Tag: Green

With great power comes great responsibility – or, Cloud companies need to get on-board

Spiderman
With great power comes great responsibility

This great quote from the movie Spider-Man, is just as true for technology, as it is for superheroes.

Technology has made possible tremendous changes in our quality of life in the last couple of decades. Everything from surgery to transportation, education to construction, space exploration and most other fields of human endeavour now depend heavily on IT. However, these great advances in our knowledge and abilities comes at a cost.

Information Technology’s carbon footprint, estimated by Gartner to be 2% of global carbon emissions in 2007, is rapidly increasing and by some estimates may even double by 2020. This is obviously an unsustainable situation. ICT, which can help so many organisations to reduce their carbon footprint, should itself be an shining example of low emissions.

To this end, the EU commission’s new ICT Footprint initiative is to be lauded. The announcement of the project on EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes blog gave the following details of the initiative:

This is why the European Commission has persuaded three leading standards development organisations and a prominent greenhouse gas accounting initiative to pool their measurement efforts. Under our new initiative these organisations will examine the whole sector, the whole lifecycle and the scalability of these methods.

That means measuring everything from the supply of raw materials to their recycling. Measuring not only what it takes to make products like a laptop, but also the impact of services like hosting data in the cloud. It means that in the near future we will be able to measure the ICT environmental footprint of whole cities or countries, including the positive environmental effects that ICT enables.

Several major ICT companies and organisations from Europe, Asia and the US are now trialling such measurement solutions. And from this month onwards, nearly 30 players have joined the European Commission to broaden and speed up the effort. We call on more and more such players to get involved.

It is tremendous to see this kind of global leadership from the EU. While this only applies to the EU, it does require the development of measurement and reporting systems for whole IT ecosystems and that can only be a good thing. In time, the hope would be that these systems are used well beyond the EU and by all IT providers…

Is Cloud Computing Green?

I gave the keynote address at the Digital Trends 2011 event organised by HePIS and CEPIS in Athens recently. My talk was on Cloud Computing’s Green Potential and in my presentation, I claimed that Cloud Computing is NOT Green.

I started the talk by explaining what Cloud Computing is and the many advantages it can bring to companies. However, because none of the Cloud providers are publishing energy figures around Cloud computing, we can’t say whether or not Cloud computing is energy efficient.

I went on to point out that even if Cloud is energy efficient (and we have no proof that it is), that is not the same thing as being Green.

My slides are available on my SlideShare account and a transcript of my talk is here:

Okay, so my talk this morning is on Cloud Computing and its Green Potential. So a quick couple of words about myself.

So my name is Tom Raftery, I work for an industry analyst firm called RedMonk. My area of interest within RedMonk or the area I specialize in is energy and sustainability. We have termed the practice within RedMonk that concentrates on energy and sustainability GreenMonk. So the place that I blog at is at GreenMonk.net.

And a little bit about my past. I worked in an organization called Zenith Solutions back in the 90s and early 2000s, and Zenith Solutions was a software company creating what has now become termed cloud applications. At that time we called them web applications, they were web based software with the database backend online.

Then I worked for a company called Chip Electronics in the early 2000s and Chip Electronics was again a company which created Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP applications which were cloud delivered, at the time we called it Software as a Service. No at the time we called it active service provisions, since become Software as a Service. And I am also a co-founder and Director of CIX, which is a hyper energy efficient data center based in Cork in Ireland. So I know both from the hardware side and the software side.

I mentioned my blog on GreenMonk.net, I am on Twitter and twitter.com/tomraftery. My email address is there, my mobile phone number is there, please don’t ring it now. And this site here, slideshare.net the last line there and I am sorry for the bullet points, I don’t normally use them, but I did just here and in one other slide. slideshare.net is a site where you can upload a presentations.

So, this presentation I am giving this morning, I uploaded it to SlideShare earlier this morning, so it’s already online there at that site and if you go there now you’ll see it has already been viewed over 277 times so far. So, it’s a great site for getting your talks out all available, it’s also downloadable there.

One thing you’ll notice as well about the structure of my talks is a lot of them have images like this, but they also have this bit of text at the bottom which you can’t read, don’t try right now, but what they are is those are links to the source material. So, if at any point you do download the presentation you can go and click on the links, they are clickable links you can click on them and see where I’ve got the information from.

So that’s me, who are you guys?

A couple of questions, so how many people here have deployed applications to the cloud? Not very many. How many plan to? A few more, okay. How many people here think that cloud computing is green? Okay, good few people. Right. I hope to burst that bubble, unlike Nancy who spoke just a minute ago, I am not a, I am not a believer that cloud computing is green and I hope to explain why. I am a huge fan of cloud computing, I have to say, I use it extensively, going back to the slide for a second.

