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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

Pike predicted that much of the processing being handled by today’s data centres will have been transferred to the Cloud by 2020.

“The growth of Cloud computing will have a very significant positive effect on data centre energy consumption,” senior analyst at Pike, Eric Woods, says.

“Few, if any, clean technologies have the capability to reduce energy expenditures and greenhouse gas production with so little business disruption. Software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and platform-as-a-service are all inherently more efficient models than conventional alternatives, and their adoption will be one of the largest contributing factors to the ‘greening’ of enterprise IT.”

Which brings us back to Jevons.

The problem is the debate focuses on two sides that are talking about the same issue, but not on the same issue. There is no doubting Cloud’s efficiency.

More complex, however, are the definitions of sustainability and Green IT. And CIOs know better than most that it’s hard to argue amorphous concepts against hard, cold figures. But the next time a Cloud provider trumpets its Green credentials, ask about its investment in renewable energy sources. And watch the reaction.

Greenpeace report learnings

  • Data centres consume 1.5-2 per cent of all global electricity; this is growing at a rate of 12 per cent a year.

  • Cloud computing is often cited as the new, ‘Green’ model for IT infrastructure needs, but Greenpeace says few companies provide data that would allow it to objectively evaluate the claims.

  • More than half of the companies rated by Greenpeace rely on coal for 50-80 per cent of their energy needs.

  • IT innovations have the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy, but this isn’t often addressed by some of the world’s largest IT brands.

  • There is a lack of transparency across the industry about IT’s greenhouse gas footprint.

  • There is an opportunity for telecom operators in emerging markets to invest in renewable energy, but many rely on diesel generators to fuel their growth.

  • Data centre clusters (Google, Facebook, Apple) are cropping up in places such as North Carolina and the US Midwest, where inexpensive coal-powered electricity is abundant.

  • IT companies are failing to prioritise access to clean and renewable energy in their infrastructure siting decisions.

  • Of the 10 brands graded, Akamai, a global content distribution network, earned top-of-the-class recognition for transparency; Yahoo! had the strongest infrastructure siting policy; Google and IBM demonstrated the most comprehensive overall approach to reducing their carbon footprint to date.

  • IT companies have thus far failed to commit to clean energy in the same way they are embracing energy efficiency.

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