Cloudflare TV

🌐 Building and managing a sustainable fleet

Presented by Annika Garbers, May Ma, Rebecca Weekly
Originally aired on 

Welcome to Cloudflare Impact Week 2022!

Cloudflare's mission is to help build a better Internet. We believe a better Internet can be not only a force for good, but an engine of global sustainability. This week we'll be highlighting an array of initiatives inspired by these optimistic ideals, as well as stories from partners who share them.

In this episode, tune in for a conversation with Cloudflare Rebecca Weekly, May Ma, and Annika Garbers.

Tune in all week for more news, announcements, and thought-provoking discussions!

Read the blog posts:

For more, don't miss the Cloudflare Impact Week Hub

Impact Week

Transcript (Beta)

And we're live. Hello and welcome to Cloudflare TV. My name is Annika and I'm on the product team here at Cloudflare.

So excited to be joined by my colleagues, Rebecca and me to talk through some of the really exciting announcements and content that just came out on the Cloudflare blog today as part of Impact Week.

Impact Week is one of Cloudflare signature Innovation Weeks, where we announce a bunch of new products and initiatives around a central theme.

And Impact Me specifically is actually really special because it's focused on cloud players, ESG efforts, and how we're helping build a more private, more sustainable, more equitable Internet.

Today, specifically out of Impact Week, I'm even more excited about than usual because it's focused on sustainability in May.

And Rebecca and I today are going to be talking about Cloudflare focus on sustainability for hardware.

There's two new blogs out today about hardware and sustainability.

One focus on Cloudflare's own practices and then one also on how we're partnering to make sustainable end of life practices for hardware available for our end customers in an easier fashion.

And so let's start with Cloudflare and then move to how we're helping our customers out.

And we'll wrap up at the end with some resources that you can use. Rebecca, I'd love to start with you first, maybe an intro actually, before we jump into the content.

Who are you? What do you do at Cloudflare?

Hi, I'm Rebecca Weekly.

I build systems.

I build hardware systems for our network here at Cloudflare.

I have the engineering team for building all of our servers, whether it's compute storage and also on the network side.

So super fun, Great, amazing team that I am so honored to be a part of.

And I get to work very closely with Mae, who is on our partnerships and sourcing site.


And you published a blog on the Cloudflare blog today about how Cloudflare thinks about sustainability for hardware and what we're doing to continuously improve.

There's lots of aspects in this. Let's actually break them down a little bit.

I heard kind of two themes in your blog about embodied emissions versus operational emissions of hardware.

Tell us about what those mean.

What the difference is between them and how we think about them.


So at a super high level and there's not been the best analysis done there, I quoted one that I think is very good from Dell, but there's more work that still needs to be done in this domain.

Full caveat, but there's about six tons of carbon dioxide equivalent that is embodied in a server.

And that really is both aspects that you just talked about, right?

Both the embodied carbon emissions, the logistical elements packing, shipping and then the use of the product.

And interestingly enough, and this is maybe just my nerdy self, there is an interesting aspect of the use of servers relative to, let's say, desktops or client devices like phones is actually more efficient than those other devices.

There's lots of reasons for that.

It's just the rate at which the battery lives, the this that, that we consume our server life tends to be longer.

We amortize that carbon and we tend to optimize with larger core counts.

And over the lifetime versus again, when you're trying to optimize battery life, you're going to use fewer cores, you're going to be a little more optimal to that footprint, but not as optimal in your embodied carbon.

So servers are actually a little further ahead of the game than some of our other partners in the ice domain.

That being said, we are on a mission to hunt for every single electron and use it efficiently.

So the embodied emissions is really about how do we make sure everything that goes into our server design is as optimal as possible.

And that's really through reducing our actual new components in every server.

So I talk a lot about modularity and tried to give some analogies, like imagine you can have a car and you're going to upgrade the engine because the engine is what's going to be as efficient as possible and give you the best.

Maybe, maybe you decide to go electric and you can retrofit a car and that old cool Porsche is now suddenly electric.

That's a way that you can think of like taking the frame, the windows, the everything else that's still working and maybe classic and beautiful that also can still be better for the environment.

So modularity in a super high level is kind of trying to do that.

Take the parts of the server that need to be upgraded for efficiency reasons, only upgrade those, leverage everything else as long as possible.

