Tag: greenqloud

IBM’s InterConnect 2015, the good and the not so good

IBM InterConnect 2015

IBM invited me to attend their Cloud and Mobile Conference InterConnect 2015 last week.

Because of what IBM has done globally to help people get access to safe water, to help with solar forecasting, and to help deliver better outcomes in healthcare, for example, I tend to have a very positive attitude towards IBM.

So I ventured to the conference with high hopes of what I was going to learn there. and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. IBM had some very interesting announcements, more on which later.

However, there is one area where IBM has dropped the ball badly – their Cloud Services Division, Softlayer.

IBM have traditionally been a model corporate citizen when it comes to reporting and transparency. They publish annual Corporate Responsibility reports with environmental, energy and emissions data going all the way back to 2002.

However, as noted here previously, when it comes to cloud computing, IBM appear to be pursuing the Amazon model of radical opaqueness. They refuse to publish any data about the energy or emissions associated with their cloud computing platform. This is a retrograde step, and one they may come to regret.

Instead of blindly copying Amazon’s strategy of non-reporting, shouldn’t IBM be embracing the approach of their new best buddies Apple? Apple, fed up of being Greenpeace’d, and seemingly genuinely wanting to leave the world a better place, hired the former head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson to head up its environmental initiatives, and hasn’t looked back.

Apple’s reporting on its cloud infrastructure energy and emissions, on its supply chain [PDF], and on its products complete life cycle analysis, is second to none.

This was made more stark for me because while at InterConnect, I read IBM’s latest cloud announcement about their spending $1.2bn to develop 5 new SoftLayer data centres in the last four months. While I was reading that, I saw Apple’s announcement that they were spending €1.7bn to develop two fully renewably powered data centres in Europe, and I realised there was no mention whatsoever of renewables anywhere in the IBM announcement.

GreenQloud Dashboard

Even better than Apple though, are the Icelandic cloud computing company GreenQloud. GreenQloud host most of their infrastructure out of Iceland, (Iceland’s electricity is generated 100% by renewable sources – 70% hydro and 30% geothermal), and the remainder out of the Digital Fortress data center in Seattle, which runs on 95% renewable energy. Better again though, GreenQloud gives each customer a dashboard with the total energy that customer has consumed and the amount of CO2 they have saved.

This is the kind of cloud leadership you expect from a company with a long tradition of openness, and the big data and analytics chops that IBM has. Now this would be A New Way to Think for IBM.

But, it’s not all bad news, as I mentioned at the outset.

IBM Predictive Maintenance

As you’d expect, there was a lot of talk at InterConnect about the Internet of Things (IoT). Chris O’Connor, IBM’s general manager of IoT, in IBM’s new IoT division, was keen to emphasise that despite the wild hype surrounding IoT at the moment, there’s a lot of business value to be had there too. There was a lot of talk about IBM’s Predictive Maintenance and Quality solutions, for example, which are a natural outcome of IBM’s IoT initiatives. IBM has been doing IoT for years, it just hasn’t always called it that.

And when you combine IBM’s deep expertise in Energy and Utilities, with its knowledge of IoT, you have an opportunity to create truly Smart Grids, not to mention the opportunities around connected cities.

In fact, IoT plays right into the instrumented, interconnected and intelligent Smarter Planet mantra that IBM has been talking for some time now, so I’m excited to see where IBM go with this.

Fun times ahead.

(Disclosure – IBM paid my travel and accommodation for me to attend InterConnect.)

Cloud computing companies ranked by their use of renewable energy

Cloud provider Renewables percentage

Cloud computing is booming. Cloud providers are investing billions in infrastructure to build out their data centers, but just how clean is cloud?

Given that this is the week that the IPCC’s 5th assessment report was released, I decided to do some research of my own into cloud providers. The table above is a list of the cloud computing providers I looked into, and what I found.

It is a real mixed bag but from the table you can see that Icelandic cloud provider Greenqloud comes out on top because they are using the electricity from the 100% renewable Icelandic electricity grid to power their infrastructure.

On the Windows Azure front, Microsoft announced in May of 2012 that it was going to go carbon neutral for its facilities and travel. Microsoft are now, according to the EPA, the second largest purchaser of renewable energy in the US. In 2013 they purchased 2,300m kWh which accounted for 80% of their electricity consumption. They made up the other 20% with Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). And according to Microsoft’s TJ DiCaprio, they plan to increase their renewable energy purchases from 80% to 100% in the financial year 2014.

