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.
If you checked out the New York Times Snow Fall site (the story of the Avalanche at Tunnel Creek), then Microsoft’s new 88 Acres site will look familiar. If you haven’t seen the Snow Fall site then go check it out, it is a beautiful and sensitive telling of a tragic story. You won’t regret the few minutes you spend viewing it.
Microsoft’s 88 Acres is an obvious homage to that site, except that it tells a good news story, thankfully, and tells it well. It is the story of how Microsoft is turning its 125-building Redmond HQ into a smart corporate campus.
Microsoft’s campus had been built over several decades with little thought given to integrating the building management systems there. When Darrell Smith, Microsoft’s director of facilities and energy joined the company in 2008, he priced a ‘rip and replace’ option to get the disparate systems talking to each other but when it came in at in excess of $60m, he decided they needed to brew their own. And that’s just what they did.
Using Microsoft’s own software they built a system capable of taking in the data from the over 30,000 sensors throughout the campus and detecting and reporting on anomalies. They first piloted the solution on 13 buildings on the campus and as they explain on the 88 Acres site:
In one building garage, exhaust fans had been mistakenly left on for a year (to the tune of $66,000 of wasted energy). Within moments of coming online, the smart buildings solution sniffed out this fault and the problem was corrected.
In another building, the software informed engineers about a pressurization issue in a chilled water system. The problem took less than five minutes to fix, resulting in $12,000 of savings each year.
Those fixes were just the beginning.
The system balances factors like the cost of a fix, the money that will be saved by the fix, and the disruption a fix will have on employees. It then prioritises the issues it finds based on these factors.
Microsoft facilities engineer Jonathan Grove sums up how the new system changes his job “I used to spend 70 percent of my time gathering and compiling data and only about 30 percent of my time doing engineering,” Grove says. “Our smart buildings work serves up data for me in easily consumable formats, so now I get to spend 95 percent of my time doing engineering, which is great.”
The facilities team are now dealing with enormous quantities of data. According to Microsoft, the 125 buildings contain 2,000,000 data points outputting around 500,000,000 data transactions every 24 hours. The charts, graphics and reports it produces leads to about 32,300 work orders being issued per quarter. And 48% of the faults found are corrected within 60 seconds. Microsoft forecasts energy savings of 6-10% per year, with an implementation payback of 18 months.
Because Microsoft’s smart building tool was built using off the shelf Microsoft technologies, it is now being productised and will be offered for sale. It joins a slew of other smarterbuildingsoftware solutions currently on the market but given this one is built with basic Microsoft technologies, it will be interesting to see where it comes in terms of pricing.
One thing is for sure, given that buildings consume around 40% of our energy, any new entrant into the smarter buildings arena is to be welcomed.
I had one of the most interesting calls of my RedMonk career last week. It was with Steve Lewis, CEO and co-founder of Living PlanIT (ignore the fact that they are using SilverLight on their homepage – that is prob because of Steve’s Microsoft background).
Living PlanIT are just coming out of stealth and have developed significant IP around sustainable urbanisation. To whit, as Steve explained to me on the call, up until now the construction industry was one of the final hold-outs in the technology revolution. There was very little by way of joined-up processes and consequently massive amounts of waste. Living PlanIT have created a new way of approaching construction projects which is technology led and will vastly reduce construction costs and footprints.
Living PlanIT haven’t just stopped there.
They have signed a letter of Intent with Cisco to work together to build a city in Paredes in northern Portugal on a 17 sq km site which house 225,000 people and will showcase, not just the company’s construction nous but also the city will be a sustainability showcase.
Cisco, as part of the agreement have committed to developing a global innovation center for sensor networks within the new city. They will also integrate tens of millions of sensors with Cisco’s network and computing platforms and integrate to demonstrate Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities technologies and solutions at urban scale. This will be the ultimate test lab to develop technologies which can be quickly and easily deployed in other urban sustainability projects.
