Google announced that it will no longer being investing in further development of Wave, the much heralded collaborative working application which was eventually going to replace email. Whilst some commentators have been quick to point out that this does not mean that Google Wave is dead (the code is available as opensource), it certainly appears to have crashed against the rocks.
The company has also recently been in the news for another ‘natural element’ themed story. Google Energy recently announced an agreement to purchase 114 megawatts of wind power capacity per year for 20 years at a set price from an Iowa wind farm owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources. Google spokesperson, Jamie Yood, stated: “This is the first contract for Google Energy. We plan on exploring other opportunities to provide our data centers with environmentally friendly power in 2010. It isn’t limited to wind power.”
Which links nicely to the other major wave story of the week, and one which centres on a 12 tonne mollusc shaped ‘socket’ that has been laid on the seabed off the north coast of Cornwall. The Wave Hub is a marine testing facility that is designed to connect wave power with the national grid. The Hub will consist of a cable distribution unit connected to arrays of wave energy devices floating on or just below the surface.
This project is seen as a vital element in the UK’s renewable energy programme. The UK has some of the largest wave and tidal energy resources in Europe. Allowing for technical, practical and environmental limitations, wave energy alone could potentially generate up to 15% of the UK’s electricity consumption. By 2020 the wave energy market in the UK could be worth £0.2 billion.
The UK Government is committed to increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy sources to 10% by 2010 and 15% by 2015, with an aspiration to reach 20% by 2020. The hope is that renewables will help to address increasingly important energy and environmental issues surrounding the continued use of traditional and fossil fuels.
For the Hosting and Data Centre industries, the availability of readily available renewable energy is going to be vital to its long term viability.
The UK Government Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, caused widespread consternation this week, when in his first annual energy statement he indicated that UK energy bills by 2020 are expected to increase by one percent domestically, but might rise by as much as 43 percent for businesses, as national policies are implemented aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
The IT industry is responsible for around 2% of the world’s carbon emissions and data centers are the fastest growing part of that footprint. It’s estimated that the average data centre uses as much electricity as 4,000 homes annually, so the Industry could be set for some hefty increases in its fuel bills – increases which will inevitably be passed on to customers.
And it’s this cost that is now, rather unsurprisingly, focusing the minds of tech companies everywhere on how it can be contained and reduced. Renewables will play a major part in reducing environmental impact but operational efficiency will be vital in reducing actual energy consumption.
Pike Research in its recently issued report “Green Data Centers” claims that energy efficiency now has a “major emphasis” at IT firms, and that investment in data centres will increase from $7.5bn (£4.7bn) this year to $41.4bn (£26bn) in five years’ time. The report also suggests that green server farms will account for 28% of the entire market.
Pike Research analyst Eric Woods stated: “But as datacentre energy costs become more visible, the financial benefits of moving to a greener mode of operation are being recognised.”
And it’s not hard to see why the future is suddenly changing its hue from orange to green. Usage stats pulled from one of my company’s data centres, combined with an average server utilisation of less than 10%, suggest that the average server is costs anywhere between £8 and £12 per month in energy costs for simply being plugged in, powered and cooled. If your IT estate runs to a couple of hundred servers, you could potentially be losing £26K per annum on wasted power costs. Become more operationally efficient and reduce your servers by 50% and you add £13K straight to the bottom line.
One long standing criticism of the industry has been that it has only really focused on the low hanging fruits, that it has paid no more than lip service to changing its operational methods, but perhaps we will now see a ‘sea change’ in the way we tackle the issues. Advances in technology such as unified communications, virtualisation and cloud computing coupled with the availability of renewable energy sources present the industry with many of the ingredients required to genuinely reduce costs.
If organisations won’t adopt a more environmentally-friendly attitude themselves, seeing the ‘all things green’ as the preserve of the eco warrior and the tree hugger, then perhaps the threat of a near 50% increase in power costs will grab their attention.