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Rackspace On the "Greening" of Its Data Centers
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March 24, 2008

Rackspace On the "Greening" of Its Data Centers

By Stefania Viscusi
Assignment Desk Editor

Managed hosting provider Rackspace has stepped up its bid to promote energy conservation and improve the planets' environment with the launch of a Green Server Configuration initiative.
The new initiative highlights the environmentally friendly components the company already uses like low voltage processors and energy efficient drives and memory, and offers their environmentally-conscious customers and others, greener configurations.

To find out more about the company's goal of being a greener company, and about their new initiative, I spoke with Rackspace’s CTO, John Engates.
How is Rackspace positioned in the Green space?
Rackspace realizes there is a growing need for environmental awareness and protection. We realize that our data centers' emissions and power consumption contribute to the problem, and while we don’t claim to have the absolute answer, we are taking the steps to conserve energy, educate our employees and customers, and finally offset the remaining carbon emissions for our customers.

Working with partners like NativeEnergy and The Green Grid (News - Alert), Rackspace is diligently working toward the goal of being a greener company. We are focusing our efforts in three categories:

1. Company Conservation
2. Customer Offerings
3. Employee Education
How has Rackspace used the data from the customer survey we highlighted to "green" its data centers?
Our green survey found that customers are willing to pay more or even trade some performance for lower carbon emissions in their data centers. Fortunately, advances in technology are eliminating the need for major sacrifices when it comes to these environmental concerns. Rackspace has always leveraged energy efficient hardware and equipment in its data centers. Rackspace is currently building a data center in Slough, England that will be powered by renewable energy; specifically biomass and woodchips. We were the first hosting company to adopt AMD’s (News - Alert) Quad Core Opteron processors, and we have created RackLabs, an in-house R&D group to identify new product and service ideas.
Can you give us some background on the Green Server Configuration initiative?
The Green Server Configuration initiative is marking our progress towards our goal of being a greener company. The initiative is not a new product offering, rather we packaged the most eco (News - Alert)-friendly components Rackspace offers including low voltage processors, energy efficient drives and memory.  By offering this product portfolio, we are now able to respond to requests from increasingly environmentally-conscious customers while also encouraging our broader customer base to use greener configurations.
How are these power-efficient Green Configurations helping you move in the right direction?
Our Green Configurations bundle the most eco-friendly components we offer; therefore we are cutting energy consumption with every customer that chooses the recommended Green Configurations. Also, when new customers come on board with Rackspace, we work with NativeEnergy to offset carbon emissions produced by their servers for 12 months. Native Energy enables us to finance renewable energy projects, energy efficiency, and land use and agriculture-based projects, like methane abatement.
Have you realized any benefits as a result of the new initiative?
Rackspace recognizes the importance of developing a strategy to minimize the damage and maximize the opportunity created by carbon emissions. The number one advantage to our Greenspace initiative has been reducing our overall power consumption and giving back to more eco-friendly projects. It’s also helped to educate our employees about the environment and how they can reduce their carbon footprint. As we engage in environmental issues through organizations such as The Green Grid, Rackspace becomes a part of the conversation and can help lead industry guidelines, incentives and processes to move the industry in the same direction.  
What are some of the key advantages of carbon neutral web hosting?
While we first believe conservation and education are the most important in protecting our environment, our carbon neutral program through Native Energy has benefited several projects, all of which fight global warming while providing sustainable economic development opportunities for communities in need. Rackspace has already helped complete two projects that have created clean electricity and reduced carbon dioxide pollution:
  1. The Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm project for the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The wind turbine is expected to produce about 2,400,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean electricity each year, enough to supply about 200 homes.
  2. The Schrack Family Dairy Farm Methane Project in Pennsylvania.  The farm system will displace electricity on the grid, keeping more than 630 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution out of the air annually, and will also destroy methane that would otherwise have escaped from its manure storage lagoons equivalent to an additional 31,000 of CO2 out of the air over the next 20 years. 
Rackspace today supports two new renewable energy projects through Native Energy that are creating alternative more eco-friendly forms of energy:
  1. The Penn England Family Dairy Waste to Energy Project, which will help ramp up a manure digester on this 700 cow dairy farm that displaces onsite fossil fuel use and emissions of methane.
  2. The Farmer Owned Distributed Small Scale Wind Project in Minnesota, which supports the sale and installation of German-designed 40 kW Aeroman wind turbines that are remanufactured and customized for Midwest conditions. With up-front funding from NativeEnergy reducing turbine costs to an acceptable level, these turbines will help farmers reduce their long-term electricity costs, while helping stabilize the electricity grid with distributed, small scale power generation. NativeEnergy and NexGen have built 18 in the last year, and expect to build and 30+ in 2008.
Stefania Viscusi is an established writer and avid reader. To see more of her articles, please visit Stefania Viscusi’s columnist page.

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