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Published on April 21st, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans

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GTR: Green Web Hosting with Solar VPS

Solar VPS Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas’ Editor-in-Chief, talks with Ross Brouse, founder and owner of Solar Virtualization Technology Group (Solar VTG) and Solar VPS, about green web server hosting for personal and professional applications.

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Transcript

Sean
Daily:   Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from
greenlivingideas.com. Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to
lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors,
authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical
issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies,
products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area
of your life. Hey everybody, welcome to Green Talk. This is Sean Daily,
your host. And it’s good to be back. We were away for a little break
there and it’s good to be back at it.  I’m very happy to be talking
today on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, which is
web-hosting. And to talk with me about web-hosting is Ross Brouse. He
is the CEO of Solar Virtualization Technologies Group which also
includes Solar VPS, a very well regarded VPS. Ross and I will both
explain what that means into the program here. They are a VPS provider
and Solar VPS is very well regarded in terms of their service. And it’s
the company actually that greenlivingideas chose as their web host,
after much searching and a few false starts and so Ross is coming on
today to talk with me today about greening your web server hosting for
businesses and also for individuals. So Ross, first of all welcome to
the program.

Ross Brouse:  Thank you for having me.

Sean Daily:   It’s my pleasure. You and I have know each other for a
while now and we’ve been talking about…the reason that I was really
excited to have you on this program was that you have a lot of
excitement yourself around ideas and concepts and issues with regards
to going green with computing technologies in general but also within
your specific bailiwick, which is web-hosting and VPS servers. Now,
some of these things are very important because I think the typical set
up that business often do in web hosting is they buy on price, which is
understandable especially in this economy, but I think that the
cheapest thing isn’t always sort of the greenest option and I know that
a lot of companies, whether or not they go green internally in the
company they often outsource their web hosting to a company such as
yours and maybe they don’t have any control over that. So sometimes
these companies say things like “we’re buying wind credits” or “we’re
buying offsets. So we’re green.”  And I think it’s important to go a
little deeper than that to understand the issues. Why don’t we start
with your background? What brought you into Solar VTG and then Solar
VPS and tell us about your experiences in the data center that sort of
illuminated these issues for you.

Ross:     I began with
solar after working in IT for quite a while doing various jobs. Design,
development, technical support and basically I was just very centered
around IT services and it was something that interested me a lot. When
I began Solar it was with a very small amount of capital to begin with
and I needed to leverage a very small amount of capital to grow the
business very rapidly. What I’d worked around in the past a lot was
dedicated server companies. If you know anything about dedicated server
companies, as far as the budget dedicated goes, low end machines,
sometimes a hard drive that’s been used many times over and really it’s
all about, from the company’s perspective, getting as much money out of
a piece of hardware as you possibly can and not really looking at
things from the back end. And it’s very costly, not only in terms of
the customer’s standpoint but it’s very costly from the company’s
standpoint. There’s very little automation in their business processes.
Anyway, it was a business model I knew wasn’t going to work for me. And
I began Solar around the idea of virtualization and that’s really how
it got started. There was definitely from the beginning an effort to be
green, in terms of the type of services we were offering…

Sean:     If you don’t mind me, I just want to butt in there for a
second.  For people that are listening that aren’t familiar with what
virtualization technologies are. A lot of people I think think that
when you rent a web host, or a website you get your own box, your own
server somewhere. That’s a nice illusion.  It’s like when the kid’s dog
goes off to live on a farm for the rest of their childhood. But I think
the truth lies somewhere else. Which is that you mention that a lot of
older computers are used when they do that but that actually what’s
happening a lot of times is there’s shared hosting where a lot of
people together are sharing one server, which is actually kind of a
cool, green thing but it doesn’t suit the needs of most businesses who
need to have their own server or at least the auspices of that in terms
of bandwidth. So it needs to be a fast machine that can deal with a lot
of traffic for a business that’s growing or a popular blog or something
like that. Give us your succinct definition, if you would, of what
virtualization is all about.

Ross:     Well obviously you brought up there’s the whole idea of
shared web hosting which is what I think most people are familiar with.
And that’s something that I, in my personal opinion caters more toward
the personal user. Like you said, businesses do often times need their
own infrastructure separate of other people, and so that’s why they go
for the dedicated servers. Virtualization is sort of a step in between,
but in my opinion it’s actually a step away from dedicated servers as
well.  What it is it’s just a dedicated server that runs a software
application layer on top of the dedicated server and it virtualizes
that dedicated server into many smaller virtual machines or [??] that
basically work just like a dedicated server would. So from the
customers’ perspective they’re getting pretty much the same thing at a
fraction of the cost. But they’re also getting a lot more. If you’re
talking about the budget dedicated market, from a company’s perspective
it’s all about price. Selling the cheapest possible thing, getting the
cheapest possible thing. With virtualization it’s not like that at all.
In fact, we bundle things like managed services, we give them software
tools that allows them to do automated back-ups, monitoring of their
actual server, have redundancy built into place that they would never
get for that price point on a dedicated server platform. So to a lot of
people it really exists as a jumping point between shares dedicated.
But we’re actually seeing a swing back from people that are saying
“Listen we don’t need a dedicated server. We’re realizing how great
virtualization is as the technology progresses and we’d like to get rid
of our dedicated servers and virtualize everything.”

