We have a history of leading the way in terms of "green hosting", and are continuously innovating in this important area. We also openly share our best practice and collaborate with others.
Lean and Green
For many years at Memset® Ltd. we have recognised that we use a great deal of electricity to run servers for our customers, and also that manufacturing of computer hardware is itself a very energy and carbon-intensive process. Using less servers and less electricity also saves us money, so there really is no excuse to not be efficient - lean and green.
Our approach to managing our environmental impact is compliant with ISO 14001:2004, and is broadly described below.
Carbon Neutral® Hosting
In August 2006, Memset® became the UK's first Carbon Neutral® Web host. In becoming Carbon Neutral, we worked with The CarbonNeutral® Company to identify our 'carbon footprint', or the approximate volume of CO2 generated by the organisation. It is calculated by assessing energy usage, business travel, and all components of the company's operations that consume power or generate waste and by-products. Memset® uses a very large amount of electricity to power servers, and that formed the vast bulk of our carbon footprint.
The next stage in the process was to explore ways to reduce this footprint and energy use wherever possible. This included a review of current suppliers to explore the viability of using 'green' suppliers or energy from renewable resources, and also examined efficiency technologies already in use, (such as our Miniserver virtual machines). Finally, in order to 'neutralise' unavoidable CO2 emissions, we were required to support a range of 'offset projects' to absorb or save the same amount of CO2 emissions as were being created.
Memset® currently supports three carbon offsetting projects: Capturing methane from landfills in Turkey; Reforestation in Uganda; and building wind power in China. Each of these projects is carefully monitored and measured by the Carbon Neutral Company to ensure their carbon figures are accurate. We ourselves continue to be audited annually by the Carbon Neutral company and we are committed to minimising our environmental impact across the board – not just indirect greenhouse gasses.
Energy Efficiency Policy
We adhere to the EU Code of Conduct for data centres, which stipulates a comprehensive range of best practices for data centre operators and hosting providers. These measures include power provision, cooling, good use of virtualisation, selection of efficient software, multiple tenders for selection of servers and much, much more. At present we exceed the minimum requirements to be participants of the scheme. Our energy efficiency measures have three main areas:
Servers use a great deal of electricity so we have taken a number of steps to minimise this. Our Dunsfold data centre was specially designed to be highly energy-efficient while also adhering to the highest government security standards.
It employs adiabatic free cooling, taking advantage of the fact that it never gets hot and humid at the same time in the UK. The “wet bulb” temperature (the temperature of something wet) never goes above about 23oC, even on the hottest Summer days. During such conditions our system sprays a fine water mist into the air handling units (essentially big radiators) on the roof, keeping them at the wet bulb temperature.
There is normally about a 10 oC variance between external and internal temperatures, so to take full advantage of the adiabatic free cooling we allow temperature excursions of up to 35 oC inside the data centre. Although this goes against conventional wisdom, modern servers are warrantied to 45 oC and there is not a significant increase in failure rates in higher temperatures. You can read more about this in one of Kate’s blog posts. This is also in accordance with the latest ASHRAE guidelines and the system was accredited by CESG to the old IL3 standard.
Because, even with worst-case global warming, the wet bulb temperature will never get very high in the UK we don’t need backup DX cooling (traditional air conditioning), saving money and carbon emissions. The one area we do have DX cooling for is the plant room since the UPS batteries need to be kept at a constant temperature. By keeping the plant room separate we have been able to keep that requirement to a minimum.
Our main data centre is on Dunsfold Park, one of Europe’s leading sites for environmental innovation. We are practically next door to their 2MW solar farm from which we derive a significant proportion of our power.
Our Reading data centre is also very energy-efficient. Both sites use modern high-efficiency UPSes and cooling systems within the building. Both also comply with the relevant recommendations of the European Union Code of Conduct for Data Centres.
We also monitor the power usage of all racks and actively manage the power distribution which maximises energy efficiency within the data centres by eliminating hot/cold spots.
We source servers based in part on their energy-efficiency: in the last three years the amount of electricity an average server uses has roughly halved, but the amount of work they can do has increased by two to four times. We believe in spending a little extra on hardware to get the latest in energy-efficient machines, and gain the cost-savings in the long term through reduced power bills. We currently have a policy of replacing outdated hardware after four years since Moore's Law makes replacing them economically and environmentally sensible (see below).
Thirdly, we use a lot of virtualisation in the form of our ®Miniserver VM virtual servers and OpenStack cloud. What this means is that rather than having one server (one box) doing one task we have lots of smaller virtual machines on one server each doing a task, so that we need many less machines overall.
We also have an ongoing collaboration with the University of Surrey’s computing department looking at the lifecycle carbon impact of our services. In particular this has helped us optimise our Miniserver VM platform to squeeze the most out of our hardware. For example, most people think that compute/CPU is the limiting factor whereas it is actually RAM or disk IO. Our Next Gen Miniserver VMs are all SSD-based as a result and have additional RAM.
We actively encourage our customers to make use of our ®Miniserver VM technology through competitive pricing. Also our sales team's orders are not to sell a dedicated box where a virtual one will do just to bump up the sales figures.
Reusing and Recycling Servers
There is a constant turn over in our server pool, and most servers just get reused by re-allocation to new customers, but after about four years it becomes economically and environmentally unsound to "sweat the asset". At this TechRecycle for WEEE compliant disposal.
All server storage devices are comprehensively erased (by writing zeros to the entire disk several times) before they leave our control.
Recycling paper is all well and good, but in reality all paper is sourced from renewable sources and recycling paper is actually quite energy intensive anyway. Therefore, the best thing to do with paper is to use as little as possible, which is what we do. We have an "avoid paper" policy, and all our documents and systems are electronic in our private Wiki. We strive to only print things that we are required to keep in hard-copy form by law, but even that is a good form of carbon sequestration.
We encourage staff to commute in an environmentally-friendly fashion, mainly by virtue of providing them with a free shuttle-bus service from Guildford to Dunsfold. We also have a cycle to work scheme. We also use intelligent logistics to avoid multiple transport journeys whenever possible.
More Than Words
As with any policy, there is always a danger that the words will be written, heard at a staff meeting, and then filed away never to be seen again.
AtAt Memset®, however, we have the advantage of being owner-managed. Being a passionate environmentalist myself, I take a personal lead and commit to our environmental responsibility. This ensures that we strive for optimal efficiency, least wastage and legal compliance in everything we do through the assessment of objectives and targets and continual improvement.
In order to achieve these commitments and to provide a formal framework for managing our environmental objectives, we have implemented an Environmental Management System that has, and continues to be, certified to the ISO14001:2004 standard.
We are an environmentally conscious organisation with a real passion for sustainability.
Kate Craig-Wood CEO, Dated: 29.06.16