And then the other element which may is going to talk about more and talks about a lot in the blog with you is really about making sure we're using open source solutions for the management of our servers so that when we go into a second life option so that the circular economy can leverage and amortize that embodied carbon over a longer period of time, that's done in a way that the economics work out for the secondary party.

Who's taking ownership and support?

Of that server if there's a bunch of.

Service fees on top and fees for the software.

On top, it starts to become like, okay, now this is a bad idea and more things end up in a landfill if it's quite economical because they're using open source support.

More and more people are getting into that game and we're definitely seeing that there's more and more players that are getting involved in doing recycling of these options so that we aren't shipping our servers into landfills.

So that's kind of the embody part.

And then obviously for servers, 90% is use.

So making sure we're doing the most efficient use case analysis and using the most efficient architectures for our workloads.

So that might be anything from leveraging maybe a less performant per core processor, but one that's more efficient in the power per request per second.

So we did a great blog on our use of ARM servers and peer based servers in our data center to increase our efficiency.

We also are using and we did a blog post earlier in the year about using stream accelerators, accelerating our stream service, leveraging hardware acceleration because it's one where we can get we'd have to use 20 servers or we can use one with a couple of accelerator cards.

So these are areas where we are constantly looking for just better efficiencies so that we are serving a greener Internet.

That's awesome.

So I heard a bunch of stuff in there that is specifically really interesting, I think.

So your understanding of embodied versus operational emissions embodied is like this is the carbon that was emitted as a part of the process to create the server in the first place.

So you've got a server sitting in your data center.

How much or what amount of carbon emissions was outputted as a process of getting that to happen?

And then you're saying this concept of modularity is reducing the number of new components that you need to put in order to continue to drive the efficiency that you need and keep the hardware up to date, but then make sure that you're not having to replace parts that don't necessarily need to be replaced yet.

So that's keeping the footprint of embodied low.

And then on the operational side, how do we get more out of every electron that we're using, assuming that we still have to use energy in some places that is empowered by a sustainable grid, yet That's awesome.

What is there anything specific that you are excited about around Cloudflare Projects or are focus in either of these areas that embody parts or the operational parts of carbon efficiency for our network?

I mean, all of it, but I'm a total nerd and so these things are exciting to me.

Maybe not for all humans.

No, In general, I mean.

That's what started putting this in a perfect world.

You see amazing outcomes, not just because they're good for people, but also because they're elegant and improved solutions.

What I am so grateful for, what I'm so happy about is that building a sustainable network is just good economics.

It actually makes everything better.

So I haven't had any trouble.

Every partner I work with here at Cloudflare, every service is like, Wait, we can make this more efficient.

Like, yes, that's how we serve the Internet better.

So I'm so excited for the culture I get to be a part of and the openness to that and I am glad that I feel truly, honestly, we are serving our customers better and our earth better.

And there's it's not a trade off conversation.

It's there's no either or.

It's like an and yay, yay.

Ants are really exciting.

So that's probably like the simplest response to explicitly what I'm excited about.

Yeah, cool.

And I love that you mentioned our customers. I think that's a good segue too, because we care about sustainability, but our customers also do and we get questions from customers all the time about our own practices.

But then we actually also even want to go beyond that, right, beyond just building the most sustainable network that we can and figure out how we can actually help customers not just love the benefits of our products, but also extend that into their own infrastructure and make more sustainable choices for their network.

So one of the most obvious ways that our customers can do that and there's I think another blog and another popular TV session on this day is by using Cloudflare Services, by leveraging everything from our WEB APPLICATION FIREWALL to heat mitigation to Zero Trust.

The full suite of services that Cloudflare has are primarily alternatives to traditional hardware based approaches for customers would deploy their own infrastructure, their own hardware, appliances in data centers or headquarters or office branches to do these functions and more appliances that are out there doing the work kind of spread out in this way.

Using power by virtue of just being on means a higher impact and a higher energy use for those functions versus with cloud players approach, because we've got this sort of multi tenancy where we can serve multiple customers and their use cases from one higher efficiency server, the impact to customers and their ultimate carbon emissions from using our services or our cloud based services effectively to do that work instead of their own is one way that they can make an impact.

But there's also more of them.

There's many more, and many wrote a blog post today that's about one of those.

