NBC's 'Today' offers rare look inside Apple's iCloud data center in feature on environment

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2014
During Thursday's edition of NBC News' Today, Apple's push for environmental friendliness was highlighted in a special segment called "A new kind of Apple farm," with a special focus on the company's Maiden, N.C. data center and accompanying solar array.


Source: Today


In a brief news package for Today, NBC chief environmental correspondent Anne Thompson gave a rundown of Apple's green initiatives, including the company's huge solar panel installation at its iCloud data center.

"All the cool convenience of your smartphones and tablets come with a hidden price -- power," Thomson said on location in Maiden. "But downloading apps and information in the cloud no longer means polluting the air."

Strolling through the huge solar panel farm, the reporter interviewed Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson. The former EPA administrator explained that with clean energy, like the nation's largest end user-owned solar farm, Apple is able to support a growing number of connected devices while at the same time shrinking its carbon footprint.

"We think this is an opportunity for us and for our sector to leave it better than we find it, to actually help people convert to cleaner energy without even knowing they're doing it," Jackson said, echoing statements made earlier this week by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The interview offered a rare peek inside inside Apple's Maiden data center, which houses servers and telecommunications equipment responsible for iCloud, Siri and other online assets. Jackson said a good chunk of the energy created by the on-site solar farm and biogas generators go toward cooling the machines.



Thomson noted that while other tech companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo use clean energy at their respective data centers, only Apple's is using 100 percent renewable power.

Apple has been on an eco-friendly tear this week, publicizing its environmental initiatives with the launch of the "Better" campaign. Along with a revamped environmental responsibility webpage, the company announced a new recycling initiative and touted advancements in its clean energy programs.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,018member
    [QUOTE]natural gas generators[/QUOTE]

    That should be "biogas" and not "natural gas".
  • Reply 2 of 37
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,163member
    I was going to make some comment pondering Scamsung's green foot print or lack thereof, then realized Apple still rely heavily on China for production. I wonder if Tim plans any moves to put pressure on 'greening up' their Chinese production sub-contracter's facilities or if the plan is to move more and more production to the US over the next few years.
  • Reply 3 of 37
    jsewelljsewell Posts: 12member

    Interesting that they're running their data centers at 103°F. I seem to recall Google runs their cold isles at 80°F, and that they arrived at that temperature through empirical guidance. I wonder how Apple can run theirs 23 degrees warmer without suffering significant hardware failure.

  • Reply 4 of 37
    This is something Amazon, Google, Samsung, DOJ ...et al should copy
  • Reply 5 of 37
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by jsewell View Post

    Interesting that they're running their data centers at 103°F. I seem to recall Google runs their cold isles at 80°F, and that they arrived at that temperature through empirical guidance. I wonder how Apple can run theirs 23 degrees warmer without suffering significant hardware failure.

     

    You’re surprised to see that Apple has put more effort into their projects than Google?

  • Reply 6 of 37
    jsewelljsewell Posts: 12member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    You’re surprised to see that Apple has put more effort into their projects than Google?


    I made no assertion about effort. Google arrived at an optimal temperature by disregarding conventional wisdom regarding electronics durability and conducting experiments. They determined that 80°F struck the right balance between hardware failure rates vs. cooling costs. The fact that Apple's data center is significantly warmer makes me wonder what they're doing differently. That's all.

  • Reply 7 of 37
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by jsewell View Post

    I made no assertion about effort.

     

    You’re right. I apologize for the presumption.

     

    The fact that Apple's data center is significantly warmer makes me wonder what they're doing differently. That's all.


     

    Here’s a thought experiment: At what temperature could Apple’s farms run would they were still full of Xserve and Xserve RAID? 

  • Reply 8 of 37
    jsewell wrote: »
    I made no assertion about effort.

    You made an assertion about which data center was cooler. :)
  • Reply 9 of 37
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,571member

    I sometimes trade some solar stocks, like FSLR, SCTY etc., and I'm just wondering who built Apple's solar system. Does anybody know?

     

    Did Apple do it themselves, or was it contracted out?

