Chapter 1: Going Green in the Data Center

Cisco Press

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HSBC (named after its founding member, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited) in 2007 established the HSBC Climate Partnership, investing $100 million with four environmental charities—The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropic Research Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund—to counter the impact of climate change upon people, forests, water, and cities.

HSBC in 2008 also set reduction targets for energy (8 percent), water (11 percent), waste (10 percent), and carbon dioxide (6 percent) to be accomplished by senior executives by 2011 and began using software that automatically shut down computers at the end of the work day, powering down up to 300,000 systems.

HSBC scored 70 points on the Ceres report. The company also received the first-ever FT Sustainable Bank of the Year award in 2006. Created by London’s Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation, the FT Sustainable Bank awards recognize banks for incorporating social, environmental, and corporate governance objectives into their operations.

Technology Companies

It’s no surprise that high-tech companies are embracing green. The products they make are often ideal candidates for implementing efficiency improvements. A computer that consumes less energy, for instance, or a networking device that coordinates building environmental systems to work more efficiently, are model green products.

Note - Each of the technology companies cited in the following pages have authored multiple whitepapers about how to use their hardware and software offerings to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly in the Data Center.

Those strategies are not included in the company profiles here, which focus on what the businesses are doing to be greener themselves, but some are covered in Chapter 8, Chapter 9, and Chapter 10, “Greening Other Business Practices.”


Cisco announced in 2008 that it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2012 (compared to 2007), saving a projected 1.2 billion pounds (543,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide. The reductions are to be accomplished through energy-efficient practices in its Data Centers and lab spaces such as server and storage virtualization, by using intelligent network architecture to reduce buildingwide energy usage and optimizing how building floor space is used, and by avoiding business travel through collaboration technologies.

The company has developed and piloted two software programs to improve energy efficiency within its facilities—the Automated Management Power System (AMPS) that powers down lab equipment when not in use and tMon, a web-based monitoring system that alerts when equipment has been left on. Use of the applications conserved 5.86 million kWh of energy in 2008.

Some of the company’s internal green efforts include reducing water consumption (using reclaimed water at its California sites save more than 81 million gallons [306.6 million liters] of water per year), recycling programs, and purchasing green power. The company bought 342 million kWh of green power for its 2008 fiscal year and a projected 484 million kWh for fiscal year 2009, for instance, and at the beginning of 2009 was ranked the seventh largest Fortune 500 purchaser of renewable energy in the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company also actively pursues opportunities to use networking technology to help others be greener. For instance, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006, Cisco allocated $15 million for the Connected Urban Development Program to streamline the flow of people and traffic in urban areas and reduce carbon emissions from cars, trains, buses, and other forms of transportation. The program was initially piloted in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; San Francisco, California; and Seoul, Korea and is now being introduced into several other cities around the world.

Cisco is additionally developing, in partnership with the United States government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an online global monitoring platform, called Planetary Skin, to track and analyze worldwide environmental conditions on a near-real time basis. Drawing upon data gathered by satellites and air-, land- and sea-based sensors, the platform is intended to help governments and businesses mitigate climate change and efficiently manage energy and natural resources. Planetary Skin’s first pilot project, focusing on preventing the deforestation of tropical rainforests in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, began in 2009.

Hewlett-Packard Company

Fortune magazine named Hewlett-Packard Company one of its “10 Green Giants” in 2007, praising the hardware maker for its expansive e-waste recycling activities (HP equipment is fully recyclable and the company also accepts any brand of gear for recycling), ensuring that its major suppliers are environmentally sensitive and environmental accountability by way of its comprehensive Global Citizenship Report.

In addition to these efforts, HP has set several environmental reduction targets. By 2010, the company intends to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and products 25 percent (compared to 2005), reduce water consumption 5 percent (compared to 2007), and recover 2 billion pounds (7.26 million metric tons) of its products.

The company additionally purchased 61.4 million kWh of renewable energy and renewable energy credits in 2007, up from 11 million kWh in 2006.

HP opened a 70,000 square foot (6500 square meter) Data Center in Bangalore, India, in 2007, and anticipates saving 7500 MWh of energy per year, compared to conventional server environments by automatically adjusting the room’s air handlers, fans, and vents based on information from 7500 sensors distributed throughout the room.


IBM in 2007 announced a $1 billion per-year initiative, Project Big Green, to increase Data Center energy efficiency, both as a service offering to customers and for its own more than 8 million square feet (743,224 square meters) of hosting space.

The U.S.-based company has also set goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with energy use 12 percent by 2012 (compared to 2005) through energy conservation, renewable energy, and the purchase of renewable energy certificates. The company purchased 453,000 MWh of renewable energy and renewable energy certificates in 2007—about 9 percent of its global electricity purchases that year. IBM estimates avoiding nearly 6.61 billion pounds (3 million metric tons) of carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 to 2006 through energy conservation efforts.

IBM also promotes programs to reduce employee commuting and estimates that nearly one-third of its 100,000 worldwide employees participates in its work-at-home or mobile employees program. IBM estimates that, in the United States, the work-at-home program saved 8 million gallons (30.3 million liters) of fuel and conserved 135.8 million pounds (61,600 metric tons) of carbon dioxide in 2006.

IBM was the first semiconductor manufacturer to voluntarily set reduction targets for perfluorocompound emissions, which are considered greenhouse gases. (Semiconductor manufacturers use PFCs for etching and cleaning.) In 1998, the company set a goal of a 40 percent emission reduction by 2002 (compared to 1995), which it met. From 2000 to 2005, it cut emissions more than 57 percent, from 1 million pounds (479 metric tons) to 450,000 pounds (204.1 metric tons).