And the way that we're partnering to help customers achieve that specifically focused on end of life for hardware boxes.

Before we get into that, actually, I would love to talk about the beginning of life and then maybe the middle of life or for people that aren't familiar to me.

I would love to just walk through like, what is the lifecycle of a hardware box generally look like, start to finish and maybe even before that, introduce yourself.

What do you do at Cloudflare? Sure.

Okay. My name is Mae and I'm a global supply manager portal and being part of the hardware Sourcing and Partnerships team, sitting with the infrastructure department of Cloudflare.

So the story of where I come into the cloud and what I do here is I joined Cloudflare about two years ago during the whole pandemic time.

So there are two key things happen during pandemic.

One is majority of the locations are in lockdown, people are started working from home.

There's a huge demand for Internet services and there is generally quite a lot of business to Cloudflare and we have to increase our capacity in the infrastructure team.

And the other thing is also because of pandemic, there is a travel restrictions and we no longer can travel our internal engineers to different locations, different expansions and creating capacity.

So we more and more so leverage on external parties to provide their local engineering resources, help us executing the tasks in our and facilities.

Because being an organization with hundreds of pops all across 100 plus locations, it's just impossible to have our own team sitting in each one of those locations.

So we have to rely on the services and partnerships from external partners and that's where I came into the picture.

So my key responsibility in my team is to help, for example, Rebecca's teams and other teams sitting with the infrastructure to leverage our external partners, technology people and processes to help us scale faster and better and meet our goals, business goals and increasing capacities at a speed where we can meet the demands from our end customers.

So that's who I am.

And let's talk about the lifecycle of hardware, as you just mentioned, in the context of the ascent of facility.

If I can just use one specific example here, taking server as one example for in Cloudflare Calls place of our server is coming from the factory line of our original design manufacturers headquarter in Asia and through the factory lines, all the components will be assembled into the motherboard and do a validation test and then be packaged and shipped to destinations which will be one of our facilities.

And then the server will be received and in store in the rack and.

Service or endorse service period for a server or how box and aren't you the end of it?

Then we would decide depends on what kind of decision the business make.

They would then decide on. Decommission them and dispose of dispose of the hardware piece once it's outdated or consider as end of the life.

And typically in the traditional sense when most of business thinking.

Economy and a supply chain very linear fashion.

They would think that's the end of it.

The end of whole story of the entire hardware, right?

You go for physical destruction, you become a part of a landfill.

But what we're talking about here, there are actually more sustainable options we can do and create this circular effect to retain any values on the tables from, you know, residual values on how we're at an end stage.

And also it will become have a less kind of harmful effect on our environment because electronics tend to have different kind of elements such as lead and mercury, which would have devastating.

That was a really harmful effect on our environment.

And we want to, as a very socially responsible business, we want to minimize the effect on our environment and create more sustainable, sustainable outcome here.

So that's essentially what I'm what our blog is about. And I'm very excited to be on the TV and talk about it.


So in the blog, you walk through some of those different options for more sustainable end of life.

Can you break those down?

I think there are maybe three categories like ReMarket or Recycle and then destroy, which I guess is the least sustainable option.

But can you break down what each of those look like?

Yeah, of course.

So let's talk about remarketing and recycle.

First, remarketing.

The remarketing.

I guess most of people quite familiar with, because many of people have this kind of experience with their consumer products where potentially you sell your used items on eBay and that is already considered as selling your use products in the second hand market.

And that's what remarketing is about.

We're selling the end stage of ours, which is still working.

It's not broken to whoever parties might still want it and want to continue using it and to in order to do that, what we need to do as a responsible business is to, first of all, sanitize the they have on the hardware.

So to prevent any breaches or violation of security policies.

And then in this case, we engage our third parties professionally, wipe all the data and do refurbishment and repurposing and resell to second market, reclaim any residual value from our piece.

So that is considered as remarketing and second method, which is recycling.

Professionally speaking, many of the organizations doesn't really have skill set and knowledge as to how to recycle their how where such as server.

What we also do is individual third party come in and basically strip the servers or housewares of any precious metals or recycling materials such as plastic before they actually send for put up for physical destruction and become part of landfills.

And all those recycling material, well then become the input of the manufacturing line and it will reduce the amount of raw materials we have the extra from Mother Earth products to the end customers.

So those are the two different methods.

