Salesforce has announced an ambitious goal to fully power its data centers with renewable energy. The software-as-a-service company that Bloomberg Businessweek recently called “a cloud computing king” announced last week that it is “committing to work to steadily increase the amount of renewable energy we use in our data center operations, to reach our goal to be fully powered by renewable energy.”
The company will take a number of steps this year to begin making its data centers more sustainably powered. The company will research energy efficient data center technology and encourage its energy providers to increase the supply of renewable energy. The company will also convene peers, sustainability specialists and energy experts around data center energy issues.
“We see the development of renewable sources of energy as an important part of our sustainability strategy, and we believe the cloud should be powered by clean sources of energy,” the company said in a statement.
Salesforce has experienced rapid growth in recent years, its stock price (NYSE:CRM) having grown by over 220 percent in the last five years. This growth has ushered in a corresponding increase in greenhouse gas emissions – its absolute emissions are up almost 50 percent over the past year – largely from increased bandwidth needs.
Salesforce is far from the only company whose data centers are using more and more energy. Data center energy usage has become such a concern that the United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change has even developed a methodology to help data centers realize potential energy savings and reduce carbon emissions.
Data centers used 1.3 percent of the world’s energy in 2011, a surprisingly large figure that is expected to continue to increase dramatically, especially in the developing world. The demand for green data center technology has become so great that Pike Research estimates that more than $45 billion will be spent on energy efficient data center technology by 2016.
“There is not a single technology or design model that makes a data center green,” said Eric Woods, research director at Pike Research. “In fact, the green data center is connected to the broader transformation that data centers are undergoing — a transformation that encompasses technical innovation, operational improvements, new design principles, changes to the relationship between IT and business, and changes in the data center supply chain.”
“Greenpeace applauds Salesforce for joining Google and Facebook in the growing club of global technology companies who agree that a green cloud is important to their growth,” said Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace, a leading environmental organization.
In a blog post last week, Greenpeace called on other cloud computing companies, notably Amazon Web Services (AWS), to join Salesforce in its commitments to green data center technology. AWS “does not provide even basic information to its customers on the environmental impact of the AWS cloud or the extent to which it is powered by renewable energy,” said the post.
Along with its data center announcement, Salesforce also released its first-ever sustainability report, providing a slew of information on the company’s environmental performance. The report noted that carbon emissions per transaction in Salesforce’s data centers have already decreased by 20 percent in the last year.
[Image credit: Torkild Retvedt, Flickr]