Microsoft Names Data Center Sustainability Chief

Jim Hanna, former sustainability exec for Starbucks, joins Microsoft to help the tech titan float greener clouds.

green cloud data center

Jim Hanna has joined Microsoft as the director of data center sustainability, a newly created position.

Hanna previously served as the director of environmental affairs for Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee chain. "Over the past decade, he has driven global strategies to address sustainability issues across the company, from the supply chain to energy and water reduction to policy engagements," stated Microsoft's chief environmental strategist, Rob Bernard, in a blog post. At Microsoft, Hanna will work to minimize the environmental impact of the company's globe-spanning network of cloud data centers.

Bernard added that Hanna's "experience will be invaluable in his new role, as our data centers now operate in 24 regions globally. Hanna will report to Christian Belady, general manager, data center strategy, planning and development, and will also work closely with me to address sustainability issues for our data center operations."

The cost of data center power and cooling—in terms of both dollars and the effect on the planet—is a growing concern among cloud providers and organizations that run large computing facilities.

Last year, an IDC survey of 404 enterprise data center managers revealed that power and cooling made up the largest share of data center budgets at 24 percent, along with IT infrastructure itself. Two-thirds of enterprises logged a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of more than 2.0. PUE measures the ratio of power consumed by a data center to how it is used by IT workloads. The closer a data center's PUE rating floats around the 1.0 mark, the more efficiently it operates.

Faced with increasing demand for its cloud services, Microsoft joins other industry-leading tech companies in building cloud-computing facilities that place less of a burden on the Earth's natural resources.

"This focus on growing the cloud means that we are making big investments in our data centers, where we are increasingly focused on sustainability. This includes making smart decisions about the impact of site choice and location, improving efficiency, lessening our environmental impact and powering our data centers with renewable energy," said Belady.

Google is another big backer of the green data center movement. In December, the search giant announced plans to buy an additional 842 megawatts of renewable energy to power its data centers.

"Across three countries, we're nearly doubling the amount of renewable energy we've purchased to date," said Google's Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google, in a Dec. 3 announcement. "We're now up to 2 gigawatts—the equivalent to taking nearly 1 million cars off the road." Google has committed to long-term contracts ranging from 10 to 20 years for renewable energy projects in the United States, Chile and Sweden.

Other tech companies are focused on green cloud data centers.

On Jan. 1, Amazon's Fowler Ridge wind farm in Benton County, Ind., went live, generating 1.1 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy in its first day. The project feeds electricity to the power grid servicing an Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud data center in Northern Virginia and a facility planned for Ohio.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...