The city itself will run off renewable power and will generate 150% of its electricity needs…
Australia is no stranger to tight water supplies, and fortunately that means smart water conservation strategies are being devised all the time. Australia is leading the way in everything from strategies to combat desertification to using renewable energy for desalination plants, and now it is putting that knowledge to work on six new infrastructure projects that can save 1.3 billion gallons of water.
There’s some interesting new data out on recent shifts in electricity demand and consumption, courtesy of the DOE/EIA.
In 2008, total U.S. power generation was 4.1 million GWh. In 2009, that fell by 4 percent, to 3.9 million. That’s a 4 percent reduction — clearly the result of the economic slowdown. Nothing surprising there.
What’s interesting, though, is how generation shifted by fuel type. Over the same year, coal-fired power generation fell by 11 percent, from almost 2 million GWh to just under 1.8 million.
Just how important is turning off computers at the end of the day in an office building? Very, if a company wants to save big bucks on electricity bills. According to UC San Diego researchers, 50-80% of a modern building’s electricity use goes to IT equipment, particularly desktop computers. A report last year showed that not shutting down PCs equated to $2.8 billion in wasted electricity. Still, many offices don’t encourage their employees to hit shut-down on their PCs for a variety of reasons, including updating software while everyone is out or being able to keep the computer attached to the network so information on the machine can be accessed at any time. However, Microsoft’s new Sleep Proxy system claims it can help cut energy consumption by 60-80%, without getting in the way of office systems.
At a presentation at the Oxford Energy Futures conference on June 11th, Andy Duff, non-executive chair of RWE npower, made some controversial assertions about the future of electricity in the UK. He focused on three propositions.
a) The UK cannot meet its carbon targets without new nuclear
b) Electricity demand will grow at 1% less than GDP growth
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.
Apple’s application talks of using powerline communications to control appliances’ energy consumption around the house.
Unlike Google and Microsoft though, Apple have an amazing track record of making sexy devices/applications. If there is anyone who can make home energy management sexy, it would be Apple software running on the iPad.
Let’s hope they make it so – what are the chances?
Now, we have all heard about the compelling case for Smart Meters for electrical consumption (I have written and spoken about it extensively) but in this study Oracle asked utilities and their customers about the benefits of rolling out Smart Meters for managing water consumption.
Part of the reason for undertaking this study was that water shortages are already being seen in the South East United States, Western Canada, and Southern California.
At least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.
Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day at home.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures such as leaky toilets and faucets. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks—it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
The average [US] household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill and can save about $170 per year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
Some of the results of the Oracle water study show that:
68% of water utility managers believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies
76% of consumers are concerned about the need to conserve water in their community
69% of consumers believe they could reduce their personal water use
71% of consumers believe receiving more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use
83% of water utilities who have completed a cost- benefit analysis support the adoption of smart meter technology
So, the public is concerned about water conservation and believes that more information would help them reduce their consumption of water. The majority of utility managers also believe smart meter technologies are critical, so things are looking rosy so far.
The data output from smart electricity meters is extremely granular and yields very specific energy footprints. With this data it is trivial to identify the devices using the energy down to make and model of the machine. However, this is not the case for smart water meters. Their output is far less granular – it will be quite difficult to map water consumption data from smart meters to individual devices within the house (unless there are flow meters attached to all the devices using water, for example).
What if though, you could tie-in the output of your electrical smart meter and your water smart meters? Analysing the data from the two meters it should be possible to identify at least some of the devices using water (fridge, dish washer, electric shower, etc.). Having this information tied-in to make and model of device would be extremely useful to help identify more water efficient appliances.
Because, for the most part, your water and electricity utilities are separate companies (or different business units within a utility), this is not a solution they are likely to pursue. However, there has been a surge in the number of 3rd party companies working on Home Management Software applications/devices.
With consumer’s actively interested in receiving more information about their energy and water usage and with the value that this data has, it is a no-brainer that Home Management Software will manage water consumption as well as energy in time.
How long before it is mandatory that all devices which consume water have networked flow meters and all homes have smart water meters?
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