I started working with technology as an intern in India for a small startup which was building software for Financial Services companies. The network architecture that we were building then was client server, for those who are wondering what the heck is that click on the link. The servers were just another personal computer that was running the database application and the client was a proprietary software that was build onto of the database vendors technologies. The popular ones then were dBase III, FoxPro, Visual FoxPro, Oracle+Pro C, Lotus Notes etc I learnt a lot about how this technology worked and how this connected architecture delivered value to our clients. It was quirky, but did the job most of the time and we were a startup so we jumped off the cliff and built a parachute on our way down… for the most past it was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. Fast forward to now, the technology landscape has dramatically changed. Internet and Mobile access has fundamentally changed everything about technology application in business.
While we embark on this new journey, I feel the technology community is not doing a good job of communicating the challenges of technology to the main stream. Lets start with the use of data centers, most of the worlds largest data centers get their electricity from non-renewable power i.e. Coal, Oil or Nuclear. That is a fact and there is nothing wrong with that but this has serious implications for new hyper connected, big data, high performance computing requirements of today’s consumers and the applications they use. There are billions of devices connected to the internet and all of them creating, storing, processing data for various things that puts CO2 into our atmosphere. One can debate until the cows go home whether CO2 in the atmosphere is a bad thing I am not that intelligent, it is accepted that CO2 in the atmosphere is a bad thing and it causes climate change. It is estimated that 2% of the CO2 in the atmosphere is due to data centers. This trend is serious because if one measured the CO2 due to data centers 10 years back it would have insignificant and McKinsey estimates that by 2020 4% of the CO2 will be due data centers. Again doubling in just a decade, why is this important or bad… it goes back to the notion of geometric progressions, we humans are very bad at calculating the consequences of exponential or Power Law based systems. We mess up with risk calculations in financial markets because we don’t understand the convexity of risk in high order moments, but that has only economic impact, painful as it may be we can cope with it and recover, but large complex systems like climate are too serious a threat to be left to Governments to bail us out.
What are the industry leaders like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft etc doing about this? They are changing the debate from Sustainability to one of efficiency. They argue that by making their data centers more efficient they are reducing the amount of energy used by them. Efficiency is a good thing but data centers becoming efficient does not reduce the CO2 emissions it actually accelerates it because the cost of using data centers becoming really cheap so it gives incentives for more use rather than less. This is a troubling trend. I have been a vocal about my dis-belief in setting up data centers in Iceland but when I see the arguments and reports and lobby coming out of the large enterprises I am compelled to reject that notion and I want to jump in and change the debate.
I have accepted a new role of CEO of GreenQloud of Iceland, we are going to change the debate. We are vehemently going to argue that Efficiency != Sustainability, we believe data centers should be using only renewable power and should not be buying power from dirty sources. That is the only way to sustainability. GreenQloud is the Worlds First Truly Green(tm) Public Compute Cloud Service. I want to make a truly world class compute cloud that does not charge a green premium, is Amazon compatible and it provides the same or better performance as any other cloud computing platform in the world and is also sustainable. I believe that is the only way to disrupt the trend that we are on. We want to make the choice to choose sustainability easier, we don’t believe we should expect companies to sacrifice anything (read pay more!) to choose sustainability.
I will continue to blog in the Startup Iceland blog about Entrepreneurship, Startups and resources for entrepreneurs, now I will have more real world examples because GreenQloud is a startup, however I take the challenge of sustainability very seriously so I will be writing as well in the GreenQloud blog the emphasis there would be focused on what we are doing at GreenQloud. I will be recruiting other bloggers to write in the Startup Iceland blog because this is a platform that belongs to the Startup Community here in Iceland, I will continue to be a moderator and bar tender. Sustainability is a very powerful word, we will continue on that theme here in Startup Iceland. I will be sending out a small survey to all those who have shown interest and for those who participated in Startup Iceland 2012 to get feedback to improve the conference for next year.