The Chip application, the Zenith stuff, the GreenMonk, Twitter, SlideShare even my email are all cloud delivered. Our organization RedMonk we use Google applications for domains for our email, so my email is cloud delivered as well. So I am a big user of and believer in cloud for lots of things. But I just don’t happen to believe it’s green.

So what is cloud computing? Well at kind of first blush it’s software that’s delivered in a browser, so that’s an very easy definition of it, something we can all kind of sign up to it. It’s a lot more complex than that at various other levels and I’ll go through a couple of those other levels as well, just very briefly to kind of give you that the kind of complexity that’s involved in it, but I am not going to go into any great depth. So it’s also nothing that’s very new, this is the original sign up screen for Hotmail.

Hotmail was an email application developed and sold to Microsoft back in ’97 for $450 million if memory serves. But this was before it was sold to Microsoft, this was the original sign up screen when they launched in July ’96 and it was one of the first widely used Software as a Service or cloud application.

So cloud is nothing new, it keeps getting rebranded, so the cloud name is newish alright, but the delivery mechanism is not that new. It actually harps back to mainframe computing back in the 60s.

So there are several types of cloud computing and the first type, the first level of cloud computing is kind of Software as a Service. That’s where you kind of take your packaged software and convert it into something as I mentioned already delivered in a browser. And I mean you probably are aware of these I mentioned Hotmail and its analogs the Google applications, there is also Zoho, there is social networking the Twitter that I mentioned, SlideShare all these kind of things, they are all Software as a Service.

So they are just basic applications that you access through a browser. But you can go back one level of abstraction from that to where you get to what’s called platform as a service. And don’t worry about these acronyms basically a lot of the times you don’t need to know this stuff, the platform as a service stuff is where you, as I could say, you go back one level of abstraction and you give people a platform on which to deploy cloud applications.

And the kind of platforms that you can get are ones like the Google app engine and Amazon and Microsoft’s Azure, these are the kind of platforms that are available if you want go down that route. Most people don’t need to go there, but if you do that kind of stuff is available as well. And then you can go back one further level of abstraction where you are actually delivering Hardware as a Service and this is called Hardware as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service and both names are valid, HaaS for hardware or IaaS for infrastructure as a service and that’s where you’re delivering stuff like networking, storage, compute, CPU cycles that kind of thing as a service.

And VMware, Rackspace, OpenStack again Amazon with their EC2 and their S3 services are those kinds of types of cloud computing. If that’s a little confusing and I know it can be, this is a slide which is also confusing, but if you actually stop and study it in your own time, you could download this application and if you are interested about it, this is a good way of seeing how the different types of cloud computing stack up as it were.

So over here on the very left, you have your traditional packaged software with the entire stack from networking up through applications where you manage the entire stack on your machine. So that’s the traditional Microsoft Office whatever applications, you do the whole thing.

Over on the other side you got your Software as a Service, something like Google apps or domains or one of these things where the provider the Google or whoever are responsible for the entire stack, all you have is a browser. And then in the middle you have the two other ones, the platform as a service, where the vendor managers up to here and you manage the applications and data or infrastructure where the vendor managers is just this part and you manage the rest.

So that’s the kind of way it stacks up. As I say on the deck itself there is a link down there to where you can find that image if you are interested in checking into it. It’s quite a nice way of seeing the differences between the different types of cloud computing.

And then just to complicate things a little further, there are different deployment mechanisms. You can have private cloud, private cloud is hosted by yourself on your own infrastructure behind your own firewall. You can have public cloud which is what most people are familiar with or you can have a hybrid where you have some stuff private, some stuff public and that’s one that a lot of people are looking at, because it means you can have your data behind your firewall, but the functionality you are accessing it from public. So your stuff remains on premise.

And that’s quite important, because as Nancy alluded to, there can be a lot of issues with the data in cloud computing, because for example if you are a European company do you really want your data hosted on servers in US territories where for example the data privacy laws are a lot more lax. So I have spoken to several European companies who have said categorically they will not use cloud computing if their data is going to be hosted in US territories. It’s only if it’s in the EU and only if they know where in the EU. So you are noticing cloud providers taking that on board and starting to become aware of those issues and while they can’t change US law, they can start providing storage mechanisms that they are guaranteed to be in region.

So that’s cloud computing and the next question we get to is, is this really energy efficient because lots of people say it is and even Nancy alluded to that report from the Carbon Disclosure Project which I’ll blow apart in a minute. They aren’t the only ones Microsoft, Accenture and WSP environment brought out this story in November of last year. And this is the actual title of the story, where they say it shows significant energy in carbon emissions reduction potential from cloud computing and again the link to the report is down there at the bottom.