  • Reply 10 of 37
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,066member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jsewell View Post

     

    Interesting that they're running their data centers at 103°F. I seem to recall Google runs their cold isles at 80°F, and that they arrived at that temperature through empirical guidance.


     

     

    er.. 'empirical guidance' could be shown to be that Apple are, and therefore can, run at 103°F.

  • Reply 11 of 37
    It doesn't matter if the equipment runs hotter and breaks - the have AppleCare!
  • Reply 12 of 37
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,118member
    This report is stunningly positive towards Apple- not something I expect from mainstream news.
  • Reply 13 of 37
    apple ][ wrote: »
    I sometimes trade some solar stocks, like FSLR, SCTY etc., and I'm just wondering who built Apple's solar system. Does anybody know?

    Did Apple do it themselves, or was it contracted out?

    SPWR did the system in North Carolina. I would know; I sold their stock at $3 and change...it's now up beyond $30. Doh!!!!
  • Reply 14 of 37
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,571member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cuencap View Post





    SPWR did the system in North Carolina. I would know; I sold their stock at $3 and change...it's now up beyond $30. Doh!!!!

     

    That's good to know, thanks for the info.

     

    And I know how you feel about getting out way too early on a stock. I wouldn't be lying if I said that I've made that mistake more than a few times myself.

  • Reply 15 of 37
    slurpy wrote: »
    This report is stunningly positive towards Apple- not something I expect from mainstream news.

    I guarantee at least one person in the newsroom uses an iPhone.

    Maybe even two.

    :)

    (I know owning Apple products shouldn't affect their journalistic integrity... I was just being silly)
  • Reply 16 of 37
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    1) Lots of positive news for Apple this week. I suspect even [@]Constable Odo[/@] is very pleased.

    2) I paused the video on the rack of routers to try to get a model number on them. Nothing, not even a brand. Could be all built-in house which is a reasonable assumption for such a massive DC, much less several massive DCs.
  • Reply 17 of 37
    Green energy? What is the 'carbon cost' for the land covered up by the solar panels?
    What was the 'carbon cost' of the workers who traveled to the site to install it?
    What was the 'carbon cost' of the workers who traveled to make the panels?
    What was the 'carbon cost' of the workers who traveled to get the raw materials for the panels?
    What was the 'carbon cost' of the machines that got the raw materials for the panels?
    What was the 'carbon cost' of the workers who travel to maintain the farm?
    When you add up all the 'carbon costs' for the whole support structure of society that still travel in gas guzzling cars and use gas guzzling truck and mining shovels to make these 'green energy' initiatives, how green is it really?

    Why doesn't the data facility have solar panels on that huge roof?
  • Reply 18 of 37
    jsewell wrote: »
    Interesting that they're running their data centers at 103°F. I seem to recall Google runs their cold isles at 80°F, and that they arrived at that temperature through empirical guidance. I wonder how Apple can run theirs 23 degrees warmer without suffering significant hardware failure.

    The ambient temperature can be higher if you've designed your hardware to allow the cooling air to easily get to the temperature-generating components. Essentially lower the thermal resistance...
  • Reply 19 of 37
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,241member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jsewell View Post

     

    I made no assertion about effort. Google arrived at an optimal temperature by disregarding conventional wisdom regarding electronics durability and conducting experiments. They determined that 80°F struck the right balance between hardware failure rates vs. cooling costs. The fact that Apple's data center is significantly warmer makes me wonder what they're doing differently. That's all.


     

    The trade-offs of introducing cooling to the environment adds a far heavier footprint to the cost of power at no measurable gain, when servers running at 103 degrees Fahrenheit vs. 83 degrees Fahrenheit is point less considering the systems are rated running, at full throttle, with temperatures far higher. In short, they've most likely tested the cost of power curve against the life span of a server and found no measured improvement of bringing down the temperature another 20 degrees, internally. The convective heat transfer systems that vent will also be different, depending on the design of their HVAC solutions and proper insulation.

  • Reply 20 of 37

    Why doesn't the data facility have solar panels on that huge roof?

    If the solar panels were on the roof they would be subject to higher wind gusts (remember NC is in hurricane country). Because of "ground effect" the panels mounted near the terrain will see far less air movement and be easier to service.
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