Apple Offers Peek Inside Nevada Data Centers

| Analysis

Apple has offered the outside world a rare look into at least one aspect of its business, the company's data centers and their use of renewable energy. The company had VP of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson give Wired reporter Steven Levy a tour of one of those facilities in Nevada.

Ms. Jackson was the Administrator of the EPA from 2009 until 2013, when she stepped down from the high profile position. In May of 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the D1 conference she was coming on board to help his company's environmental initiatives.

Mr. Levy’s piece offers a great look at how Ms. Jackson is working within Apple to resolve issues such as materials and packaging, and how the Apple campuses have 94 percent of their energy needs supplied by renewable energy, up from 35 percent in 2010.

This week it was also announced that more than 120 of Apple’s retail locations are also solely powered on renewable energy. That's no small feat since Apple generally leases that space, so getting landlords to "go green" is probably more involved than when Apple decides for its corporate self.

As data centers go, it is quite an illuminating piece about how seriously Apple is taking climate change and addressing concerns. I was particularly impressed by this quote:

No one can ever claim again you can’t have a data center that runs on 100 percent renewable. Once those proof points are out there, it makes it easier for policies to follow.

Mr. Levy also mentioned that the “cold aisle” is nearly 80 degrees. I’ve been in my share of server rooms, and as a general rule if you are in a server room above what is considered "room temperature," something has gone very very wrong. Perhaps Apple knows something other folks don't.

Seeing Apple’s progress on this front laid out by someone who is working on it, and proud of what’s been accomplished is a nice read. Also it seems clear this job is by no means finished, and it’s good to see Apple do what they do best, revise and refine and think outside the box.

This and the "Better" video both being released today make the cynical part of my brain go "Yeah yeah, Earth Day is tomorrow, I see what you did there Apple." The reality, though, is that I'm glad the company is trying, even if the announcement timing appears calculated.

You may remember the Greenpeace report card which showed Apple as one of the leaders in renewable energy and mentioned the strides being taken to go 100% clean energy, and the bit of news about how Apple bought a hydroelectric plant so even more of its energy was from renewable sources. Ms. Jackson has been pushing Apple on these issues, and is responsible for many of the company's recent environmental advances.

One other thing I wanted to mention: when I looked up Lisa Jackson's title, I could only find one other company with the same title, and that was Patagonia. There are a few "Environmental Affairs" VPs, but not many. I'm glad to see Apple is forward thinking, especially with its new campus. I hope it's a clear example for others to follow.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

On which operating system do these data centers run? I am sure that it is not OSX.

John Dingler, artist

Hi Lee,
I wish; Apple would have something additional to tout. That Apple does not means that it’s likely run on a competitor’s more scalable OS which, to me, seems to be a potential for embarrassment should Apple haters seize on the contradiction and promote it in their echochamber.

I heard Azure mentioned.

Lee Dronick

  I heard Azure mentioned.

Thanks.

I did a quick search and found this:

“Our data center environment consists of Mac OS X, IBM/AIX, Sun/Solaris, and Linux systems. Though this position is focused primarily on Red Hat Linux and Oracle Enterprise Linux, you should also understand SAN, RAID, file system, and IP networking technology.”

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/tale-of-two-data-center-strategies-apple-vs-facebook/50418

Kelly Guimont

I’m pretty sure it’s no secret that Apple’s server rooms aren’t full of Apple servers; Apple just doesn’t tend to advertise what *is* behind those doors. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s unlikely to be rooms full of rackmounted minis. smile

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