The difficulties I have with that are several, first is Microsoft are a cloud computing provider so they kind of skin in the game. The second is that, they don’t actually use any hard data, it’s all imputed. And the third is that after months and months of work from all these people the best they could come up with is they could say it has potential. Yeah it has potential to end world hunger and bring on world peace and fix the euro, anything kind of potential. So that’s a non-report.

Cloud computing has phenomenal advantages, don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan. So if you are into traditional IT, you know well that if you are deploying a new application or a new server it’s pain staking, you have to go through an RFP process, a tender process, PO process. You have to put, you have to go to tender and you have to get that — when you have to place the order, the order then can take several weeks from the supplier. When it comes in, it goes into the logistics area, if you got to get the guys in warehousing to tell you where the server is, you have to get the server, you have got to put the company image on the server, you got to install the applications, you got to do testing, you got to patch the server, the list goes on and on. Basically you want to deploy a new server, it’s a process that can take weeks to months.

You deploy a cloud application, there is usually no RFP and no PO process because there is — the capital cost is minimal. So typically the time to deploy for a cloud application shrinks from weeks to months to hours to minutes depending on what you are deploying, so phenomenal, cloud is fantastic for streamlining that kind of stuff.

It’s also great for what’s called dynamic provisioning. So this is the Alexa graph, the website traffic of a website for the Australian Open. The Australian Open is a big tennis competition happens in Australia every January. So you’ll notice 11 months of the year no traffic to the site, come December, January vroom, spike, that’s 2006, 2007, larger spike 2008, larger spike and the spikes keep getting bigger as you go in that direction.

So if you were the website owner for the AustralianOpen.com website you would need to have — if there were no cloud computing options you would need to have servers that could hit and deal with the traffic at this growing spike for 12 months of the year when the traffic is only there one month of the year. But with dynamic provisioning and cloud computing you can use the elasticity of the cloud to turn up the resources assigned to that site as the traffic starts to build up in December and January and then as the traffic falls off, you turn it back down again.

So in that respect cloud computing is fantastic as well, you are not using resources needlessly. You’ve also got the idea of multi-tenancy and if you can’t see what’s in this picture it’s actually a Mini Cooper with 26 people inside in her, EMC sponsored it as the world record attempt to fit people into a Mini Cooper and they fit 26 people into it. So they stuff people into it with multi-tenancy in cloud computing it means you are sharing applications across companies, lots of different companies often competitors are using the same single version of the application.

And that’s fantastic, that adds greater value. You know, you have only one instance of the application which is great as well for updates, updates of the application are instantly deployed. You know, you don’t have to download the latest update and apply it to the test server and make sure it works in the environment, the whole thing, you know, it’s just instantly on.

This is the issue of server utilization which again Nancy referred to, Nancy you stole my talk, come on. So this is a typical graph of server utilization and you can see this the memory part, but this is the server utilization and it’s at zero percent here. And well that’s a bit of a outlier, you’ll often and get in normal server, you’ll often get utilizations in single digits 7, 8% server utilization for traditional servers in data center environments. But with the advent of virtualization and cloud computing you can ramp that up significantly. So that should be quite energy efficient.

Then you have got this kind of outlier thing called chasing the moon, which you may or may not have heard off. It’s one I am kind of found of as an idea, but not many people have deployed it yet. People are kind of talking about it as out there, and what it is, is with cloud computing if you’ve got data centers in say, US, West Coast, another in Northern Europe or Southern Europe, Northern European typically because it’s cooler there and cooler I mean colder not more ‘hip’. And you’ve got another data center say somewhere in Asia or Eastern Russia. Then you’ve got the time zones covered about eight hours apart. So if you have an application in those three centers, you can move the compute to where energy is cheapest at any particular point in time. So if you are doing that typically energy is cheapest when it’s in highest supply, when it’s in highest supply and it’s cheapest, its actually, this is on the wholesale markets, it’s actually greenest as well.

So when electricity is at its cheapest, it’s actually also at its greenest that’s – it’s kind of counter intuitive but I can explain that if any one who is interested later.

So if you move your compute to where the energy and the compute is cheapest at any point in time, it’s typically night time when wind is blowing and at that time you are chasing the moon, you are putting your applications wherever the moon is out, it’s called chasing the moon.

And so it’s something you could only do — something that’s only made possible by the likes of cloud computing. Your information is ubiquitous, it’s wherever you have an internet connection, so your road warriors, your sales people on the road, can access the application while sitting up in the beach.

It also enables a lot more home working, homeshoring, teleworking whatever you want to call it. And people like ATT, IBM, lots of big companies are huge fans of this. IBM reported a couple of years back that 25% of their employees did teleworking and those 25% were saving IBM $700 million a year. That’s significant savings and a lot of that savings comes from a lower real estate footprint and a lower energy footprint because of the lower real estate footprints.

