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How Green is the Internet

green-recycling-conceptAlmost everyone wants to be “green” these days. But when it comes to the Internet, opinions vary on what it means to be green. What makes the Internet work is hardware – like servers, network switches and routers. And it also means data and the data centres where it is all stored. So being green would mean the hardware would consume less power, and be made of parts or components manufactured using the least amount of power or non-renewable resources. It could also mean taking into consideration the hazardous waste created during manufacturing that impacts the environment.

Since everyone is moving to the cloud, these hubs on the Internet need to be green as well. The cloud consists of distributed data centres and socially conscious users try to find ones that are considered green.

So which data centres are considered the most green?

One of them has to be the Verne Global’s Modular Colo located in Keflavík, Iceland. Their 6,000 square foot facility leverages the natural environment for 100% of both power and cooling. The naturally cool air provides virtually free cooling to the facility. Geothermal and hydroelectric power are abundant in Iceland, allowing Verne to offer low fixed price power contracts for up to 20 years.

Low cost, higher risk?

However, geothermal power is abundant because Iceland is one of the most geologically active countries on the planet. Shortly after they began construction, Eyjafjallajokull erupted and brought international travel to a standstill in northern and western Europe.

There are also fairly frequent earthquakes in Iceland, though most of them are small. Both earthquakes and volcanoes stem from the natural energy sources used to power the data centres.  So while the Verne facilities are arguably the most green, they come with risk. Initially many scoffed at the company for that very reason.

In an interview with Data Centre Knowledge, a Verne’s CTO confirmed they had designed the facility to withstand interruption from volcanic ash. According to Verne’s website, “All of the buildings at Verne Global have foundations that go down to that bedrock, making us essentially impervious to geologic events.”

Many companies believe their promise and have opted for using the Verne data centres with their low power cost contracts. The lure of being green, for less money, is very attractive.

Building a Green Apple

But Verne isn’t the only green data centre. Apple is on a mission to create green facilities as well. Its first custom built data centre in Maiden, Michigan has been awarded the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. This is the highest award possible based on criteria set by the U.S. Green Building Council. In September 2013 Apple also won a Green Power Leadership award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA based the award on Apples use of renewable energy to power their business.

It will be interesting to see which green data centres survive and which crumble under the cost of operation or environmental hazards.

When you look for providers online, do you take into consideration how green they are? If  so, is it the most important criteria?

Oliver Burt

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