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What's Our Carbon Footprint? ...And Other Important Business Management Questions

January 2012 marks the fourth year that Akamai has tracked greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint) associated with our business operations.  Over this time we have found monitoring and controlling our carbon footprint to be a valuable business management practice.  

Akamai's business operations include running our global server platform, office operations, and employee travel and commuting.  Like most companies and industries, Akamai's carbon footprint closely reflects our energy consumption and operational costs.     

Tracking our carbon footprint is an element of what we do as part of our sustainability program, and is seemingly tangential to our core business of making the Internet faster for our customers.  But in doing so we are able to understand how and why we use the energy we use, focus on big payback targets.  This very process helps us think of ways to do things more efficiently - innovate!  

Historically, energy had been a minor component of our operational costs so hadn't been prominent on anyone's radar.  However, energy prices have been on the rise while other aspects of our operational costs such as bandwidth have been falling. Thanks to carbon footprint management, we now have the data to analyze usage trends and look at the cost implications.  We can more easily evaluate our assumptions and identify opportunities both to improve operational efficiency and to lower costs.
Here's an example.  Traditionally we deployed our servers in racks based on the maximum power draw of a server as measured in our lab and the power supplied to the rack [# Servers/Rack ~ Rack Power / Max Power/Server].  An analysis of real-time energy data, however, showed that, in many cases, the server racks were using only a fraction of the supplied power.  Since we often pay for the supplied power rather than the energy used by the servers, this was a clear cost inefficiency and an opportunity to realize significant savings by optimizing - based on real-time energy data - both the supplied power and the number of servers per rack.  We also look at the cost benefits of paying for the energy consumed, not supplied power, to ensure that our costs are directly keyed to our server operations.

Another benefit of tracking our carbon footprint has been that by leveraging our energy data we've been able to quantify the aggregate impact of server platform efficiency projects captured by an intensity metric:  traffic per unit of energy.  As you can see in the graph below, we have improved our efficiency by a factor of three as peak traffic grew four-fold.

Network Efficiency Graph with Peak Traffic.PNG

No longer seen as a tangential aspect of Akamai's business, managing our carbon footprint is helping us to better manage our business!

Our next blog entry will look at how carbon footprint management can help companies innovate products and enhance top line revenue. 

Nicole Peill Moelter is Akamai's Director of Sustainability




3 Comments

Thanks. We really should mind our carbon footprint.

Thanks for sharing those information with us.In fact the carbon foot print estimating part is really interesting and informative.

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