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Green IT

Green to the Core

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry likes to market itself as Green but the inconvenient truth is the industry is on the path to become the largest consumer of electricity and therefore one of the largest contributors of CO2.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As a service provider in the ICT industry RackForce believes it is important to contribute its knowledge and experiences towards creating truly Green IT. We are by no means perfect, but we have created a plan called Green to the Core to force us to face the facts and guide us in making the best possible choices in our efforts to minimize CO2 output. We are not claiming absolute accuracy in what is said here but we believe it to be relatively accurate.

The reason the industry has this significant problem can be attributed to three major problems. They are:

  1. Emissions from the electrical power source; and
  2. Power Usage Effectiveness
  3. IT Efficiency

These are explained below.

Emissions from Electrical Power Source

We collected this Emissions data from the Internet. Your research may vary somewhat but a percentage variation here or there is not what is relevant. What is relevant is there is a drastic difference in CO2 output by power source.

CO<sub>2</sub> Emissions by Power Source

Understanding this, and realizing that most states and provinces in North America have a variety of power sources, we took available US and Canadian government data on CO2 output per Kilowatt Hour and created the following graph by state and province.

CO<sub>2</sub> Emissions by State / Province

Now a clear picture emerges and we begin to understand why the power source and therefore the location of the datacenter matters so much. Two identical datacenters using exactly the same amount of electricity and connected to the grid can have up to a 50x difference in their CO2 output.

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

The next part of the formula is PUE. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a measure of how efficiently a computer data center uses its power; specifically, how much of the power is actually used by the computing equipment (in contrast to cooling and other overhead).

PUE is the ratio of total amount of power used by a computer data center facility to the power delivered to computing equipment. PUE was developed by a consortium called The Green Grid. PUE is the inverse of Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE). An ideal PUE is 1.0. Anything that isn't considered a computing device in a data center (i.e. Lighting, Cooling, etc.) falls into the category of facility power usage.

PUE = Total facility power
IT equipment power

In our experience a very efficient data center is engineered for a PUE of 1.5, or less, but a standard datacenter will have a PUE of 3.0 or more. This means the standard datacenter is would use 2x more power if they were both running the exact same IT Equipment. Standard datacenters make up over 90% of the datacenters in operation today.

Calculation of Emissions and PUE Impact

So now for a little fun (or horror depending on how your look at it) we calculate our worst case scenario and see that a datacenter with the highest power carbon source (50X worse) and a poor PUE (2X worse) we now have 100X more CO2 going into the atmosphere to deliver exactly the same amount of IT workload. What is probably even more disturbing is over 80% of the locations we currently put datacenters produce 10X or more CO2 then the greenest locations.

IT Efficiency

IT efficiency has come a long ways. The performance per watt on a server continues to climb and now with virtualization and cloud computing we're also seeing more significant multipliers come into the picture. The calculations on this front can get complicated so we are instead going to use our experience to provide this calculation. Our back of the napkin calculations show that we now run the equivalent virtualized workload of 500 physical servers (2005-2008) in 16 racks in our cloud environment with two racks and 1/6th the power. Granted this can only be done in a well-designed datacenter and the equipment cost is very high but it produces a 6x improvement.

Calculation of Emissions, PUE and IT Efficiency Impact

Now using our worst case to best case scenario the carbon produced by a standard datacenter (PUE 3.0) with a high carbon power source and regular servers from 2005 to 2008 is producing 600x more carbon. And more than 80% of the datacenters out there are producing 60x more carbon or more.

The Aggregation Effect of the Service Provider Cloud on CO2

Economies of scale are very important when it comes to Green IT. Service Providers with thousands of customers and properly designed datacenters and clouds (known as public cloud or virtual private cloud) can provide the most efficient delivery of IT workloads. The provider ensures Service Level Agreements and Security are met while distributing the workloads amongst an enormous selection of computing resources to maximize efficiency. Based on our experience we believe cloud service providers could easily support 10X more workloads on the same amount of IT equipment when compared to an independent corporate cloud.

Calculation of Emissions, PUE, IT Efficiency and Service Provider Cloud Impact

If everything is done right a cloud provider with the lowest possible carbon power source and PUE and efficient cloud design could reduce the CO2 of our worst case scenario to 1/6000th. But again what is most important is 80% of the datacenters that are out there could reduce their CO2 output to 1/600th or better by moving to a Green Cloud Service Provider.

Taking Action

There used to be a number of objections to Green IT. Network latency, access to servers, lack of IT workload portability, security etc. etc. All these objections have been knocked down and mostly what stands in our way is a lack of understanding on the benefits of taking action and/or fear of change. We knew we had to create motivation for change so the Green to the Core Program has three parts:

  1. Green It Education - Ongoing education on the impact of Real Green IT
  2. ICT GHG Calculator - A CSA certified tool to calculate IT emissions and emission reduction
  3. ICT GHG Project Documentation - A CSA certified reporting tool that delivers a project report based on the data inputted data and pre-defined templates.

The Calculator and Documentation Tool (Available Fall of 2011) are two breakthrough technologies that finally allow us to accurately measure ICT carbon. The calculator is using a newly designed protocol based on ISO14064 which is even cable of measuring the impact cloud computing has on emission reduction which we find very exciting.

These tools were created from an 18 month project by Greenstar Network (GSN) (www.greenstarnetwork.com), a project in which RackForce played a key role, which completes at the end of 2011. The project was funded by CANARIE (Canada's Advanced Research and Innovation Network) the goal of the GSN project was to create technology and standards for reducing the carbon footprint of ICT.

As you can see you will soon have the ability to accurately and scientifically calculate and document your ICT Carbon reduction when an IT workload is moved. This report can be used to verify emissions by a third party in order to create Verified Emission Reductions, or to generate estimates of emission reductions and generate a report useable for Corporate Sustainable Reporting.

In the meantime you already have key information from which to make your Green IT Choices so action can be taken now. We would be happy to speak with you further on this so please feel free to contact us at greenit@rackforce.com or call 1-866-468-1158.