Google claim to have been carbon neutral since 2007. Of Google’s electricity, 32% came from renewables, while the other 68% came from the purchase of RECs.

SAP purchased 391m kWh of renewable energy in 2013. This made up 43% of its total electricity consumption. SAP have since announced that they will go to powering 100% of its facilities from renewable energy in 2014.

The most recent data from IBM dates from 2012 when they purchased 764m kWh of renewable energy. This accounted for just 15% of their total consumption. In the meantime IBM have purchased cloud company Softlayer for whom no data is available, so it is unclear in what way this will have affected IBM’s position in these rankings.

The most up-to-date data on Oracle’s website is from 2011, but more recent data about their renewable energy is to be found in their 2012 disclosure to the Carbon Disclosure Project (registration required). This shows that Oracle purchased 5.4m kWh of renewable energy making up a mere 0.7% of their total consumption of 746.9m kWh in 2012.

Rackspace have no data available on their site, but in email communications with me yesterday they claim that 35% of their electricity globally is from renewable sources. They declined to say exactly how much that was (in kWh).

Amazon discloses no information whatsoever about its infrastructure apart from a claim that its Oregon and GovCloud regions are using 100% carbon free power. However, they don’t back up this claim with any evidence, they don’t disclose to the Carbon Disclosure Project, nor do they produce an annual Corporate Responsibility report.

The other three cloud providers in the list, Softlayer, GoGrid, and Bluelock have no information on their websites (that I could find), and they didn’t respond to written inquiries.

I’ll be writing a follow-up post to this in the next few days where I look into the supply chain risks of utilising cloud platforms where there is no transparency around power sourcing.

(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)

(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)

Facebook and ebay’s data centers are now vastly more transparent

ebay's digital service efficiency

Facebook announced at the end of last week new way to report PUE and WUE for its datacenters.

This comes hot on the heels of ebay’s announcement of its Digital Service Efficiency dashboard – a single-screen reporting the cost, performance and environmental impact of customer buy and sell transactions on ebay.

These dashboards are a big step forward in terms of making data centers more transparent about the resources they are consuming. And about the efficiency, or otherwise, of the data centers.

Even better, both organisations are going about making their dashboards a standard, thus making their data centers cross comparable with other organisations using the same dashboard.

Facebook Prineville Data Center dashboard

There are a number of important differences between the two dashboards, however.

To start with, Facebook’s data is in near-realtime (updated every minute, with a 2.5 hour delay in the data), whereas ebay’s data is updated every quarter of a year. So, ebay’s data is nowhere near realtime.

Facebook also includes environmental data (external temperature and humidity), as well as options to review the PUE, WUE, humidity and temperature data for the last 7 days, the last 30 days, the last 90 days and the last year.

On the other hand, ebay’s dashboard is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more business focussed giving metrics like revenue per user ($54), the number of transactions per kWh (45,914), the number of active users (112.3 million), etc. Facebook makes no mention anywhere of its revenue data, user data nor its transactions per kWh.

ebay pulls ahead on the environmental front because it reports its Carbon Usage Effeftiveness (CUE) in its dashboard, whereas Facebook completely ignores this vital metric. As we’ve said here before, CUE is a far better metric for measuring how green your data center is.

Facebook does get some points for reporting its carbon footprint elsewhere, but not for these data centers. This was obviously decided at some point in the design of its dashboards, and one has to wonder why.

The last big difference between the two is in how they are trying to get their dashboards more widely used. Facebook say they will submit the code for theirs to the Opencompute repository on Github. ebay, on the other hand, launched theirs at the Green Grid Forum 2013 in Santa Clara. They also published a PDF solution paper, which is a handy backgrounder, but nothing like the equivalent of dropping your code into Github.

The two companies could learn a lot from each other on how to improve their current dashboard implementations, but more importantly, so could the rest of the industry.

What are IBM, SAP, Amazon, and the other cloud providers doing to provide these kinds of dashboards for their users? GreenQloud has had this for their users for ages, now Facebook and ebay have zoomed past them too. When Facebook contributes oits codebase to Github, then the cloud companies will have one less excuse.

Image credit nicadlr

(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)

Cloud computing’s lack of transparency – an update

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe
We have been talking  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


(Cross-posted @ GreenMonk: the blog)