Sean:     It’s very cool technology and I think it’s a great way to
optimize the computing resources. We have these massively fast powerful
computers these days and it’s really cool to be able to run multiple,
virtual computers on one machine in a way that improves stability and
sort of optimizes the performance on each machine, because there’s a
lot of wasted computing resources that happen, I know, on your typical
server. So I’m curious now. So we have some underpinnings here for
greener technology solutions, which also happen to be just what makes
sense financially. Tell us what attracted you to the green community,
specifically green computing, green efforts, within regards to IT
industry.

Ross:     Well obviously, I don’t know if you’ve ever been inside
one of these data facilities but they’re kind of a scary place. They’re
full of noise, air conditioning, servers, fans. You can walk behind a
rack that’s full of servers and there’s all this hot air blowing out at
you. You can look at this whole facility and say this is using a huge
amount of power. And they do. They do use an enormous amount of power.
When you think about your average data facility now, one of the data
facilities that we use, in my personal opinion, is a smaller data
facility. And they have roughly about 4000 servers in the actual
facility. Now each one of these servers is probably using one or two
hard drives, many of them are using one or more processors. All of
these things are taking an enormous amount of power to run. The average
power supply for a new dedicated server these days is in upwards of 500
watts. So when you multiply that across 4000, 5000 servers you’re
talking about an enormous amount of power draw. What really attracted
me is, because being in the IT services industry, I knew that I really
had a responsibility to do something about this and say, “Listen.
There’s got to be a better way to perform services for people and to
provide them with hosting without using so much power across our
infrastructure.” And we developed what we’re offering now in our green
offerings now by doing a lot of research into what some of these
companies like Intel and Western Digital are doing to reduce power
consumption from their specific components like processors and hard
drives. One of the things that we ran into when we were doing some
research into hard drives was this green power hard drive that Western
Digital offers. Now these aren’t always the best for what we offer in
terms of virtualization notes because in order to run many small
virtual instances it requires a lot of actual hard drive power. But
these are great for internal machines; they’re great for stand alone
dedicated servers, if you have to go that way. And they use far less
power; I think it’s something like 30% less power than your average
hard drive. And according to Western Digital that equates to taking
your car off the road each year for 14 days. Which is fairly
significant when you consider the number of hard drives that are
running, not only in our data facilities, but in people’s homes, in
their actual computers.  Just the math based on those 4000 servers, if
you took an entire data facility and put those hard drives in all of
those servers it would be the equivalent of taking 115 cars off the
road for a single year.

Sean:     Interesting. Now is that something that you think is going
to be an industry wide change or is Western Digital…are other people
following into that markets or is it still sort of a fringe product?

Ross:     It is to a certain extent because I think some people
haven’t either had the money or wanted to adopt or buy into the green
efforts. But I think these companies are really making a push for this.
I think companies like Western Digital, Seagate and Intel are really
beginning to understand how important it is to push these efforts. If
you go to either one of their websites you’ll read about the things
that they’re doing to become more environmentally conscious with their
products. Obviously they’re not getting rid of their legacy products
that aren’t green or certified as green, but they’re putting a very
heavy push on their new green products, and I think it’s great.

Sean:     Okay, that’s westerndigital.com, for anybody listening in.
Although that’s not who I have on the podcast with me but as long as
we’re mentioning it I want to make sure people know the website. We’re
going to take a quick break and then we’re going to be back with Ross
Brouse who is the CEO of Solar Virtualization Technologies Group and
solarvps.com. And we will be right back with Green Talk Radio.

Sean:     Okay and we are back talking about greening your business
and personal web server hosting solutions and I’m talking with Ross
Brouse who is the CEO of Solar Virtualization Technologies Group and
Solar VPS. Ross, when we left we were just talking about the
underpinnings in data centers and in servers that can make them
greener. We got as far as hard drives. What are some of the other
things that people should be looking for in terms of their web hosting
companies and the equipment that they’re using for the web hosts?

