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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Go Green with SpaBooker for Earth Day

Or, how I cut my business's greenhouse gas emissions without even trying

There has been much written over the past few years expounding the benefits of utilizing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) versus hosting your own infrastructure and software, and many of them have even touched on the fact that SaaS is innately green due to its shared infrastructure. But just how green is it? For Earth Day, we thought that we might actually put some numbers around it:
  • Due to the hardware SpaBooker uses (cutting edge Dell servers with the latest Intel chips) and the optimization that we achieve, we are able to run more than 1,000 businesses on a typical cluster. This number actually increases every year, since Intel has been improving their CPU performance by more than 100% annually of late (and our software engineering team is continually optimizing our platform). We expect that the next cluster we deploy will use less energy while supporting twice as many businesses.

  • Just what is a cluster? A cluster is made up of 3-5 application servers, 2-3 database nodes, a direct attached storage (DAS) device, and supporting security and networking equipment, let’s call it 10 machines on average.

  • To calculate how much energy each business using SpaBooker consumes on a daily basis, let’s do the math:
    • Each machine uses between 100 and 600 watts per hour, depending on load. Let’s call it 300 watts per hour on average (even though it is actually lower).
    • 24 hours per day X 300 watts per hour X 10 machines = 72 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.
    • 72 kWh per day divided by 1,000 businesses equals 72 watts per business per day;
    • or, put another way, each business uses the same amount of energy as an average incandescent light bulb that is left on for an hour to use SpaBooker for a day.
    • The EPA estimates that for every 1 kWh of electricity we produce, 1.37 pounds of CO2 are emitted.
    • This means that a typical business using SpaBooker emits 1.58 ounces of CO2 daily.

  • Now let’s estimate how much energy and CO2 a typical business hosting their own infrastructure will use and emit:
    • We have seen other articles and posts that we believe have overestimated the number of computers and servers (machines) that a typical business would install if they were not using a SaaS product. The fact of the matter is that most small to medium businesses (SMBs) with under 5 employees would only use a single machine at their front desk, and, to be honest, with SpaBooker, or any other SaaS Scheduling system, you are still going to need that same machine (although with the rise of Netbooks and tablets like the iPad, this may be up for debate next year).

      So instead of overestimating just how green SpaBooker is, let’s take a realistic approach and base it on the number of logins per 1,000 businesses. Since SpaBooker supports businesses with as little as 1 login and as large as 250+ logins using the system, we took an average, which was 13 logins per business.

      Here is where it gets interesting, a business with 5 logins may only need one machine at the front desk, but as soon as a business wants to network two machines together, they generally need to add a server, and networking equipment, and (hopefully) a uninterruptable power supply (UPS). If you add this all together, it means that to support 13 logins, a business would need around 2.6 machines, if we include the extra peripheral equipment needed, we’ll use the average of 3 machines per business.

    • The machines that SpaBooker uses in a cluster are actually far different than what a business with 13 logins would need, so instead of using an average of 300 watts per hour per machine, let’s be very conservative and say that on average, each machine only consumes 100 watts per hour.
    • 24 hours per day X 100 watts per hour X 3 machines, equals 7.2 kWh per day.
    • This means that a typical business with 13 logins would be emitting about 9 pounds 14 ounces of CO2 per day.

  • Now that we know how much energy a typical business on SpaBooker uses, and how much CO2 is emitted, and we know how much the same sized business not using SpaBooker consumes and emits, let’s calculate the savings:
    • Since a typical business with 13 logins using SpaBooker still needs a machine at the front desk, and usually has another machine (generally a laptop) somewhere else on location, let’s eliminate half of the 3 machines to be extra conservative.
    • This means that a typical business using SpaBooker consumes (drum roll please) 51% of the electricity they would use if they were not using SpaBooker;
    • or, put another way, each business using SpaBooker emits 4 pounds 13 ounces less CO2 every single day they are open.
These calculations are obviously rough, but numerous other SaaS vendors like Netsuite and Salesforce have performed their own studies that have come up with similar results, so don’t just take our word for it. Using SpaBooker, really can help your business with its green efforts.
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