The Green PaaS: Innovative Data Centers Will Save the World Billions

March 18, 2014 Adam Bloom


Energy savings from Green PaaS data centers

Today, digital information uses 10% of the world’s electricity, according to The Cloud Begins with Coal.

The report translates the amount to 1500 terawatt-hours (TWh), or calculated as roughly enough power for over 150 million homes over an entire year with a potential energy cost of $150 billion USD.

However, lower energy consumption is NOT always an easy thing for IT to prioritize because priorities are leaning towards innovation and business process improvement, as reported by 66% of CIOs.

Yet, there is a way to both enable rapid innovation, reduce operational overhead, and save energy costs—The Green PaaS.

Based in Oslo, Norway, Fjord IT looked to Pivotal for help with a large media client of theirs and get started down the road to greener fields—in this case, using a PaaS to quickly develop an innovative application that will run in low-cost, energy efficient, and 100% green data center. Pivotal’s Russell Acton, VP EMEA, led our work with Fjord IT and shared his perspective on the partnership, “Pivotal’s capabilities across cloud, big data, open source, mobile, and agile solutions provide a development platform like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and other internet leaders. When you add our application and data fabrics to the energy savings and sustainability of a green data center, the win for companies becomes even more substantial.”

Background: The Birth of Norway’s Green Data Center, Fjord IT

The Green PaaS is a concept that Helge Gallefoss and Tore Sagstuen, the respective CEO and CTO of Fjord IT, are working hard to spread throughout Europe. Gallefoss, a serial technology entrepreneur and former TV producer, explained how he founded the company with a simple story, “I was looking at the traditional setup of a data center, where you stack very expensive heaters on top of each other and then cool the room with air conditioners. This uses twice the energy or more. I thought this was an insane use of energy here in Norway. We have a cold climate. Heat is a resource, not a problem. Just open the windows and use the cold outside air in a balanced way to give the servers a stable input temperature, and let’s reuse the heat in winter time.”

The experience led Gallefoss to patent a passive cooling technology that reduces power usage by as much as 50% and launch his company. As he began to build Fjord IT, he also saw the opportunity to take advantage of the emerging virtualization market—making compute and storage capacity as efficient as possible. He quickly added a third unique proposition to his green data center—Norway’s power grid produces 99% of its energy from hydropower, providing low cost renewable energy achieving sustainability goals with almost zero carbon footprint.

Gallefoss and Sagstuen have some eye opening facts and trends to support the need to convert to Green PaaS:

Why Energy Reduction Should Matter to IT, the CFO, and Business Units

While these trends are compelling for green data centers, what matters is how they apply to “the green in the CFO and business unit’s eyes.” Of course, we could attempt to quickly calculate energy costs based on an average IT budget of 5% of revenues, data center costs at 25% of IT budgets, and energy costs based on power usage effectiveness (PUE) or a Gartner benchmark of 12% of data center costs. However, the underlying problem is more strategic or, perhaps, economic.

The late Kenneth Brill, founder of The Uptime Institute, published a paper, The Invisible Crisis in the Data Center: The Economic Meltdown of Moore’s Law, and it highlighted the root of the problem, “while power consumption per computational unit has dropped dramatically in this six-year period (by 88 percent), the at-the-plug power consumption has still risen by a factor of 3.4.”

It is hard to run a business where key costs triple over time and the rate is increasing.

On top of this growth factor of energy consumption, more people are getting online and use is growing, not to mention more connected sensors. So, data is also growing, and our server footprints will increase accordingly—from 2700 exabytes in 2012 to 40,000 exabytes in 2020, a 14-fold increase in 8 years or roughly doubling each year.

Certainly, controlling spiraling costs is one reason why internet giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Ebay, and Apple have focused on renewable energy and green, efficient data centers. But it is not the only one.

