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Cloud computing offers significant opportunities to reduce the impact of computing on the environment through Green Hosting. Services such as Infrastucture-as-a-Service, virtualisation and Software-as-a-Service all have the potential to use computing resources more efficiently and thereby reduce the per unit emissions of computing undertaken using the cloud. By raising utilisation rates of computing hardware an intelligently distributing computing to where spare resources exist, cloud computing can effectively support produce computing from the same physical hardware than traditional methods thereby offering a number of green computing advantages.
Beyond the inherent environmental advantages of using computing hardware more efficiently, what other actions can make computing less environmentally damaging?
CloudSigma’s strategy is to ‘Eliminate, Mitigate and Offset’. Computing remains fundamentally an environmentally unfriendly activity however it is one of the lowest environmental impact sources of new jobs and sustained economic growth. Technology driven growth has a vital role to play in the world economy and in the process of de-coupling world economic growth from ever increasing carbon dioxide emissions. This page does not seek to employ a ‘green wash’ approach to cloud computing, merely to outline the significant steps that have been taken towards making the impact of the CloudSigma’s cloud that much less and therefore providing an eco friendly hosting offering.
We have outlined below the various green IT measures we have employed that form our strategy of ‘Eliminate, Mitigate and Offset’ for eco web hosting and cloud computing:
By far the biggest impact of computing on the environment is through the emissions generated from the electricity needed to run physical computing hardware. Until electricity generation is largely sourced from renewable and low carbon methods this problem will remain the case.
CloudSigma action: We choose a location where electricity is generated in clean environmentally friendly ways. The Swiss electricity grid which feeds our data centre in Glattbrugg near Zurich, Switzerland is one of the cleanest in the world. Over 95% of electricity is generated from nuclear and renewable energy sources. This means electricity consumed in Switzerland results in emissions which are a small fraction of the level for equivalent consumption in other major economies such as the United Kingdom or United States which remain heavily reliant on fossil fuel generated electricity.
By combining computing hardware into one location data centres are significantly more efficient for their level of service than computing hardware in most non-specialised locations. They do however represent a source of very large electricity consumption due to the need for extensive cooling and other systems. New technologies and modern data centre equipment can increase substantially the efficiency of data centres.
CloudSigma action: We have chosen the Interxion carrier neutral data centre in Glattbrugg because it is a green data centre employing modern equipment and new technologies that aim to reduce the carbon emissions footprint of the centre. The energy efficiency of the new floor in the Interxion data centre where we are located is significantly below the European average qualifying it as the leading green data center in Europe.
The efficiency of servers continues to get better thus reducing the per unit of output impact on the environment. It remains the case that there still exists large differences in efficiency performance between many modern servers. By employing servers that use energy efficient components and by employing an architecture that reduces electricity consumption, the electricity needs of a cloud can be reduced.
CloudSigma action: We work with our hardware consultants to choose modern servers which use electricity more efficiently. Many of our servers are custom built to serve the needs of our cloud and when doing so we choose components that will reduce electricity consumption such as green data storage drives. In addition we employ large server node sizes which reduce the intensity of power units and other high electricity consuming components in our cloud. Our servers consume up to 40% less than the average on a per unit of computing output basis. Such an approach not only makes environmental sense but good business sense also.
Offsetting carbon dioxide emissions will not solve the problem of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions on its own. We do however believe it has a role to play when employed jointly with the aims of eliminating and mitigating emissions as outlined above. In comparison to not offsetting emissions that remain it clearly represents a better approach environmentally.
CloudSigma action: We offset fully all carbon dioxide emissions that remain as a result of the electricity and the general operation of our company. By doing so we are reducing the net impact of our cloud computing and eco hosting (and that of all customers that use our cloud) on greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere to zero in the medium term. Whilst not a long-term solution to reducing and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, carbon offsetting schemes channel funds into new renewable energy sectors and to increasing energy efficiency levels which is why CloudSigma views such schemes as important.
The end result of the above measures is that we reduce our overall emissions in comparison with some other Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers by up to 70%. Our remaining carbon footprint is fully offset via accredited carbon offset schemes.