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I am pretty certain that OVHCloud didn’t consult the BBC TV schedules before setting a date for its analyst conference call to discuss how it delivers Cloud services sustainably. However, the night before, the BBC Panorama programme put out an episode entitled “Is the Cloud damaging the planet?”. I guess, at an instinctive level I knew there was a problem. But, in amongst all the efforts of data centre operators to reduce power and water usage and their messaging around green energy, the impact of the growing use of the Cloud, by consumers and business can sometimes get lost.
Let’s be clear, the BBC wasn’t taking a cheap shot at data centre operators per se. It was more focused on the increase in storage and compute that is being driven by the way we stream films and games, store all our photos, use social media, capture sensor data from IoT (Internet of Things) devices, never mind the business applications that continue to migrate to the Cloud. Sometimes it is a single graphic example that brings home the scale of the challenge. One university professor on the programme, talking about the way in which we take so many photos on our mobile phones (which then get stored in the Cloud) stated dramatically, “we don’t delete any photos…ever!” The fact that most modern cloud and co-location data centres are considerably more energy efficient than most existing enterprise facilities is just a drop in the ocean.
Which brings me back to the OVHCloud call. Sustainability has been a key element of its messaging in recent years and I think OVHCloud now feels that we will all be more receptive to its messages. It places a lot of emphasis on transparency and providing observable evidence of its results. Its PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) ratings are good, at 1.28, better than an industry average of 1.6, but not exceptional by any means. However, with an implicit swipe at some of the competition, it pointed out that the ratings of its data centres are based on actual measured results over a whole year, rather than implicit design capabilities (think rolling-road tests for vehicle fuel efficiency vs real-world actual results).
OVHCloud have committed to being Net Zero by 2030, on all three scopes… Scope 1 emissions – direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by a company. Scope 2 emissions – indirect emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat, and cooling. Scope 3 emissions – all other emissions associated with a company’s activities; this includes supply chain partner activities.
Presenters went into some detail on all the things they are doing to reduce carbon emissions. I won’t try and go through all of them now, but you can get a flavour of that by how they re-use, repurpose and recycle older servers. I have seen that first hand and it is noteworthy. But I want to focus on water usage. The Panorama programme demonstrated starkly how much water is used by air-conditioning units to cool data centres. OVHCloud have, for many years used an enclosed system of water cooling to cool the racks that hold the servers. Again, I have witnessed this in one of its data centres. The most notable feature at the time, was the silence. The BBC reporter stood in a data centre and had to shout above the noise. OVH data centres are silent. It’s quite eerie. However, you may ask if this actually uses more water than a traditional air cooling method. As ever, the simple graphical comparison has more impact than detailed water usage statistics. OVCloud claims that it uses only the equivalent of one glass of water per server per 10 hours as against a whole bottle of water used in more conventional systems.
If you are committed to Net Zero targets you should take a look at OVHCloud. There is a lot more to see on the sustainability front and you might even find that its Cloud Services are comprehensive and competitive as well. In the meantime, I am off to review my photos and delete those accidental shots of feet, blurry images and the multiple shots I took to make sure I captured the perfect photo.