Open Telekom Cloud for Business Customers

The cloud is only at the start of its sustainability journey

by Redaktion
German Santini with bicycle next to planted horizontal T of Telekom
German Santini reflects the interplay between cloud and sustainability.

In this article you will read about,

  • what benefits the cloud offers to meet corporate sustainability needs,
  • why the sustainability journey is just beginning for cloud providers
  • and what the Open Telekom Cloud has concretely achieved in terms of sustainability and what it is planning.

German Santini has been responsible for sustainability aspects of the Open Telekom Cloud since 2023. Together with colleagues from operations and the data centers, he pursues two main goals: the greatest possible transparency about the carbon footprint generated by the Open Telekom Cloud and a permanent reduction in CO2 emissions. We spoke to him about the topic of sustainability, the cloud and what options cloud providers have to further reduce emissions.

German, let's start with the topic of sustainability. Why do cloud providers need to address this?

Sustainability is of course not just an issue for cloud providers. Fortunately, there is now a broad consensus that we have to do something if we want to keep our earth livable. This means that everyone must make their contribution. But as cloud providers, we have a special responsibility here. After all, depending on the study, IT contributes 2 to 3.5 percent of CO2 emissions, and IT is now integrated directly or indirectly into practically every business. This means that we have a great deal of leverage. More and more cloud users understand this and expect us to help reduce their carbon footprint. But they are also challenging us to get better and better. At the same time, we are seeing a trend toward social expectations being translated into concrete regulations.

The cloud is often sold as some sort of philosopher's stone that can single-handedly solve sustainability challenges ...

(laughs) Of course, that's not entirely true. The fact is: the cloud has a systemic advantage over classic on-premises infrastructures. The pooled architecture and management with automated, on-demand provisioning of resources is much more efficient. Compared to traditional delivery models, the cloud clearly scores with a lower carbon footprint for the same performance. But at the end of the day, the cloud is just one component of IT. And to sit on the laurels of the systemic advantage alone is not enough, in my opinion.

Why not?

From my point of view, cloud providers – also because they have this great leverage for thousands and thousands of customers – must constantly work on making their platform more energy-efficient. And that doesn't end with buying electricity from renewable energies or, alternatively, buying our way out with certificates. From my point of view, measures are necessary to reduce energy consumption in the first place or to emit less CO2.

What else can cloud providers do?

In addition to renewable energies, the design or further development of data centers plays a decisive role. Modern data centers with a low PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) value, which consume less power for "overhead" services such as air conditioning and cooling, are the next step towards a lower carbon footprint. This is also widely recognized and many cloud providers are following this path, building new data centers. However, we should keep in mind that building new data centers also has a huge environmental impact. So we must focus on ways to improve the ones we have as well.

The focus is on optimization then?

The real work for a true Green IT commitment begins with existing data centers. Cloud providers must take the arduous and complicated path of constantly further optimizing their IT production. In the first step, however, this also means that they must know in detail which components consume how much energy. Today, there are already guidelines, such as the one from the European Commission, which has recently presented us with the  EU Code of Conduct Award that look beyond simple values such as PUE. They expect credible sustainability strategies for the data centers and evaluate the actual "Sustainability Practice".

What does it mean?

On the one hand, this means checking how efficiently cooling systems are used, how the data center is designed and operated. Or also: How reporting is done and what other measures are planned to make operations more efficient.

Can you explain this "sustainability practice" with an example for the cloud?

We have already talked about the efficient, on-demand provision of IT resources. What users usually don't know is that for resources to actually be available on an ad hoc basis, they have to be kept ready to go in the data center. This means: They consume power – even without being used. Just to guarantee the cloud experience. Knowing user behavior and optimizing, i.e. reducing, these reserved resources is lived sustainability practice. In addition, the flexible use of cloud resources generates "gaps" in the platform – the hardware is not fully utilized. Here, too, cloud providers must find intelligent ways to close these "utilization gaps".

Beyond that, what good sustainability practices do you see for the cloud?

