Kevin Häfeli
Carbon Aware Cloud Computing
#co2#sustainability#cloud

Carbon Aware Cloud Computing

Avoiding CO2 emissions, reverse global warming, and fight climate change is a crucial topic in the post-pandemic world. Until 2030 data centers contribute around 7% to overall carbon emissions, and ICT energy consumption will rise to approximately 20%.

Recently, several people approached Helio and asked.

Today, I saw that Google is shifting workloads to places where there is cleaner energy. That’s awesome! Isn’t that what you guys are doing at Helio?!

Helio Friends

Indeed. And we don’t stop there. But wait for a second, and let’s have a closer look first, what Google is doing.

2020

Google announced that their data centers are working harder when the sun is shining, or the wind blows. So Google is doing with the factor time: running compute-intensive workloads when the sun is shining and/or wind blows. This is done for products and services like Search, Maps, and YouTube. They even predict the energy mix based on weather forecasts.

Unfortunately, this approach comes with some problems: Local users search on Google, when the sun is shining and are served by local data centers (= much higher load). So you want to use the capacity to serve customers reliably instead of training new algorithms.

Data centers work harder when sun shines

2021

Google solved the problem with an intelligent approach: Shifting time flexible workloads worldwide, where there is currently cleaner energy. Bringing in the factor region and allowing the local data centers continuing serving Google search users, while other data centers around the world are under low load, due to night, and can train the algorithms.

It is resulting in an excellent effect: increased server utilization in Google’s data centers worldwide. Which you might know, this is something we love!

Carbon aware cloud computing

Does Google do that for me on Google Cloud with my workloads?

The answer, unfortunately, is: no. But why? At Helio, we see the following challenges:

  • Shifting and scaling workloads needs a deep understanding of the service/application.
  • IaaS providers usually don’t have the application insights. They run the VMs, and provide the customers with the commodity “compute”.
  • Clouds are built for 100% uptime. Interfering your VM by relocating it to another location would violate SLAs.
  • Most applications aren’t yet built for flexible shifting/terminating/moving.

So can I do it on my own?

Theoretically yes. But be aware:

  • Moving workloads between cloud regions and even clouds is quite complex and needs a lot of technical know-how.
  • Moving data between regions is expensive. (up to 120$ / 1TB).
  • No public data is currently available when the cloud region's energy mix is good/bad.

Additionally, you won’t benefit from the cost savings the cloud providers gain because you’re shifting workloads to locations where the energy is cheaper. But at least the environment profits which is great! So let us have a deeper look into the industry in the year 2021.

Carbon Cloud

Data Centers

  • Consume over 5% of the global energy. They are often powered by coal or gas.
  • And servers produce much heat. This heat is usually being wasted.
  • They are often located next to city centers, where the load on the grid is very high. Adding an additional big consumer is problematic.
  • Have large diesel generators and batteries securing the uptime.

Efficient Use of Resources

  • Over 80% of all computing resources are sitting idle.
  • Producing chips needs rare materials and is causing more CO2 emissions, as the chips during their whole life cycle.
  • Workloads aren’t executed on the best-matching computing resources.
Green Cloud

Impact on Society

  • Six companies worldwide own over 50% of all computing resources.
  • The cloud oligopoly is keeping prices and margins high and thereby lower innovation.
  • Data protection laws (GDPR, US Cloud act).

All factors, leaving tremendous opportunities to lower the CO2 footprint of the cloud and accelerate innovation for society. So what can you do now? The short answer: Join Helio! Let me explain why and what we’re doing and how we’re solving the issue in more detail:

Democratizing compute

Our Vision

At Helio, we democratize compute. We are empowering anyone using technology to solve the world’s most complex challenges—resulting in cloud computing being: Sustainable, fair, transparent, open, and neutral.

Helio connects

The Real-World Example

Thanks to Helio, a company like our customer Raumgleiter, producing amazing visualizations of buildings, can now consume easy-to-use, blazing-fast and sustainable 3D-Renderings in the cloud. Our platform is solving significant challenges for Raumgleiter, which we see in many other markets and industries across the cloud:

  • Consuming cloud infrastructure is still painful and needs significant knowledge to integrate it efficiently into the core business processes.
  • Most companies don’t have access to cloud experts and developers.
  • Cloud is very expensive, especially for jobs with high computing demand.
  • It’s causing significant CO2 emissions.
Helio rendering

With Helio’s intelligent, carbon aware workload shifting platform, Raumgleiters large 3D render jobs are already today dynamically and reliably executed on:

  • Unused capacity in data centers and on clouds around the world - whenever a computing resource should be utilized more.
  • New types of green edge data centers, using recycled hardware to heat greenhouses with CO2-free heat and grow tomatoes.
  • A new category of data centers, heating houses, and making demand response with the whole data center (= stabilizing the electricity grid instead of putting more load on it.)

And even better: Raumgleiter can consume that without hiring an expensive team of cloud experts and a cloud bill eating away all profits.

The Impact and Domino Effect

With the democratization of compute, enabling our customers is unlocking even more opportunities for innovation across industries. Thanks to lowering the costs for 3D-Renderings and giving customers seamless access to scale, they can now produce even more realistic visualizations of new buildings. It is resulting in opportunities to build new, more sustainable buildings.
3D-Artists can do that now, much faster, more affordable, and with less CO2 emissions, and we're together accelerating the transformation to a carbon-free world.

How We Imagine the Future

Helio's platform and technology started with 3D-Rendering, and it already creates a significant impact. We can extend it to many other industries, with different types of workloads and enabling carbon savings around the planet for everyone. So the data center and cloud industry will not produce 7% of the global emissions in CO2!

To make this possible, we believe the cloud needs to be consumable by APIs, serving everyone's business process and enabling managed carbon-aware workload shifting for everyone. So consumers can focus on serving customers or working on the next breakthrough innovation. No more DevOps, orchestration, complex management of applications and services, and finally, no more substantial cloud bills eating away your budget. Therefore we're introducing:

The First Carbon Aware Cloud

Helio is building the platform for compute - the first carbon-aware cloud. Or one could say a cloud on top of the clouds. Empowered by intelligent workload shifting and consumption via APIs, we're solving some of the planets most pressing issues. To reach this vision, we set the following roadmap and milestones on the road to a democratized and decarbonized cloud.

Democratized

Democratized

  • Abstract large-scale workloads and services with easy-to-use and developer-friendly APIs (API platform)
  • Partner with all cloud providers, hosting companies, and edge data centers and create a spot market for compute.
  • Lowering the costs for cloud computing by factor 3-5x.
  • Partnering with developers, cloud consultancies, and open source communities to transform workloads to a sustainable, vendor-independent and open cloud platform.

Green and Efficient

  • Shift workloads between clouds and execute them consistently carbon-aware (cloud arbitrage)
  • Work with every compute resource around the world to (fully) utilize it.
  • Enable energy utilities and stabilize the electricity grid (e.g. demand-response of data centers).
  • Remove redundancy in DCs, getting rid of diesel generators, and move it into the software layer.
  • Enabling the circular economy and extending the lifecycles for hardware.

And much more! If you would like to accelerate the journey to a carbon-aware cloud get in contact or book a call with the founders.

Helio - Democratizing Compute.