Greenpeace Study Part Two: Amazon Web Services and Twitter for the Data Center Loss

2 Apr 2014 by Technology

"Want to see the top two winners? Click Here. 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: Amazon and Twitter. Which, to us, seems counter-intuitive - as Jack Dorsey likes to have staff meetings outside in view of the San Francisco Bay - a Bay that might one day level the city should green house emissions melt Greenland.

Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter and Square at Tech Crunch Disrupt
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 it 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.

So Just How Dirty is Your Data?

The Bottom Two Losers:

1) Amazon Web Services - Back in 2006 the largest online retailer in the US launched Amazon Web Services (AWS), and since the launch AWS emerged as one of the preeminent providers of cloud-based computing and dominating the land in storage capacity. Customers seem to appreciate its to-the-point pricing structure and low-cost scalable capacity from start-ups to Netflix.
Greenpeace Grades:

Energy Transparency: F Although it may be user-friendly to the customer, it's quite secretive about its operations. AWS does not report publicly on its environmental performance or energy demands for any of its data centers. AWS does not participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Infrastucture Siting: D Due to its strict non-disclosure policy finding out whether AWS employs clean energy or other sustainability criteria to identify and prioritize data center site selection. AWS network hubs in the eastern half of the US are reportedly in Northern Virginia, a region where more than two-thirds of the electrical grid is powered by ""dirty"" electricity (46% coal, 41% nuclear). However, AWS's recent decision to invest in Boardman, OR, should allow it to power more of its cloud from the region's abundant hydroelectric power, despite it close proximity to the state's only remaining coal plant.
Mitigation: D Again, due to AWS' non-transparency policy, it is difficult to tell exactly what, if anything, it plans to do about the lack of environmental goals. It has let some of the company's peers in on what it plans to do in the future, but it is not public about it, nor does it provide evidence of clean energy procurement for its operations that is available on the grid.

Greenpeace's Report Card on the Biggest of the Big Cloud Providers

2) Twitter - So the world's most famous micro-blogging site, the paragon of free-speech and seemingly one of the most progressive companies on the planet failed in all of Greenpeace's major categories. The company may be moving at the speed of your average Tweet that is written and forgotten, its carbon footprint is somewhere between a general unknown and may be one of the biggest on the planet, and here's why.

Greenpeace Grades:

Energy Transparency: F Twitter has largely maintained an ""official radio silence"" on the location and size of its data centers, with the exception of an announcement that it would move its technical operations to Salt Lake City in late 2010. It is still unclear whether Twitter had migrated fully to the Salt Lake City Facility, or had remained in California. Twitter has at least put out some basic information on the volume of data it is generating. Twitter does not participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Infrastructure Siting: F Prior to the planned relocation to Salt Lake City, Utah, in March 2011,the bulk of Twitter's infrastructure was managed under a hosting arrangement with NTT America in a colocation facility in San Jose, CA. Although NTT America had touted Twitter's concern over environmental footprint in promotional materials, Twitter's move from San Jose to Utah, which has an electric utility mix that is 97% fossil fuel-based (81%coal) as compared with 27% renewable (w/<1%Coal and 20%nuclear), is a huge step backwards for Twitter

Mitigation: F A move to Utah's coal intensive electricity grid means that Twitter has its work cut out for it to mitigate the footprint of its new facility. Twitter's estimated total electricity load in Utah could easily be met by clean sources of energy, and should be prioritized for discussion with its new facility operator in Utah. Check Part One for the Top Two. For more information on green data centers and all things data centers visit www.datacenters.comor 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."

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