Cloud providers must also think the lifecycle of their hardware through to the end: What happens to components that are "end of lifecycle"? Are they recycled or reused outside the company? Do you go into the circular economy? Another "hot" topic is increasing temperatures in the data center.

That's one requirement of the Energy Efficiency Act ...

Exactly. Currently, data centers are typically operated at 18 to 21° Celsius. The Energy Efficiency Act, although currently still in draft, will require data center operators to save an average of 1.5 percent of the energy consumed. This is to be achieved by further increasing the temperature to 24° C. But it can't be done that easily.

What is it like with the Open Telekom Cloud?

We currently operate our data center in Biere/Magdeburg at 22°C and we are currently evaluating a further increase in temperature.

What have you already achieved in terms of sustainability?

In terms of sustainability, we've made significant strides. Our commitment to environmentally responsible practices is directed by our adherence to the GHG (Green House Gas) protocol's scope 2 guidelines. According to established market-based metrics, our scope 2 emissions are zero, and our scope 1 emissions have been negligible since 2021. Put simply, our energy provision (scope 2) can confidently be reported as emissions-free. This achievement is a result of our dedicated investment in Power Purchase Agreements, aligning with industry standards. While our ultimate goal is to generate clean energy onsite as well, our current practice of sourcing clean energy reflects our commitment to sustainable development. We're not only actively working to reduce our emissions but also investing in clean energy for everyone, collaborating towards a greener future.
In the first quarter of 2023, we were also able to noticeably and measurably reduce our energy consumption because we use our hardware intelligently and keep fewer resources on hand. So we are implementing the ideas I described earlier.

“A measurable percentage” of less energy consumption – what does that mean?

In absolute terms, that's around 250 MWh (megawatt hour) that we save every month. This corresponds to a reduction of around 96 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per month (1152 tonnes per year) based on the reported energy emissions factor for Germany (385 kg CO2e/kWh). This is equivalent to roughly 1 million km of travel by car a month. If we wanted to offset these emissions, instead of working on mitigation strategies, we would need more than 52.000 adult trees per year. This highlights why strategies based solely on compensatory measures are not viable – or sustainable, if we want to make the play on words.

What else does the Open Telekom Cloud do?

We extend the lifecycle of hardware as far as possible. This means that we continue to use "old" hardware for non-productive workloads within the framework of the legal possibilities. When we discard hardware, we give it to partners who either resell it for a "second life" or return it to the materials cycle. So we look beyond the actual operating period and foster circular economy.

Seems like a sustainable development of the Open Telekom Cloud is important for you ...

Definitely! For us, sustainability is a priority issue. Personally, I find it very encouraging that I am not a lone wolf, but that my colleagues support the sustainability initiatives and develop their own ideas. I am confident that on this basis we will be able to find and exploit even more sustainability potential. Ultimately, this will also benefit our customers.

About German Santini

German’s job experiences have always been a strange mix between technology and nature. Starting with hands-on electronics and satellite tech in South America, he gradually ventured into IT. His journey includes a position as an IT administrator, later as a cross-infrastructure architect, where he made his first big decisions on energy-efficient practices. Then German worked as integration leader, interfacing between customers, sales and delivery units, a role that exposed him to diverse industry specific challenges and disruptive technologies like AI, IoT, 3D Printing and Cloud.

German’s European chapter kicked off in 2022, when he emigrated to Germany. Since then, he delved into preventive maintenance solutions and actively worked on measuring and reducing cloud emissions. Now, at Open Telekom Cloud, he’s fully dedicated to driving sustainability in the IT world, which is the first role that truly combines his passions to perfection.

The sustainability engineer is deeply committed to sustainability, both personally and professionally. Beyond work, he’s an advocate for sustainable living, sharing insights on recycling, carbon footprint reduction, and more. Currently German is finishing a Master of Science in Sustainable Development, with a strong focus in private and citizens integrations to foster better long-lasting solutions that improve the quality of life and reduce environmental impact.

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