IBM was also the first two-time recipient of the U.S. EPA’s Climate Protection Award—first in 1998 and again in 2006.


If financial institutions are typically conservative and technology companies are often bold, somewhere in the philosophical middle are retail companies.

Retailers are a key link in the chain through which people consume resources. Food, clothing, household goods, automobiles, and more are readily available for hundreds of millions of people to buy because of retail companies. The argument has been made that by providing products conveniently and inexpensively that major retailers foster the more rapid consumption of resources—the opposite of green. (Imagine if instead of buying an item through your local store that you had to make it yourself. You likely wouldn’t consume it so quickly.)

As the middleman between supplier and consumer, though, retailers—especially major ones—are also in a position to influence the behaviors of both consumers and suppliers.

The Home Depot

The Home Depot Foundation in 2007 pledged to provide $400 million in grants in the next 10 years to nonprofit groups to develop 100,000 energy- and water-efficient affordable homes and for planting and preserving 3 million community trees.

The U.S.-based company also budgeted $50 million for internal energy-efficiency projects. With store lighting as its biggest source of energy consumption, the company in 2006 upgraded to more efficient lighting in approximately 600 stores and introduced strict lighting schedules. It also upgraded to more efficient air-conditioning systems in 200 stores. Other improvements have included the use of reflective roof membranes and shorter rooflines, and using low-watt bulbs in all lighting displays.

The Home Depot’s largest green impact, though, has come through its influence on suppliers and customers. The company completes an estimated 1.3 billion customer transactions per year. Its Eco Options program highlights products that have less environmental impact than traditional ones, giving customers the ability to be greener in those transactions if they choose to. Eco Options products offer benefits in one or more of five categories:

  • Sustainable forestry

  • Energy efficiency

  • Clean water

  • Clean air

  • Healthy home

Approximately 3100 products received the Eco Options designation when the program began in 2007, and the quantity doubled by 2009.


Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott made news in 2005 when he announced during a speech to employees, Twenty-First Century Leadership, that the company’s environmental goals were to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain natural resources and the environment.

Although no deadline was given to achieve those goals, the company specifically pledged to spend $500 million per year to double fuel efficiency in Wal-Mart’s truck fleet by 2015, reduce greenhouse gases 20 percent by 2012, reduce energy use in Wal-Mart stores 30 percent, and reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25 percent by 2008.

In 2008 the Wal-Mart met its 2007 Clinton Global Initiative pledge to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent in all its U.S. stores and Sam’s Club. The change is projected to save more than 400 million gallons (1.51 billion liters) of water, more than 95 million pounds (43,091 metric tons) of plastic resin, and more than 125 million pounds (56,699 metric tons) of cardboard.

Wal-Mart in 2007 announced the start of a program in the United States that would show preference to suppliers who set goals and aggressively reduced their own greenhouse gas emissions. That same year, the company announced the purchase of solar energy to power 22 facilities, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 14.3 million to 22 million pounds (6500 to 10,000 metric tons) per year.

The company in 2006 installed supplemental diesel engines on all its trucks that make overnight trips. Turning off primary truck engines during breaks and using the auxiliary units to warm or cool the cabin and run the communication system is estimated to conserve 10 million gallons of diesel fuel and save 220.5 million pounds (100,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide.

Wal-Mart announced the goal to reduce packing materials 5 percent by 2013 and becoming “packaging neutral” by 2025. Just the 5 percent reduction is estimated to reduce millions of pounds of trash from reaching landfills and save 1.47 billion pounds (667,000 metric tons) of carbon dioxide.


A green Data Center is one that, compared to conventional server environments, uses resources more efficiently and has less impact upon people and the environment.

Several conditions today are driving companies to design and operate greener Data Centers:

  • Although power consumption within conventional Data Centers is growing dramatically, there is a finite quantity of properties that can be provided with ample megawatts and are also otherwise suitable to house a server environment.

  • Green Data Centers are less expensive to operate than others; any extra costs to implement green technologies or materials pay for themselves many times over during the life of the facility.

  • The greater efficiencies of a green Data Center extends its power and cooling resources.

  • A green Data Center can better meet the targets for reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions that are now appearing more and more frequently on the agendas of governments around the world.

  • New Data Center technology advances naturally provide opportunities to be greener.

  • Consumers generally prefer to do business with companies that have green practices, and the Data Center is a prominent forum in which to do so.

Although you can do more to green a Data Center that you own than one you lease, you can still reduce energy consumption at a colocation facility—lowering your bills and increasing your relative capacity—through your hardware choices and operational activities. You can also investigate how efficient and environmentally sensitive various hosting facilities are when you consider which of them to do business with.

Despite the benefits of green Data Centers, some people are hesitant to pursue green technologies because they are reluctant to adopt practices and technologies that they are unfamiliar with; they assume green solutions are too expensive; their company doesn’t provide rewards for making a project or facility greener; and they are skeptical that green technologies can provide the benefits they claim.

Several public agencies offer financial incentives for constructing or retrofitting commercial buildings with green features. Many utility companies, in addition to being excellent sources of information for energy-saving strategies, offer rebates for capital projects or hardware purchases that improve energy consumption rates. Many governments meanwhile offer tax breaks for using renewable energy or constructing or upgrading buildings to be energy-efficient.

The business value of building greener facilities and adopting greener operational practices can be seen in the growing number of major corporations that are doing so. Industry leaders across multiple business sectors have adopted green measures including purchasing renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using automation systems to turn off power-consuming items such as lights and personal computers during nonbusiness hours, making charitable donations to environmental causes, and more.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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