And we what we talk about the last one, which is distraction that is very simple, is pretty much wipe all the data and then eventually all the physical do a physical destruction and become part of the landfill.

The downside of doing that is, first of all, you're leaving the money on the table.

You didn't really claim any residual values from most how we're like what we mentioned.

Second of all, you would have harmful effect on environment. The last but not least in my potentially create any they have bridges.

If you didn't really wipe the data very clean from those devices.

Yeah, it makes sense.

And so this kind of ties into again, where you sit at Cloudflare and working with our partners.

It sounds like that process of doing either of those first two options, maybe destroying is the easiest.

You have somebody on your team do their best to wipe the data off and you chuck the server in the trash.

That's not the good option.

So tell us about what kind of partners we work with and the types of work that they do to those first two options the remarket and the recycle in a responsible and holistic way.


So in color, other than that, they have bearing devices such as SSD, which we stand for this destruction for security reasons.

The rest of the I.T.

Decommission devices, how we're servers, networking devices, 99% of it are actually recycled or remarket and we leverage on one of the partners which is called Iron Mountain.

Their own name is I.t.

Renew and they just recently market it and people refer them as Iron mountain after acquisition happened last year.

The reason why we work with Iron Mountain, there are mostly three different points.

The first one is they have decades of experience working with hyperscale technology and the US centers, so they are really good partners.

For someone who is new into how we're recycling journey, to be able to guide you through the entire process.

And second part of all is they have really massive footprint all across the group, which is sort of similar to where our business is.

We have so many data centers all across the world and it is more cost effective and efficient to engage your partner who have those warehouses and the I.T processing facilities will be able to engage locally to have how we received and processed in their facility safely.

The point is that because I mountain has so many customers and they have such a high volume of remarketing items, this enables them to provide really good insight into the use market.

For example, they can guide you through what are the what are the models of how would price higher or lower in the next couple of months.

So for customers who doesn't really care about the credit timeline, which is.

Quickly set physical assets, but all you want to do is just gather most remarkable value from you, how we're used, how we're then I amount and be able to provide you with a bit of guidance and advice to tell you.

When would it be the best time to actually sell your use to equipments and that maximize the return of investment we have in our physical assets as well.

So those are the three different reasons why we start using Iron Mountain to win you from beginning of the journey.

And we definitely recommend that to our new customer, to any new customers or customers who are reading our blogs want to try out their services to actually engage them and start using their services for their how we're recycling journey.

Yeah, that's so great to hear.

It sounds like they've been an awesome partner for us.

And one other thing I was thinking about is you were talking about their global footprint and their ability to do local processing of this hardware.

And all the places where we have data center presence is, I could imagine, shipping boxes.

The alternate right would be like, there's maybe one location where we could do all of this processing and that requires us to then get that decommissioned hardware and the hardware that's ready for decommissioning to that location, which is introducing additional carbon emissions just in the process of trying to recycle or remarket the hardware in the first place.

So I can imagine just being able to offer those services locally, not only more convenient for the team, but more sustainable because you're having to move product not as far across the world in order to get access to the services.

So that's great too.

So we wrote a blog about a partnership.

So we work with Iron Mountain for our own hardware.

We wrote this blog about how our customers can also work with them.

Can you break that down?

What's Cloudflare doing in partnership with Iron Mountain to make it easier or more accessible for our customers or more beneficial for them to choose sustainable end of life options for their hardware.


Absolutely. So we want to provide some financial enticing incentives to our end customers, whoever read our blogs and modify our email services to be able to engage and start embark on our recycling journey.

So there are couple benefits towards the partnerships we have announced.

Blog So if you're interested in their services, you can click on the link in the blog and site on sign up, complete the form over there and sign up with Iron Mountain, and we then would send a representative to engage you and understand what is your business needs and consult you.

What would it be the best solutions for for your power conversion requirements?

And in addition to that, that web page, that link is dedicated to Cloudflare to this blog only.

So once you sign up with their business and try to, there are two additional benefits which we sort of like collaborate with Iron Mountain to provide to our customers.

Just first one is that if you remarket your use how we items, one of the key commercials is how much would be the split of the revenue coming from selling those user equipment between you and also Iron Mountain.

And if you sign up three blocks, you would get two additional points on the revenue share percentage, which you are going to get buy resell, all those equipments.

