. With this app, workers can now log issues from their mobile device with a photo or video, as well as an audio recording, and send it directly to an incident or safety manager for corrective action. This crowd-sourcing of safety information also has built-in tracking of the reported incident which is hugely empowering for workers who may previously have felt their voice wasn’t heard. And for the companies deploying this solution it leads to a safer work environment and a happier workforce.

This puts me in mind of an initiative IBM rolled out with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) where they enabled students, teachers and staff to report issues like water leaks, broken aircon/heating, exposed cables and so on, by sending text messages and photos through their mobile phones. More please.

Also in the mobile sustainability space, SAP have their Electronic Medical Record app [SilverLight warning] – an app which gives doctors instant access to a patient’s electronic medical records.

In the Cloud space, SAP have made two major recent acquisitions – Successfactors and more recently Ariba at a cost of roughly $7.7bn. This is a clear indicator that while SAP maybe late to the party, it is serious about catching up.

And in the Sustainability space? Well SAP’s carbon management software, Carbon Impact OnDemand is already Cloud delivered. At SapphireNow SAP announced that they are going to rollout an on-demand service for product safety that the company is calling the SAP Product Stewardship and Safety Network. This will be a network where safety professionals can share safety information and best practices.

The irony of sustainability-related software being delivered via the Cloud, a technology which is not Green at all, is not lost on me. It does appear to be lost on SAP however – more on which in a follow-up post.

And finally in-memory computing – what is it? Well, you know how information held in RAM is much faster to access than information on disk, right? So HANA, SAP’s new in-memory database, is where the database is held in RAM for much faster data access. Also, in-memory databases can hold enormous quantities of data, and query them in milliseconds. This is a huge step forward in database technologies and according to SAP it will vastly simplify database maintenance as well because there should no longer be a need for large data warehouses.

Where do the HANA and Sustainability stories intersect? There are several examples – the first is in the area of Smart Grids and Smart meters. The volumes of information utility companies will be expected to handle after installing smart meters are orders of magnitude greater than anything they are used to. Realtime analysis of this firehose of information will allow for much better demand-side management, matching the demand curve to the supply curve, stabilising the grid and allowing for greater penetration of variable generators like wind and solar. Also, this availability of highly granular energy consumption data will facilitate the development of all kinds of new energy products and services that would have previously been impossible to offer. This is sorely needed by utilities who are in the uncomfortable position of currently (no pun) having to try to convince customers to buy less of their product.

Other use interesting cases are discussed in a great post on How Big Data Will Help Achieve Sustainability Goals by SAP’s Scott Bolick. And when you finish checking that out, head on over to Jennifer Lankheim’s post on SAP Situational Awareness for Public Sector where she discusses this new SAP Rapid Deployment Solution to help public safety and security organizations better anticipate, assess, and act on emergency situations.

We are only scratching the surface of what the implications of Big Data, Cloud, Mobility and in-memory computing are for sustainability. Expect to see far more announcements in this space in the near future.

Disclosure – SAP is a GreenMonk client and SAP paid my travel and expenses to attend Sapphire Now.

Photo Credit Tom Raftery

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App idea: Using gaming and social media to reduce your energy footprint

Energy footprint

SAP runs an event called InnoJam at its developer TechEd conferences. The SAP InnoJam events are held during the weekend prior to TechEd. During these events, people from the SAP community compete against each other in teams building working prototypes of solutions to real business cases, using SAP technologies.

SAP solicit ideas for business cases to be developed at these InnoJams – I added one this morning on building a residential energy management application. The application would use a combination of gaming techniques (leader boards, achievement badges, etc) and sharing to social networks to keep customers engaged and incented to try their best to reduce their energy use.

Here’s my submission:

Energy management applications being rolled out by utility companies have a very short Mean Time to Junk Drawer (MTJD) – they are ‘all shiny’ for the first couple of weeks but the shine quickly wears off and they are soon put away in the proverbial Junk Drawer never to be opened again.

How do you make energy management applications more engaging, bringing utility company customers back again and again to try to improve on their previous energy reduction steps? You do it by turning it into a game and allowing customers to share their progress on their social network of choice!

SAP have a new application for utility customers called Smart Meter Analytics which runs on HANA. The flood of data which will be coming from Smart Meters means HANA is necessary to do meaningful analytics on Smart Meter data (Centrica talk of going from their current 70m smart meter reads per annum to 30bn when all of their smart meters are rolled out – that’s a lot of data).

Smart meters give far more granular reads on energy consumption, allowing for residential energy management applications to be built and indeed SAP’s Smart Meter Analytics application has an Energy Efficiency Scorecard for residential customers.

But, if you build an application for energy management which allows people to compete against each other. If you introduce point scoring, leaderboards, and achievement badges and add to it the ability to share your progress with your social networks (a bit like FourSquare), then the application becomes far more compelling.