So is it energy efficient or lot of those savings coming from less commuting or from less building stock or are they from offsetting your energy? So if you are working from home you are still burning energy, it’s just not in your company’s building, your company isn’t accounting for it anymore. These are kind of questions we are not sure of, there hasn’t been any definitive studies either way, and it’s difficult anyway because it differs in every company and every geography.

One huge problem I have with cloud computing and people saying that cloud computing is energy efficient is that none of the cloud providers are publishing data around their energy utilization, not one of them. So I often do a kind of a hands up exercise at this point and I don’t know if it’ll work here, because very few people admitted that they were going to be putting stuff in the cloud, but let’s raise hands again. Hands up everyone who has or plan to deploy applications to the cloud? Okay, so keep your hands up, keep your hands up. Now keep your hands up if you know the current energy utilization of the applications you are going to deploy to the cloud or the energy applications you have already deployed to the cloud, if you know how much energy your applications burn, keep your hands up. Okay we got one, anyone else just the one? Good. Okay, keep your hand up, we are not finished. Okay keep your hand up if you know the energy utilization of that application in the cloud. You do, is it a private cloud?

And they are giving you the energy utilization of that?

HP’s shrinking wallflower attitude may not be Sustainable!

HP CEO Léo 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…

Just how green is cloud computing?

Clouds
Photo credit tipiro

Cloud computing may not be as Green as you think.

I mentioned previously that I gave a keynote presentation at the Green IT Summit in Dublin last week.

In the question and answers session after the talk, Sean Baker asked about cloud computing and whether I thought companies using cloud computing weren’t simply outsourcing their emissions.

As Gordon Smith picked up in a piece for SiliconRepublic.com, I replied that I

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.

IBM, for example, are not known for being shy when given an opportunity to talk up their Green initiatives. However, on cloud, they are conspicuously silent. The same is true for Amazon, Microsoft, SalesForce and Google.

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.

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My “Green IT – driving efficiency, sustainability and enabling efficient working practices” presentation

Conference organising company iQuest contacted me last year to ask me to deliver a keynote presentation at their Green IT Summit.

The event took place in Dublin yesterday and my keynote talk entitled “Green IT – driving efficiency, sustainability and enabling efficient working practices” is above.

The organisers prudently decided that they didn’t want to take the risk of any of their international speakers not making it to the event because of the ashcloud. This would have left them with a hole in the schedule at the last minute so they contracted the services of OnlineMeetingRooms and three of the presenters were able to present to the audience in Dublin, over an online video connection, without having to travel!

The title I was asked to present on was quite broad and I had 30 minutes to try cover it all so I had to go at quite a clip but the feedback has been extremely positive so it seemed to work out very well.

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How to Reduce Energy Consumption in Retail: Change The Font On Your Cash Register


Yesterday I got an update from an ERP company called Epicor that primarily serves the mid-market. While I am not an ERP specialist its always interesting, as a middleware guy, to get a view from the app side. Greenmonk for obvious reasons also takes a keener view than the RedMonk mothership in applications in areas such as carbon accounting, energy and utility management.

Epicor seems to be doing quite well in the down economy, but I was most interested when Adam Prince, senior Director of Product Marketing started talking to Epicor’s Green Retail strategy. While any number of IT vendors are now all over the sustainability opportunity in their marketing and product management very few have joined the dots around explicit vertical industry opportunities. That said, here is a white paper from IBM and Intel on sustainable retail ops.

One of our clients, StreamServe, pitches paper reduction to utilities. Given how much paper utilities create this is a compelling vertical-focused story.

But Epicor introduced another interesting idea to me. Reducing carbon footprint by changing the font on Retail point of sale (POS) terminals. Seriously. Less ink and less printing means less power. Some might say the savings would be too small to measure, but actually in cash terms the efficiencies add up pretty fast. Epicor’s advisory and tech works with IBM and NCR POS gear.

Epicor Green Retail is a services-led approach: consultants and business analysts come in to review the business’s energy consumption, review current systems configurations, and make suggestions about mechanisms to reduce the energy footprint of stores.

While changing fonts is only part of the opportunity around POS, the overall numbers appear compelling.

According to Lynne Davidson, vice president, Services and Support for Epicor Retail:

“Based on calculations from the U.S. Department of Energy, retailers can achieve 500-600 kWh or an average of $70 of power savings per register/device per year. If applied to 500 registers, in three years this could translate to roughly $101,000 in savings, a reduction in CO2 emissions by 60 tons and, from an environmental standpoint, is equivalent to planting 125 acres of trees.”

Another thing to think about then – small changes do add up. Some sustainability initiatives may involve whole new supply chains – others are as simple as changing a font. Oh yeah- the retailer will save some money on ink too. ;-)

photo courtesy of NCR.com. I would have used an IBM image, but they. are. so. miserable. Hey IBM Retail marketing people POS doesn’t have to be monochrome!

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