A revolution in cloud sustainability

By: David Kohnstamm - January 27, 2021 ~ 4 min read

The way the cloud is run in its current form is woefully outdated. Using a warehouse as a computer case is a relic from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s inefficient and it consumes a massive amount of energy. Cloud providers worldwide are in a battle to show increases in the efficiency of dumping their waste. None of them mention recycling waste energy, waste streams of their cloud hardware, or the impact of building data centers. It’s about incremental gains in efficiency and planting trees. 

What people have started to notice is that building more datacenters that gobble up all the available green energy is not the sustainable future they’re looking for. 

At Leafcloud we’re building a new type of cloud. We reuse waste energy and reuse existing infrastructure to house and cool our servers. All of it at a significantly lower cost per installed watt of server than a hyperscale cloud provider can do in a data center. This is the beginning of a completely new chapter in cloud systems cost and energy engineering.  

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Datacenters aren’t meant to be sustainable 

Datacenters currently don’t re-use significant amounts of energy. Massive datacenters are usually located outside of built-up area’s and as they are air-cooled, they cannot profitably store or transport the waste heat from the building. Additionally, they use air-conditioning to cool the building down, using extra energy that is then throw away. The best hyperscale datacenters in the world use around 18% extra energy to cool the servers, on top of the 100% to run the servers. The industry average datacenter uses 67% extra for cooling. 

Because of their data center-centric approach, cloud providers must run significant extra costs and development time to reuse the heat. Their core business has nothing to do with being sustainable and a lack of awareness has slowed demand for alternative solutions. Governments and datacenter owners are in a stalemate. Governments say: “start delivering the heat.” Datacenter owners say: “come pick it up.” Meanwhile, nothing changes. 

Leafcloud is a truly green cloud

The sustainability of our design rests on two key pillars: 

  1. Reuse heat to minimize energy waste 
  1. Reuse locations to minimize infrastructure waste 

By placing the servers in locations where the waste heat is a welcome resource, we get a free location and free cold, in exchange for free hot water. We currently reuse at least 50% of the energy we use in our leaf sites and use around 2% of the total IT power required (PUE 1.02) to transport the heat into the location. Compared to an efficient hyperscale datacenter this is 66% more efficient, compared to the worldwide average datacenter we are a whopping 108% more efficient.  

Our system at work: Eteck. 

In Eteck we’ve found a partner with locations that utilize hot water round the clock and would like to do so in a more sustainable way. Our unique hardware, consisting of a water-cooled rack in a dust-free industrial grade case, allows us to set up our servers in the build building’s boiler room. Cooling our servers with water instead of air is significantly more efficient. The water absorbs the heat, causing it to reach temperatures of 70°C. We pump the hot water into the boiler to be used in the building’s regular water cycle, saving the cost of having to heat it through conventional means. Reusing existing space and reusing the generated heat helps both parties reduce costs and reduces overall emissions.  

What it means 

The end-user of a cloud pays to have a virtual server, security, uptime, and services. They don’t care about how and where this server is placed, and a data center is a costly way to place a computer somewhere. Hyperscale datacenter cost around 7-12 dollars per Watt of installed server capacity, our edge solution is secure, costs 1-2 dollars per Watt, and can compete in uptime.  

Power required for heat worldwide still dwarfs the energy spent on the cloud and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Because we use hot water cooling, we can deliver up to 70°C water on location. This makes it possible to safely store the waste heat, greatly expanding the installation options to nearly every residential building, hotel, or other urban structure that uses hot water every day.

This is what we mean by a revolutionary step in cloud sustainability, by switching to Leafcloud we all have the ability to dramatically change the environmental impact of cloud going forward. 


David Kohnstamm

David Kohnstamm

David is our CEO, and hardware lead. With his experience in immersion cooling, he transforms server heat into a reusable resource.

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