Also, the mobile app would want to have a way to check energy consumption remotely, and if a device has been left on (TV, aircon, oven, etc.), remote power-down from the mobile app.

Now, for utility companies to get this to really fly, they could offer prizes to schools in their locale – the school district with the greatest energy reductions gets a new energy efficient computer lab, or new energy efficient lighting, or… (you get the idea) – pester power from the pupils in the schools on their parents, combined with educating the younger generation on the importance of energy reduction is a major win-win!

The cool thing about this is that because it is based on the utility company’s Smart Meter Analytics, it is the customer’s actual energy use, not pledges, or estimates – so reductions reported are real, and realtime.

What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea?

Photo credit Tom Raftery

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SAP starts highlighting sustainability customer success stories

I had a great chat with SAP’s Jeremiah Stone (Senior Director, Sustainability Solution Management) while we were at Sapphire Now in May. Craig Cmehil was good enough to video it for us, so here we are talking about SAP’s Sustainability solutions and SAP’s move to letting its customers recount their sustainability success stories.

Here is the transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone; we?re at SAPPHIRE NOW. I?m Tom Raftery, and, with me, I have Jeremiah Stone from SAP. Jeremiah, can you tell us, first of all, what?s your role at SAP?

Jeremiah Stone: Hi Tom! Thanks for having me, I?m glad to be here on GreenMonk. I?m part of the Solution Management Organization within SAP for Sustainability. So, we?re really responsible for the roadmap and investment in our products and working with our customers to understand what their needs are and making sure that we have the right products to meet those needs.

Tom Raftery: Okay. Just before we get in to the whole SAPPHIRE NOW thing and what?s been happening here, what are the, products that you guys have around sustainability?

Jeremiah Stone: We have a wide range and it?s a good question, because sustainability means all things to all people and, I think, Vinnie Mirchandani said, ?Don?t talk about religion, don?t talk about politics, and now don?t talk about sustainability, because it?s such a hot topic.?

SAP defines sustainability as products that help our customers? businesses succeed not only in the traditional sense of what we always do to the profitable business, but also how to stay in business for the long-run. So, in a world with changing resource situations with volatility around natural resources, needs to curb pollution, be able to grow a workforce, be able to have more sustainable products, we build products that help customers have better run businesses.

So very concretely, software that helps you have a safer business, identify risk and have improvements in people, not getting hurt, which is a nice way to have a longer-term business – you?re not hurting your employees, you make that a box.

So, we have product compliance solutions to help people design and take better products to the market that have less toxicity in them, for example. One of my favorite example there is Molex that makes little connectors in computers. They were able to remove halogens from those connectors so they have a less toxic product then.

In the long-run where you have an end of life because it has no use in your home and it is off gas or that sort of gas. We make products for energy and environmental resource management. So, really how to cut your energy use and emit less. We have solutions focused on sustainable workforce. How do you engage your employees that are on the top for sustainability? Then also in a long-term have the long-term workforce. That?s really the analytics layer and how do you make the decisions on the basis of your business data. So, we have products in each of these categories.

Tom Raftery: Awesome, and, I?ve been at a couple of Sapphires at this point. In the last couple of Sapphires there was a lot of talk from the CEO?s on downwards about sustainability. This year less so. There seems to be a shift in focus. Can you talk a bit about that?

Jeremiah Stone: Well, I think that reflects to a degree the maturity of the topic and I think it?s not necessarily a topic where they are excited about it in the sense that it is new and defining. It?s now, I think, reaching the point where and I?m excited about this, because when things get mundane and boring it usually means you make someone successful with them.

Now, it?s assumed that sustainability is going to be on the floor, it?s assumed that we?re going to be focusing on it, it?s assumed that its part of it. And you did hear about it in the keynotes, but it just blends in. Vishal Sikka talked about it today that one of our on-demand products in sustainability will be adopting in-memory technology.

So, a lot of the major technology investments that companies make around mobility, around in memory analytics, these sorts of things are part of our investment strategy and portfolio for sustainability. Now, it just becomes assumed with SAP products that we?re focusing on sustainability, which is what makes me excited as a solutions guide for that is that we don?t think if it is a separate category that we have to crow about; it now becomes part of our business.

SAP?s purpose is to help the world run better, to create enduring prosperity for people everywhere and that sustainability is just part of that purpose.

Tom Raftery: Sure and there seems to be a lot more customer sustainability events going on this month than ever before?

Jeremiah Stone: Absolutely, and that was great. I think something on the order 80% of the activities we?re doing – the forums, the customer roundtables, those are the things that were led by our customers using the products and it?s a great…

Tom Raftery: From what I was seeing, it seems to be a lot — this event, the whole SAPPHIRE NOW thing seemed to be a lot more on sustainability from the bottom-up rather than the top-down.