The second benefit is that for other ITD conversion services which you are going to use, such as what you mentioned earlier, and that they have to logistically the hardware from one location, the customer facilities all the way to their facilities, all those comes in as a costs.

We provide 5% discount on any services you consume with Iron Mountain really to how we decommission services.

So those are the benefits which we are very excited to announce in the blog and we hope that will entice our customer to embark on this journey together with us and with I want.

That is so great to hear.

So if you are a Cloudflare customer, you can go to the Cloudflare blog, read about our partnership with Iron Mountain, learn about hardware decommissioning in general, and then if you're interested in those services, there's a discount for some percentage of them and then you get more money back from the remarket option, if that's what you decide to go with for your hardware.

So sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

really cool.

Okay. Great overview.

So we talked about Cloudflare and how we think about sustainability for our hardware.

We talked about our customers and our partnership with Iron Mountain to make that a more accessible and more exciting option.

Any sort of wrap up source either from you or Rebecca stuff you're excited about in this space, things that you think will maybe be looking into in the future, just good feel of things.

To kind of end this note on.

I think we just got a couple of minutes left.


I'll just jump in on the hardware side. I think this is such an interesting time.

We've been focused on the sustainability of servers for our entire run.

We are very globally exposed because of our footprint to the dynamic nature of power pricing everywhere.

And so we've always had these commercial concerns.

But I would say in the industry, I've never seen a time where everybody is as engaged and looking at the options to improve our footprint, our operations, any any of that as now.

So and maybe that is the situation that's happening in Europe and everything that's happening with global rising prices.

Some locations are experiencing 500 to 800% increases in costs for power served.

And we all still want to serve the Internet well. We also want to make sure we're servicing our customers well.

We can't pass along 800% increases in prices, so we want to make sure we're doing the best things for our network and serving all of our communities.

And I think what's interesting about that as an industry is that when you have that tipping point, when enough people are actually hammering on things, the quality, the services, the capabilities, the global reach of the providers doing recycling that May was mentioning, as well as the modular solutions.

If I had said I want modularity two years ago in my server footprint, I would have seen a catalog from an ODM or an OEM that showed their interoperability with different CPU providers.

You could buy one server from them and you could use different CPUs.

Now we're starting to see standards being driven across Odms and this is partially the global supply challenges that we've had.

This is partially the sheer number of new solutions coming in to market and that the OEMs themselves can't afford to do new designs for every single new CPU and every single new CPU and every single name.

Your favorite flavor of cool variety, golden age of hardware stuff that's coming out.

So there's this like wonderful synergy of the economics, the situation. And it is a time from a recessionary perspective that I know a lot of people are very, very concerned, but it is actually creating this fantastic sort of confluence of doing the right thing is the best thing for our industry, and that is meaning that we have even more options now than we had five years ago for more power efficient processors, more power efficient accelerators, ecosystems that are built on open software so that they're easier to adopt.

You're seeing innovation in the open source software community where it's helping people understand the footprint of their processes.

You're certainly seeing that innovation to your point earlier, Anika, within our services to help people understand you can do it this way or this way and this is greener like it's your call, you know, we'll help you do whatever you want.

But we're seeing all of these service providers give consumers choices so that they can make the right choice for their business.

And sometimes it may be the right economic choice and sometimes it may be the right green choice.

We're working as an industry to make sure the green choice is the most economical choice, and I think that will only get better over time.

So that's what I'm most excited about.

That's so amazing to hear.

One thing I always come back to is Cloudflare core mission is help build a better Internet.

And I think the word help is so key there because we know that it's not possible for us to do this on our own, especially the sustainability part of it.

So everyone, all of our customers plays a part here. Using Cloudflare Services is one really low hanging fruit thing that you can do.

But we're also really excited about these additional initiatives that we're working with our customers on to help them contribute more directly as well.

Again, if you're curious to learn more about any of this stuff, check out the Cloudflare blog from today.

Not only me and Rebecca's fantastic post, but also lots of other sustainability related content from teams all across Cloudflare.

And we're not done yet.

We still have a couple of more days left of Impact Week, so stay tuned for more announcements about Cloudflare ESG efforts across the board.

May Rebecca, thank you so much for the time.

This is so fun as always.

Really appreciate it.

Thank you, Annika.



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