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June 22, 2009

The rise of green?

I attended the Terena Networking Conference 2009 in Malaga a couple of weeks ago where several of the keynote talks focused on the environment, global warming, the impact that data centres and ICT more generally have on this, and the potential for cloud-based solutions to help.  The talks were all really interesting actually, though I must confess I was slightly confused as to why they appeared so heavily in that particular conference. I particularly liked Bill St. Arnaud's suggestion that facilities powered by sources of renewable energy (wind, wave or solar for example) will be subject to periods of non-availability, meaning that network routing architectures will have to be devised to move compute and storage resources around the network dynamically in response.

We've just announced our new Data Centre facility in Swindon and I initially commented (internally) that I felt the environmental statement to be a little weak. My interest is partly environmental (I want the organisation I work for to be as environmentally neutral as possible) and partly business-related (if the ICT green agenda is on the rise then one can reasonably expect that HEI business decisions around outsourcing will increasingly be made on the back of it). On that basis, I want Eduserv's messaging on environmental issues to be as transparent as possible. (I think this is true for any concerned individual working for any organisation - I'm not picking on my employer here).  It is worth noting that we now have an internal 'green team' with a remit to consider environmental issues across Eduserv as a whole.

Based on a completely trivial and unscientific sample of 4 'data centre'-related organisations in the UK - Edina, Eduserv, Mimas and ULCC - I make the following, largely unhelpful, observations...

  • It's marginally easier to find an accessibility statement than it is to find an environmental statement (not surprising I guess) though ULCC's Green Statement is quite prominent,
  • it's not easy for Joe Average (i.e. me!) to work out what the hell it all means in any practical sense.

On balance, and despite my somewhat negative comment above about its weakness, the fact that we are making any kind of statement about our impact on the environment is a step in the right direction.

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Comments

agree that these things are difficult to compare, even when you can find any statement at all. For data centres, there is one simple measure - the power utilisation effectiveness - which tells some, but not all, of the story. It measures the ratio between the total electrical power consumed in the data centre and the power consumed by the IT equipment. The closer to 1 that figure is, the better you are. But it doesn't measure how effectively that equipment delivers a service.

This guide provides lots of interesting metrics:

http://hightech.lbl.gov/benchmarking-guides/data.html

and although I know we measure some of them at ULCC, there's a lot that (as far as I know) we don't. And for effective comparison, we and others need to expose those figures to our customers.

You may also be aware of ISO 14001, which is more generic (it applies to almost any industrial activity) but does involve a certification process, which is meant to provide the reassurance you seek. We're increasinly being asked about that in public sector procurements, and I'm sure eduserv is as well.

http://www.bsi-global.com/en/Assessment-and-certification-services/management-systems/Standards-and-Schemes/ISO-14001/

Now I need to see if I can encourage someone to correct the typos in our 'green statement' :-) Thanks for pointing it out to me...

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