Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cisco EPA Climate Leader: Computing

The strategies that Cisco deployed in the computing facilities area included:
  • Providing services tailored to the specific needs rather than over-engineer to handle a few exceptions
  • Adding green criteria when purchasing that also considers the supplier’s value chain to understand the total environmental impact

Personalize to reduce resource utilization
Of the different types of facilities that Cisco manages, labs are the single largest users of electricity. Previously, Cisco kept its labs extra cool to prevent “hot spots” that could cause equipment to overheat and malfunction. John Hailey of Cisco’s Sustainable Development explained, “In essence, the total lab square footage was overcooled to address specific hot spot problems that occurred in only a few locations in the lab. With today’s technology, Cisco can monitor the cooling conditions of every location in the lab and each piece of equipment. If a hot spot is detected, it can be resolved by moving the gear to a different lab location or changing the air flow in the lab so colder air is directed where it is needed most”. This capability now allows Cisco to raise lab temperature resulting in a great deal of energy savings while making the lab more comfortable for its human occupants.

Understand the supplier’s value chain
Green considerations are also playing a role in facilities location. When selecting a new facility, such as a data center or lab, historically a dozen attributes were evaluated, including the cost and reliability of energy sources. Now that new green criteria has been added to the mix, location decisions also consider how much GhG (greenhouse gas) will be produced at the new location. Much of this is determined by what fuel sources are used by the utilities to generate electricity. For example, a coal-dependant utility is much more likely to generate “dirty” electricity than a utility that is able to tap into hydro, nuclear, geothermal or other renewable resources. John Hailey shared, “Whereas India may have been seen as the ideal location for new labs in the past, today companies recognize there is a price to pay to locate energy-intensive facilities there – high kWh costs, poor electrical reliability, and poor GhG emissions.” California turns out to be a better location than India given its relatively clean sources of electricity (geothermal, hydro, nuclear and a growing alternative energy sector), lower electricity costs, and excellent reliability. Canada is also a promising location for the same reasons but with an additional benefit; Canada provides many more free cooling days where outside air can be used to cool equipment.

Cisco is on-track to achieving its Climate Leader commitment and facilities is an major contributor to its reductions. The specific activities and general strategies that were employed by Cisco were:
• Provide AC to equipment as required rather than chilling the entire area.
• Review utilities energy sources to determine their GhG contribution.

Part 3 and the final in the Cisco Climate Leader series reviews its progress in transportation. Read Part 3 >>

Cisco’s 25% reduction from 2007 baseline in five years equates to nearly 165,000 metric tons. Based on the EPA Carbon calculator; 165,000 metric tons of GhG is the equivalent annual emissions from 110,806 cars.

From the EPA website, “Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA.” Learn more about EPA Climate Leaders Program >>.

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