Swiss Carbon-Neutral Servers Hit the Cloud

Swiss Carbon-Neutral Servers Hit the Cloud

Call it the merger of two buzzwords, one from years past and one of-the-moment: Swiss firm CloudSigma announced this week that it has made its cloud computing service carbon neutral.

Although the company used carbon offsets to reach zero-carbon (offsets were the tool du jour for early carbon-neutrality commitments), the offsetting was only the final stage of a three-stage process to reduce emissions.

The first step involved siting their data center with green energy in mind; Switzerland boasts a green electric grid, with 95 percent generated from zero greenhouse gas renewable and nuclear energy sources, as well as high potential for renewables from geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and solar power.

After siting the facility, CloudSigma built their data center with an eye toward energy efficiency; the company says it worked with suppliers to build custom servers that use 40 percent less energy than off-the-shelf models.

Finally, the company offset its remaining emissions with the nonprofit firm MyClimate. CloudBlue has invested in CDM Gold Standard-certified projects including providing energy efficient cookstoves in Peru and biomass briquettes and efficient cookstoves in India.

"Cloud computing in general has the opportunity to improve the general efficiency of server operations," said CloudSigma CEO Patrick Baillie in a statement. "We've complimented this by adopting a strategy of avoid, reduce and offset. By choosing an efficient data center, using modern power efficient equipment and drawing electricity from one of greenest grids in the world, we've gone a long way to reducing our impact. Offsetting the remaining carbon footprint forms an integral part of our commitment to greener computing."

There is an ongoing debate about the inherent greenness of cloud computing, with some arguing that cloud data center operators will be as efficient as possible to maximize profits and minimize costs, while a survey of IT pros from last year found some serious skepticism about whether cloud computing has achieved its green potential.

For an in-depth look at the "pro" side of the debate, see David Goldenhersh's article, "Five Reasons to Manage Your Carbon Through the Cloud," published on GreenerComputing earlier this month.