Ross:     Well the main components obviously with anything in terms
of a virtualization server or a dedicated server, or even a shared
hosting server would be your hard drives, your RAM and your processors,
because these are the things that are requiring the most amount of
power. We’ve addressed each one of these components with our new
offerings. Obviously as I mentioned before, we’re using hard drives
that spin at either a lower spindle speed and reduce power
significantly but we’re also using new Intel low voltage processors
that actually reduce power consumption from about 35% to 60%. Generally
what you’ll find today in new servers, is processors that run between
80 and 120 watts per CPU. Ours use 50. So that’s a significant savings
in terms of, not only cost for us, but CO2 emission as it equates to
CO2 emission with our actual power draw.

Sean:     For the technology enthusiasts in the audience, what are
some of the processors, the newer processors, the names that Intel
gives them? They have all their clever little names for all their
products. Can you tell us some of the ones that are better and greener?

Ross:     Well, what they’re doing right is the latest processor
lines are called the Clover Town and Harbor Town, which are the 5300
and 5400 series. The processors we use are the Clover Town 5300 series
and Intel makes a 1.8 gigahertz quad core CUP, called the L5320 which
is their local [??] line and that is the actual processor that consumes
only 50 watts. I think there are some naysayers that will tell you that
this is a performance hit. But I think when you balance things across
your services and you set things up properly and you use the proper
technologies, there isn’t any performance hit at all. In fact
comparatively speaking, the servers that we used before we moved to
these, our performance has gone up significantly. It’s much better than
it previously was. So I’m very happy to be using these components and I
don’t see any performance hit in them at all.

Sean:     That’s great. I came to your company, from Green Living
Ideas we were brought to you based on your very notable, very good,
positive reputation on places like Web Hosting Talk and other web
server, web master forums that I frequent. And that’s how we found out.
But as I got to talk to you more I was excited to hear about the Solar
Green initiative that you were putting together. And that was one of
the reasons that I wanted to bring you on the program to share this
information with our listeners. Can you tell us about, also internally,
as a company, Solar VPS and Solar VPG, I understand you guys run on
completely green computing practices? How have you made that work for
both you and your employees of the company?

Ross:     Well, with our Solar Green initiative we have three goals
that power that initiative. Those are reducing customer energy
consumption, reducing our internal company energy consumption and
supporting green efforts in our community. In terms of our customer
energy consumption, this really equates to our green product offerings.
And this is the best way for us to put these green tools in the hands
of our customers is by offering them green certified products. It’s
very difficult, obviously, for us to get into their specific offices
and get them to reduce their power consumption but I think through our
offerings we can send them the message that says, “Listen. This is
important and by buying one of these you’re helping to support these
efforts.” So that’s really important in terms of our customer energy
consumption. For our company energy consumption this really is cool
because it really exists around how we run this business. We don’t have
a central home office that we work from. In fact we work from several
offices in various places around the globe. Our whole company
infrastructure is virtualized in the way we work and communicate and
even offer our products. So this really equates to a lot of energy
savings. There’s very little commuting amongst any of the people that
work for the company. Many of the people that do commute use public
transportation to get to and from the office and many of us are just
telecommuters so we actually work from offices built right into our
homes. And this is really great because it allows us to spend m ore
time with our families and really just have a higher quality of life.
Down to the servers that we use in our offices and the tools that we
use to communicate with one another, it’s really just an internal
effort to become more green and to become more virtualized and that’s
the second goal.

Sean:     Another use of this term, virtualization, this is a
virtualization of the office and the business. Talking about
virtualization of the servers and I just want to clarify the
terminology. But it’s the same term applied two different ways. And I
totally agree with you, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to virtualize
a business like that, to be able to run a business but to not have to
do the traditional going into the office and getting in your
gas-guzzling car and being away from your family, all of these things.
Creating an artificial environment for the business versus everybody
being able to have a higher quality of life and working from home.
Green Living Ideas is run the exact same way and you and I realized
that on our calls, we’re living very similar existences with regards to
our businesses. I’m curious about, what are some of the technologies
that you guys have employed to facilitate virtualization of the office.
Obviously you have to do it, because of the international scope, as you
mentioned, you have offices all over the world. Tell us about some of
the technologies and software and such that you’re employing to make
that happen.

Ross:     Well we are platinum partners of [???] who is formerly
FWSoft and we leverage a lot of their server based software to power
our business. In fact most of the areas of our business are powered by
their software, including their virtuoso software and their automation
software. And we really use this to our advantage because we’ve
virtualized our desktops, we’ve connected our networks through VPN, we
use voice over IP telephone systems that allow us to talk for unlimited
at no cost. We’ve built in teleconferencing, video conferencing, we
stay connected to each other very well, even when we’re out on the go.
Every member of our company is enabled with a Blackberry that allows us
to communicate no matter where we are and it’s just really wonderful to
be able to work like that and it’s really translated to excellent
customer service and we’ve been able to maintain our high level of
customer service because we work this way.