Jeremiah Stone: Absolutely! That?s a great way to put it and we were talking about this before. I?m excited to hear less about SAP being sustainable in our vision and a lot more about SAP?s customers embedding our technology to have more sustainable business and more sustainable products of their own.

That?s what we?re really starting to see in this you know there?s a lag when people buy the software and implement it and start to use it. I think we?re through that lag phase and it?s just great to see the momentum and the tipping point pass and people are starting to use this and then customers? getting up and being really proud about the successes they?re having and how it?s helping their business.

Tom Raftery: Awesome. Jeremiah, that?s been fantastic, thanks again.

Jeremiah Stone: Alright, thanks Tom, I appreciate it.

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Centrica’s Smart Meter Analytics application could make energy management compelling

As I have mentioned here previously, Smart Meters are going to bring a flood of data to utility companies which will need to be properly managed and which can be a source of intelligence for the utility, if they mine it well.

At the recent SAP Sapphire Now conference, UK Energy retailer Centrica showcased their Smart Meter Analytics application running on SAP’s HANA. HANA is SAP’s in-memory computing solution (In-memory computing moves data off traditional storage on servers and into RAM, providing a performance boost over having to read the data off disks).

Centrica are the largest single instance utility on an SAP system with 18 million residential accounts for and one million business accounts. Right now they are billing residential accounts every three months and they are managing 75 million meter reads per annum.

With the move to smart meters, Centrica will take electricity reads every 30 minutes and gas reads once per day. This means a shift from 75 million meter reads per annum to 120 billion meter reads a year. 120 billion – that’s billion with a b. That’s a phenomenal amount of data to have to deal with. Doing any kind of traditional analytics on a data set that large would very quickly get totally bogged down. One of the interesting things about HANA however is that the performance scales linearly with the hardware. If it’s starting to slow a bit with 120 billion meter reads, throw a couple of extra terabytes of ram and servers at it and hey presto you are back in business, or so the theory goes!

In the demo above, Centrica are using the analytics to examine their customer segmentation. They can look at the energy profile of similar businesses in a specific area and where there are anomalies, they can work with those businesses to help them cut their energy consumption until it is more in line with their peers. Increasing pressures to be energy-efficient and to reduce carbon footprints are being looked on by Centrica as an opportunity to open an energy services business, going to customers to help them to become more energy-efficient. The Smart Meter Analytics application is going to be crucial for this new practice within Centrica.

Centrica's Energy Efficiency Scorecard

Centrica's Energy Efficiency Scorecard

In the residential market the Smart Meter Analytics app presents householders with an Energy Efficiency Scorecard. This facilitates charting actual usage patterns against the various tariffs Centrica offers to find the optimal rate plan. The score card also allows home-owners to compare their energy efficiency with similar households in the same area.

This is an impressive use of Smart Meter analytics and it presents hugely useful information but to avoid a short MTKD (Mean Time To Kitchen Drawer – the time it takes for people to get bored with this app and metaphorically stuff it in the kitchen drawer), the scorecard has to keep homeowners engaged. There are several ways of doing this. One of main ones would be to bring in some gamification – make a game of it. The Scorecard could set energy reduction targets for people to meet in the next set period, allot points or awards for achieving reduction targets, build social media in for sharing achievements and put up a leaderboard to add some real competition to the game.

Energy management applications to-date have suffered from the fact that they were working with estimated data a lot of the time, from lack of a significant networked dataset and from a lack of a usable analytics engine. Large energy retailers, like Centrica, have the opportunity now to change that and to make energy management in the home compelling. Let’s hope they make it so.

Disclosure – SAP paid my travel and expenses to attend Sapphire Now.

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Why would you feature oil companies as customer references?

Oiled Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation

The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico was, unfortunately, far from being an isolated incident. Chevron in Ecuador, Shell in Nigeria, Exxon in Alaska – name me an oil company and I’ll name you an environmental disaster. And, it appears that some of them are responsible for funding, climate change denial.

And yet at a number of conferences I’ve been at recently, oil companies have been mentioned as customer references from the podium. From my position as an advocate of green measures, that irks.

Hasso Plattner keynoting the Sapphire Now conference

At SAP’s Sapphire Now conference last week for example, during the keynotes given by Vishal Sikka, CTO, and Hasso Plattner, Chair and co-founder of SAP, three oil companies were featured. And this is a company which is going to great pains to establish a reputation for itself as being being Sustainable.

It is not like SAP were short of customer references – there were probably north of 30 customers shown between the two back-to-back keynotes. No-one would have complained if there were three less.

So, they had oil companies, ok, well to counter that how many of the other customer companies represented were renewable generators? Not one. Not a single one.

