OpenConcept Moves to Carbon Neutral Hosting



November 16, 2017

Hydro Electric DamOpenConcept is happy to have migrated our corporate servers into greener data centers. Currently all of our corporate servers are hosted by companies in Quebec that is almost entirely powered by hydro electric power. We have some dedicated servers with iWeb and are leveraging Amazon's new Montreal data center.

In discussions with Certified B Corporations like Man Overboard and Mighty Bytes, I have learned a lot about the impact of the growth of data centers around the world. Man Overboard produced Serving.Green to raise awareness about the environmental impact of web hosting.  Mighty Bytes has produced an EcoGrader for evaluating your site's environmental impact. EcoGrader leverages the Green Web Foundation's database is is great, but as yet it only covers iWeb's servers as the range of Amazon's data centers IPs in their Carbon-Neutral Hosting haven't been imported into their database.

This is a big deal for meeting our Carbon Dioxide targets. As in Barb Darrow wrote in Fortune Magazine, "Data center energy use is very important because the computers and other gear that run information technology currently suck up an estimated 7% of the world’s electricity." What is even more concerning is that data center use is growing exponentially. The more we are tracking, storing and processing bits of data about our lives, the faster the rate of consumption increases.

GreenPeace's Clicking Green Report highlights how much work major internet brands need to go. Amazon is certainly not a leader in this space, as Apple, Google, Facebook are taking great strides to becoming powered by 100% renewable energy. That said, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a long-term commitment to achieve this target for their global infrastructure, and the Montreal data center is an important move in this direction. There province benefits from abundant hydro electric power and Canadians have invested in large scale infrastructure to supply that. We would like to see more transparency, particularly with regard to their backup generators. We would be happy if there were an arrangement with companies like Bullfrog Power to accommodate the fuel used to ensure reliable electricity.

The Clicking Green Report identified the Montreal data center as being AWS's most environmentally friendly data center with 99% use of renewable energy and 1% use of Natural Gas. I am hoping that there will be more transparency with GreenPeace when it comes time to generate the 2018 report. The nature of the cloud makes this difficult, but we would be interested in getting details on OpenConcept's energy data from our use of AWS Cloud that we can use for our own reporting. We also need to see more definition of how AWS defines Carbon-Neutral and what steps it is taking to deliver this claim.

We initially set up with AWS because they were a clear leader in building cloud infrastructure. We saw high utilization rates and energy efficiency as being more efficient, cost effective, but also producing fewer carbon emissions than in-house data hosting. We would like to see this data be open for us as customers, but also in an anonymized form to the public so that we can help to explain actual benefits and real studies of average data points.

We need companies like Amazon to commit to USA initiatives like the Environmental Defense Fund's Clean Power Plan Amicus Brief, which Amazon has. It is amazing that Amazon has engaged with governments on policies to encourage new wind and solar developments. But we also need to have greater transparency so that we can evaluate the sustainability of services we get from Amazon and compare them to what we can also get from Google or Microsoft.

There is a lot to be learned on this subject, Tim Frick wrote a book on Designing for Sustainability to which we made a small contribution. We do need a more concerted effort for businesses to look at their electronic GHG footprint and ensure that their investments are supporting carbon neutral choices. We need to see more details in their timeline about how they are making progress to give us all confidence that they are making progress on reaching the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy usage.

For our purposes though, we are confident that the energy driving our servers is at least 98% sourced from renewable energy, simply because of Hydro Quebec.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.