 

Sean:     That’s great. We use iPhones, but same thing. Whatever you
choose it’s being able to have…we finally have these products that can
do email decently, can actually surf the web in a real way, and can
keep you in touch with IM and obviously phone and voice over IP is a
huge enabling technology behind this. Being able to communicate over a
phone-type communication over the internet, which has been around a
while but again, I think it’s one of these things where it’s really
gotten to the main-stream and gotten to be functional enough for a
business to use whereas maybe five years ago, using voice over IP, you
were spending a lot of money and it wasn’t maybe sounding so great and
now it’s fairly readily available. I want to give a plug to a company
that we use, and I have no financial relationship with them, except for
spending money with them, we use a product called Ring Central.
Ringcentral.com. It’s great for small businesses that want to be able
to do voice over IP and communicate with their employees. So something
to check out for our listeners out there. We’re going to take one more
break and then we’re going to be back with Ross Brouse, who is the CEO
of Solar Virtualization Technologies Group and Solar VPS who are the
founders of Solar Green initiative that they employ in their hosting
center and we’re talking about greening your web server hosting. We’ll
be right back on Green Talk radio. This is Sean Daily.

Sean:     We are back. We are talking about greening your web server
hosting. I’m talking with Ross Brouse who is the CEO of Solar
Virtualization Technologies Group. Ross, before the break we were just
talking about a lot of things, technology stuff and quality of life
stuff and I wanted to ask you about all of these tools and methods that
have allowed you as a company to become green and facilitated your
customers in going greener with their web hosting through the Solar
Green initiative. How do you plan on continuing your efforts to spread
this initiative and going green as a small business?

Ross:     Obviously we’re sending a message with our Solar Green
initiative…In my specific opinion, both my parents were educators and
so I really believe in the importance of education in getting that
message out there. We’re taking on some new initiatives to go out and
speak about this, to work with other online groups to promote the ideas
and to partner with companies such as Green Living Ideas to really get
the message out there about the importance of the green effort,
especially with regards to the [??] market and the IT services
industry. There’s just so much that needs to be done here. And that can
be done here. And I think there really will be more and more support as
time goes on from customers and vendors and other small businesses to
really push these ideas. This isn’t just limited to our companies. I
think this message actually applies to our personal lives as well. And
that’s one of the great things about Green Living Ideas talks about how
that all equates to your personal life. And really demonstrating to
companies that it’s more than just becoming more environmentally
conscious. It’s about becoming more successful in terms of your
business and in terms of the people who work with you, providing them
with a better quality of life by enabling them with these technologies,
enabling them and showing them that virtualization and working in these
virtual spaces can be so highly effective to company productivity and
to just being more conscious about the whole green initiative.

Sean:     And I think you’re really a great case-study for that.
You’re a guy who’s built a very successful business online with all of
this customer service and the communication on a global level. And you
and I have talked about the quality of life with the family and
spending time with you’re managing that balancing act as well and I
think that’s a real trick. So whether you’re a business out there
that’s listening in, talking about, “Well. I just want to make sure
that part of our web hosting is greener and such” or if you’re looking
at these technologies and concepts in terms of improving quality of
life, there are so many benefits available from doing these things. So
I really appreciate it. I think you’re a real visionary in this
industry and I appreciate your coming on the program today and sharing
your viewpoint with our listeners. Is there anything else you’d like to
leave our listeners with today?

Ross:     I’d just like to say that obviously we all have a
responsibility to take on these green ideas and these green initiatives
and to push them. Especially as small business owners. And I think for
anybody who’s listening that is an entrepreneur like myself that they
should really take these ideas to heart and look at what’s being done
today, especially in the small business market, and look at some of
these options and some of these software tools and really see how they
can make these work effectively for their businesses because I think
the more people like myself that do this, the quicker this message will
get out and the sooner a lot of these things will improve.

Sean:     And I think it is, for a lot of people, I think it’s just
the lack of information about the products and the services, the
technologies that are available and also hearing stories from people
like you that have been doing this and making it work, both on a
business and personal level. Again, very much appreciate your coming on
the program Ross, look forward to talking to you more in the future and
much luck with the Solar Green initiative.

Ross:     Thanks so much Sean.

Sean:     My guest today has been Ross Brouse, CEO of Solar
Virtualization Technologies Group and Solar VPS. You can find them
online at solarvps.com. This is Sean Daily for Green Talk radio signing
off. Thanks everyone.

 





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