Cloud computing has been held up as a way for companies to improve their carbon footprint, though where they’re hosted really has a lot to do with it. In and of itself, migrating your workloads to the cloud isn’t a magic bullet for greener computing. But moving to a hosting provider that uses 100% renewable energy sources, like GreenQloud? Now you’re cooking with… geothermal and hydro power. Also? CloudStack.
GreenQloud was founded in 2010 and launched its beta in the summer of 2011. Eirikur Hrafnsson, co-founder and chief global strategist for the company, says that the idea was to “create a compute cloud that would start a new industry in Iceland, clean up the data industry, be competitively priced, efficent, and easy to use. We figured, there’s an abundance of renewable energy” in Iceland that would help solve the problem of dirty energy use in the industry.
Originally, the prototype for GreenQloud was built on a different platform. But Tryggvi Lárusson, co-founder and chief technology officer of GreenQloud, says that Dave Nielsen of CloudCamp “pointed us in the direction” of VMOps – the startup that became Cloud.com, and ultimately sold to Citrix. At the time, VMOps was in the process of open sourcing CloudStack, and GreenQloud started using the first open source version of that.
Says Hrafnsson, “we’re only using the open source version, we’ve done so since the beginning… the decision to use CloudStack was a great decision. Adoption of CloudStack has been much more prominent with the partners we want to work with. Utilizing CloudStack has opened a lot of doors for us and enabled us to move towards building an easy to use public compute cloud.”
In addition to being open source, Hrafnsson says that CloudStack had a few other winning points. First, “the GUI part was really important.” It’s not that the GUI is overly hard to implement – and GreenQloud hasn’t shied away from implementing features they find necessary – but that it showed “we were on the same path in terms of features. It accelerated our go-to-market by a factor of two compared to continuing what we had been doing.”
It’s Easy Being Green in Iceland
Iceland may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think “data center,” but GreenQloud makes a strong argument in favor of Iceland for cloud computing.
Hrafnsson says that until recently Iceland hasn’t been well-suited to data centers, though. According to Hrafnsson, connectivity wasn’t good enough for production use until early 2009. Today, he says, Iceland’s bandwidth capabilities are “enormous.” There’s now three submarine cables connecting Iceland to London, Denmark, and through Greenland to Canada (respectively). In 2013, Iceland should have a fourth connection going to New York.
“Latency wise,” says Hrafnsson, “it’s fast enough to run more than 90% of applications.”
Power-wise, GreenQloud is getting about 70% of its energy from hydro power and about 30% from geothermal.
Renewable energy is important for an IaaS provider like GreenQloud. While they’re not giving out specifics about their data center, Hrafnsson says that it’s “thousands of cores, terabytes of RAM.” No scaling problems to speak of, and there’s a lot of scaling to come. Right now, GreenQloud is still in beta – but they’ll be coming out of beta in the next few months and already have customers from more than 60 countries.
Currently, GreenQloud is running an older version of CloudStack with a number of modifications and additional features. The good news is that some of those modifications may be coming to Apache CloudStack in the future. Hrafnsson says there’s interest in getting involved in Apache CloudStack and contributing some of the features they’ve implemented in their implementation of CloudStack.
What GreenQloud is doing looks very exciting. As the demand for compute power increases, the need for providers using renewable energy is only going to get stronger.