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How Green is my Cloud?

How Green is my Cloud?

Cloud providers are keen to tout their Green credentials, but energy efficiency must balance against demand and clean energy in order to achieve sustainability

The organisation examined a representative sample of each company’s most recent infrastructure investments, looking at the estimated size of electricity demand and the amount of renewable energy being used to power each facility. It contacted each company, requesting information on the data centres, as well as information about infrastructure siting and mitigation efforts.

“We expect these companies to play a pivotal role in ensuring we move to clean, safe renewable energy systems and avoid future disasters like Fukushima,” Greenpeace IT policy analyst, Gary Cook, says.

“But the IT industry’s failure to disclose basic information on its rapidly growing energy footprint has hidden a continued reliance on 19th century dirty coal power to power its 21st century infrastructure.”

View Data Centres in a larger map

One of Greenpeace’s gripes is that too often the IT industry equates sustainability with energy efficiency — an area that has seen good progress in recent years. The problem is that any gains in efficiency can be quickly negated by increased growth. And we are all too aware of the near exponential rise in data volumes over the coming years. The other issue is a lack of transparency. When Amazon Web Services reviewed Greenpeace’s power demand estimates, for example, it responded that the figures were not correct but did not provide alternative figures. Similarly for Google, which indicated the Greenpeace estimates had substantially exceeded Google’s current electricity demand, but did not provide additional information.

Clearly, it’s a thorny issue. But that’s just one side of the coin.

Substantial savings

A survey by Pike Research adds to the debate as to whether Cloud computing is a ‘greener’ approach to running data centres. It indicates that the energy savings of Cloud computing are ‘substantial’.

In its report, Cloud Computing Energy Efficiency, the market intelligence firm claimed that the adoption of Cloud computing would lead to a 38 per cent reduction in worldwide data centre energy expenditures by 2020.

We are not going to solve the climate problem via efficiency -- we must move to cleaner sources of energy. - Bill Weihl, Google energy czar

As part of its Cloud computing adoption scenario, Pike Research forecasts that data centres will consume 139.8 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020, a reduction of 31 per cent from 201.8 TWh in 2010. The reduction will drive total data centre energy expenditures down from $23.3 billion in 2010 to $16.0 billion in 2020, as well as causing a 28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels.

According to Pike Research, the report shows computing Clouds are able to achieve industry-leading rates of efficiency. It highlights the fact that only the largest of organisations would have the financial resources to offer the same levels of efficiency within their own data centres.

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Tags cloud computinggreen ITGreenpeaceGreen cloud

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