C’mon guys, it’s not like renewable generators have a shortage of big data – I remember on visiting Logica’s center of excellence in Lisbon seeing their windfarm management application. They told me that a typical turbine outputs around 250 data points per minute and that particular application was managing over 2,000 wind turbines.

Leaving Logica aside, there are plenty of other well known companies heavily involved in renewables who could have been showcased – think Siemens, Vestas, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Iberdrola, Hyundai, GE, Gamesa, and Alstom for wind energy; then there’s Bosch, Sharp, and Sanyo for solar, for example.

In fairness to SAP, one of their demos, from UK energy retailer Centrica, was a Smart Meter Analytics demo where Centrica was able to utilise the analytics to help consumers reduce their power consumption – more on which in another post.

And, I should not ignore that fact that oil companies such as BP have invested in renewables but is that where their focus really is? SAP is pushing the sustainability agenda and for that they should be given credit. But… show us the evidence in the real world of customers that SAP is supporting.

That’s how you gain credibility.

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Photo credit NOAA’s National Ocean Service

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SAP are now starting to let their customers tell their Sustainability story

Centrica's Smart Meter Analytics implementation

I attended SAP’s SapphireNow conference this week. At previous Sapphire conferences SAP went strong on Sustainability – having guest speakers like Al Gore and Richard Branson and also having both Co-CEO’s address the topic strongly in their talks. This year however, they went a different route.

This year the main themes discussed by guests and Co-CEO’s were mobility and in-memory computing with sustainability merely referenced a couple of times in passing. On the other hand, a search of the online agenda shows that there were 60 sessions at the event which were Sustainability themed. What’s more, as SAP’S VP Marketing for Sustainability Solutions Marty Etzel pointed out to me, 80% of those sessions were customer or partner led.

I think it shows a certain maturity and confidence by SAP that they are willing to step back from the previous top-down approach to Sustainability that they have espoused and to allow their customers and partners to bottom-up tell the story on their behalf. It is always a far more convincing story when it is your partners and customers are talking up your solutions.

Due to meetings, I couldn’t get to as many of the sessions as I wanted to but fortunately many of them were recorded for replay on the SapphireNow so I’ll be able to catch up with them over the coming days.

It is a gutsy move by SAP to let their customers tell their Sustainability story – but it is one which is vital for the credibility of their solutions.

Disclosure – SAP paid my travel and expenses to attend this event

You should follow me on Twitter here

Photo credit Tom Raftery

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Sustainable SAP

SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott at SapphireNow 2010

I attended SAP’s Sapphire Now conference in Orlando earlier this week along with around 12,000 others.

It was a very interesting few days of talks, meetings, and showcases.

SAP’s commitment to Sustainability was evident throughout the event. The two keynote speakers invited by SAP were Al Gore and Richard Branson, for example – both of whom talked about the importance of sustainability to help mitigate climate change.

For me though, the most impressive statement that SAP considers Sustainability a strategic imperative, not just a sop to marketing, was the fact that both co-Ceo’s addressed Sustainability at length in their keynote addresses.

In my interview with Diversey’s CEO Curt Johnson a few weeks back he made the point that

CO2 is waste, so if you minimise CO2, you minimise waste and you maximise efficiency and increase profits

In his keynote on Tuesday morning, SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe made the same point when he said that saving carbon emissions meant saving money. He concluded his keynote discussing SAP’s carbon reduction targets and how SAP’s sustainability solutions will help SAP’s customers reduce their emissions.

This ties in very strongly with the SAP Sustainability strategy which SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Peter Graf set forth during his presentation. SAP are committing to being an Exemplar and Enabler. By that they mean SAP will be an exemplar organisation in terms of its own sustainability initiatives and through its software solutions, it will enable its client companies to do the same.

Peter told me some time back that though SAP’s CO2 emissions were around 500,000 tonnes, their customers’ emissions were 10,000 times that! That’s a lot of emissions to be able to influence.

To that end, SAP’s on-demand Carbon Impact application seems to be coming along nicely now. I saw a pre-release of the upcoming version and it is starting to go beyond carbon impacts in terms of emission management, so I wonder how long before we have a re-brand! And SAP’s Sustainability Performance Management tool is a big help for companies wishing to track and communicate sustainability performance

SAP co-CEO's (and bottled water!)

SAP co-CEO's (and bottled water!)

I have written about how good their 2009 Sustainability Report was and how customers have been asking SAP to productise it. I asked Peter Graf during his presentation when he planned to deliver a Sustainability Report Generator to enable customers to also produce awesome sustainability reports but there are no imminent plans to release it it seems, which is a pity.

Despite the fact that both co-CEO’s had bottled water beside them during their keynotes at Sapphire Now (see pic), SAP have been quite consistently pushing the sustainability message for a while now. It is great to see. Hopefully some of SAP’s competitors will take note and the term Sustainability will go away because it will be synonymous with business as usual.