Green PaaS Benefits: Efficient Operations + Green Energy + Innovation

Based on the experiences of these same internet giants, we are seeing clear evidence that a PaaS approach to development is proving to provide more efficient operations and improves developer productivity. Rakuten, a Cloud Foundry user and Japanese e-commerce leader, says they found a 90% reduction in infrastructure operating costs and a dramatic increase in server-to-admin ratios. Apps that took as many as 75 largely manual steps now deploy with one command. In addition, respondents from a recent government study who have already used PaaS say they save 47% of their time, or 1 year and 8 months off a 3.5 year development cycle. For those who have not deployed PaaS, respondents believe it can shave 31% off development time frames and save 25% of their annual IT budget, a federal savings of $20.5 billion. As well, 90% believe PaaS is critical to data center consolidation goals. The report goes on to share how 52% see reduced costs, 37% believe they will achieve more automated IT maintenance, and 20% believe they will see greater shared costs.

The green data center improves productivity too. “For our customers, it’s not just about efficiency, sustaining the environment, or energy costs, it’s about the applications that run on top of the infrastructure. For example, our media industry clients are dealing with convergence at the C-level—it’s about driving subscribers from print to digital with innovative apps around social, mobile, video, and e-commerce,” shared Sagstuen. IBM and IDC’s recent Data Center Operational Efficiency Best Practices, points out a related trend and states, “Data centers that operate at the highest level of efficiency allocate 50 percent more of their IT budgets to new projects than those operating at the lowest efficiency level.” That is potentially 50% more time for innovation.

The Fjord IT team turned to Pivotal One and Pivotal CF to find a platform for innovation where many services could run. “When we brought Pivotal in, we knew the client wanted a digital infrastructure with lower costs and carbon reduction for their sustainability program. Then, we started talking to developers in different subsidiaries. The developers wanted to speed up the process of getting new apps and services to market. They wanted to get from development to test to production more quickly. They wanted a single platform everyone could work on, even if they used different tools like Java, Ruby, or Node.js. Lastly, they wanted to take back some of the cost and reliance on Amazon,” said Gallefoss.

The first step was a workshop about 4 or 5 months ago that brought their technology teams together. “The teams saw that the combined approach of Fjord IT and Pivotal not only solved problems today but also for the near future,” explained Sagstuen, “They initially planned for a 6 month pilot. With Pivotal’s help, we had Pivotal CF running in a surprisingly short period of time. It was installed within days. This is how modern applications should work! Then, our customer deployed a single customer-facing app to production. Instead of 6 months for the pilot, they decided to move beyond the pilot to a full roll-out after only 3 months. Now, we are in the process of ramping up 5 or 6 more applications.”

This was a remarkably quick sell to their customer, partly because the key benefits of a Green PaaS were so quickly apparent:

  • They were able to get innovative applications to market faster.
  • They knew the solution was very cost-effective.
  • They moved from dev to test to production more easily, reducing operations overhead.
  • They had researched and tested other PaaS technologies and knew Pivotal was a leader.

Importantly, they also saw how open source fit and how services like Pivotal GemFire and Pivotal HD (Hadoop) could be used in their future for real-time, fast data applications and big data analytics. Gallefoss believes, “Amazon, Google, and Facebook have been offering big data tools and services to the media companies for years. But, more and more media companies are starting to see that Google and Facebook might be their next big competitors in a market that is very disruptive. They know a key, strategic component of their future business is their own big data platform. In addition, Pivotal’s vision for the application lifecycle was a pillar to our success. This large media company could see how moving faster around the cycle of building an app, capturing data, analyzing results, and improving the app would benefit them. The development team and business leaders saw how a robust PaaS with a full stack of services on top would give them the kind of tools that Amazon, Google, and Facebook use.”

Why Fjord IT Bet on Pivotal CF

Certainly, before recommending a PaaS to their customers, Fjord IT did their homework. Sagstuen approached this choice from the perspective as a data center operator, “First of all, this PaaS is virtualization-friendly, which we were already focused on because of our extensive experience with VMware. In addition, we can provide many development capabilities without customizing for each customer. It’s easier for us to operate because there are fewer variables, plus it is built to scale. Our business is about getting as much as possible out of the infrastructure, and the components are also lightweight and we see solid, efficient performance—it doesn’t take too much infrastructure to run. All together, this is good for us, and it’s good for our customers. We are looking forward to sharing ‘The Green PaaS’ story with more of them.”

For Pivotal, we are excited to offer operational improvements and innovation in a way that helps the earth too.

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