Greenpeace Study Part One: Akamai and IBM for the Data Center Win

Mike Allen
April 02, 2014

"In today's ""How Dirty is Your Data?"" Report, Greenpeace International had a lot of good to say about the energy choices that power your cloud computing, and they had a lot of bad to say about some major players in the data center industry. Especially with two huge companies who can afford the switch to greener energy, see Part Two.
So Just How Dirty is Your Data?
It is no secret that Greenpeace has not been a fan of what they call ""IT's biggest innovation and disruption"" - The Cloud. Since the inception of IT Greenpeace has taken a largely outspoken stance on IT - ""(it) has disrupted the way we travel, communicate, conduct business, produce, socialize and manage our homes and lives."" However, in recent years, the organization has begun to bend in its perspective on IT - ""this disruptive ability has the potential to reduce our dependence on dirty energy and make society cleaner, more efficient and powered renewably.""

So, in Wednesday's report, Greenpeace applauded some companies' efforts for greening up their power options as well as the company's future plans to mitigate the problems.

The Top Two:

1) Akamai - Akamai is a Global Distribution Network (CDN) for the Internet. Although simmering in the background, the company has remained largely unknown to the general public; Akamai is one of the world's largest players in the online content delivery business. The company delivers a whopping 15% - 30% of internet traffic through a distributed network of over 84,000 servers in 72 countries - they are basically the delivery services for some of the biggest brands - Apple, IBM, Yahoo! and, well, Greenpeace.

Greenpeace Grades:

Energy Transparency: B

Why Akamai gets a B: Akamai reports its cloud-related emissions using a metric that allows some comparability with other cloud content providers - CO2 per megabytes of data delivered. The company is also in the early stages of making available to its customers a monthly carbon footprint report, and voluntarily (possibly with the pressure of Greenpeace) participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Infrastucture Siting: D

Where Amakai did well in transparency they are below average in business model as they rent server space on such a highly distributed basis, provide different opportunities to influence site location and energy - a practice that is not industry standard as most cloud companies focus on the design and building of their own data centers - Amakai seems more interested in renting out its space. The company reports that they are in the early stages of requiring its colocation facilities to provide energy and water performance data.

Mitigation: C

Akamai just got a great big ""average"" when it comes to mitigation. Back in 2009 - the company was able to claim a 32% reduction in CO2 intensity, but future mitigation problems seem to have the company in a holding pattern. In other words, the company doesn't seem to have a plan on how to improve in the future. Where they excelled in the past, there's no real plan for the future.
Greenpeace's Report Card on the Biggest of the Big Cloud Providers

2) IBM - IBM one of the world's oldest and greatest IT companies, that's spending billions to ramp up its cloud presence and the home of the ""Smarter Planet"" faired rather well for a company that seemed to be the dark horse in the data center race. Which the launch of ""Project Big Green"" in 2007 - IBM promised to deliver green data center and cloud services to the world's largest businesses.

Greenpeace Grades:

Energy Transparency: C

Despite participating in the Carbon Disclosure Project, IBM only scored an average grade when it comes to transparency. While IBM provides detailed annual corporate information on its aggregate emissions and improvements toward environmental goals, which include renewable energy, energy efficiency and total energy consumption, it doesn't provide and useful detail to customers or stakeholders on the impact of the consumption.

Infrastructure Siting: C

IBM's goal to increase amounts of renewable electricity should be an important driver of investment as the company seeks to expand its cloud profile. However, little detail on the source of energy is provided, so it is unclear which sources of energy IBM's new infrastructure will draw from. This is particularly true in the case of its new cloud infrastructure in China, the US, Germany and Ireland. IBM must give higher priority to renewable energy access through its siting policy and discriminate against dirty energy sources.

Mitigation: B

IBM scored big in its future plans for greener energy. It's the leader of the study's future mitigation strategy. The company's ongoing and comprehensive plan to reduce emissions, and IT efficiency gave IBM one of the highest grades. Plus its mitigation strategy gains it more recognition for refusing to use ""offsets' to achieve environmental goals, choosing to focus on actions that actually reduce emissions or increase energy efficiency. In order for IBM to get an A: more clarity and transparency (see above) are needed from the company, otherwise the oldest is the best according to Greenpeace in terms of their mitigation strategy.

Check back for the two biggest losers: Hint: One got all ""F's"" and with the speed of their data feed it might not be a wonder.

For more information on green data centers and all things data centers visit www.datacenters.com or call one of our data center specialists at (877) 406-2248.

To read the entire report in a pdf, please click on the following link Greenpeace, Intl."



    Mike Allen

    "In today's ""How Dirty is Your Data?"" Report, Greenpeace International had a lot of good to say about the energy choices that power your cloud computing, and they had a lot of bad to say about some major players in the data center industry. Especially with two huge companies who ...