Kudos to Microsoft for the far-sighted investment. As organisations are beginning to realise the risks associated with their cloud supply chain, opaque cloud suppliers like AWS and SoftLayer will be abandoned for more responsible, transparent, risk-free suppliers like Microsoft.
Cloud computing is often incorrectly touted as being a green, more environmentally-friendly, computing option. This confusion occurs because people forget that while cloud computing may be more energy efficient (may be), the environmental friendliness is determined by how much carbon is produced in the generation of that energy. If a data centre is primarily powered by coal, it doesn’t matter how energy efficient it it, it will never be green.
One such cloud provider is SAP. Like most other cloud vendors, they’re constantly increasing their portfolio of cloud products. This has presented them with some challenges when they have to consider their carbon footprint. In its recently released 2013 Annual Report SAP admits
Energy usage in our data centers contributed to 6% of our total emissions in 2013, compared with 5% in 2012
This is going the wrong direction for a company whose stated aim is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to levels of the year 2000 by 2020.
that it will power all its data centers and facilities globally with 100 percent renewable electricity starting in 2014
This is good for SAP, obviously, as they will be reducing their environmental footprint, and also good for customers of SAP’s cloud solutions who will also get the benefit of SAP’s green investments. How are SAP achieving this goal of 100 per cent renewable energy for its data centers and facilities? A combination of generating its own electricity using solar panels in Germany and Palo Alto (<1%), purchasing renewable energy and high quality renewable energy certificates, and a €3m investment in the Livlihoods Fund.
So, how does SAP’s green credentials stack up against some of its rivals in the cloud computing space?
Scope 3 GHG emissions are typically defined as indirect emissions from operations outside the direct control of the company, such as employee commutes, business travel, and supply chain operations. Oracle does not report on Scope 3 emissions
And then there’s Amazon. Amazon doesn’t release any kind of information about the carbon footprint of its facilities. None.
So kudos to SAP for taking this step to green its cloud computing fleet. Looking at the competition I’d have to say SAP comes in around middle-of-the road in terms of its green cloud credentials. If it wants to improve its ranking, it may be time to revisit that 2020 goal.
was “quite sceptical” about this issue. “None of the cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft or IBM are publishing metrics at all. Intuitively you have to think that because you’re outsourcing that to someone of that scale that they’re being more efficient but we’ve no way of knowing. Frankly, that’s worrisome. I don’t know why they’re not publishing it and I wish they would,”
This is no sudden realisation on my part. In fact, I have been concerned about Cloud Computing’s Green credentials for some time now as you can see from a series of Tweets (here, here and here, for instance) I posted on this issue in early to mid 2009.
It is vital that cloud providers start publishing their energy metrics for a number of reasons. For one, it is a competitive differentiator. But perhaps more importantly, in the absence of any provider numbers, one has to start wondering if cloud computing is in fact Green at all.
I’m not sure why cloud providers are not publishing their energy metrics but if I had to guess I would say it is related to concerns around competitive intelligence. However this is not a sustainable position (if you’ll pardon the pun).
As the regulatory landscape around emissions reporting alters and as organisations RFP’s are tending to demand more details on emissions, cloud providers who refuse to provide energy-related numbers will find themselves increasingly marginalised.
So is cloud computing Green?
I put that question toSimon Wardley, cloud strategist for Canonical in this video I recorded with him last year and he said no, cloud computing is very definitely not Green.
To be honest, until cloud providers start becoming more transparent around their utilisation and consumption numbers there is really no way of knowing whether cloud computing is in any way Green at all.
EyeOnEarth, the first product of that agreement was launched on July 30th 2008 as a site listing water bathing quality for beaches and waterways throughout Europe. What was unique about the site was that it contained historical data going back as far as 1991 as well as the ability for anyone browsing the site to give their own feedback on beaches/waterways. A superb way to capture and present grassroots water quality data.
In the last couple of weeks, there have been major changes to the EyeOnEarth website. The site has been moved to Microsoft’s new cloud computing services platform Windows Azure, and data from 6,000 air quality monitoring stations across Europe is now also included in the site. The air quality data includes information on ozone, particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) but, curiously, doesn’t include sulphur dioxide (SO2) or carbon dioxide (CO2).
The site has now been combined with Bing Maps and Silverlight controls which work quite well once you realise that you have to type in the name of the location you are interested in into the search bar at the top to see any data. Intuitively I initially clicked on air and water stations on the map but this failed to do yield any data. This appears to be a function of your zoom level because once you zoom in far enough, a click on an air or water station will yield the information.
The fact that the site is written in Silverlight is disappointing as the number of computers with Silverlight installed is somewhere between 32% and 47%. There is a non-Silverlight version of the site available but I failed to get this to work either on my Vista PC or on my iPhone.
The lack of a working platform for mobile is a big disappointment, frankly. Back in 2008 Microsoft’s Director EU & NATO, reassured me that:
We haven’t tested or adapted the site for mobile access now due to time constraints but mobile access is a core component of our vision for the Observatory portal as we like to offer an alerting/subscription service
I took this to mean that there would be a mobile version of the site developed.
However, what Microsoft and the EEA have now delivered is an SMS service whereby you can text a command to a UK number (+44 7786 201 106) – this allows you to receive instant updates on air and water quality for any location in the EEA member countries, however, as far as I can tell there is no way to add data to the site from your mobile, something I’d be very keen to do if I had the option.
The addition of the air quality data to Eye on Earth is a very welcome development, however making the site less accessible, and not having a mobile version of the site means that this update of the site would appear to be a case of one step forward and two steps back.
UPDATE: Just thinking now that if there were an api to this data and if it were geotagged, it would make a really interesting Augmented Reality Layar for a mobiles.
Tom Raftery – Global VP, Futurist, and Innovation Evangelist for SAP, inspirational keynote speaker, and global influencer's take on how digitization and innovation are creatively disrupting our world