Why the Cloud is greener

I know the energy efficiency issues are not one of the main concerns of cloud services users, but I believe this is a very important question for anyone with environmental concerns, and one of the key benefits of the technology. Cloud based services can really reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions and save you money in the process. And this is accomplished through reducing energy use for servers and server cooling, virtualizing machines, replacing older equipment and using the processor cycles of each server more efficiently.

Perhaps the majority of technology users are not aware of the energy consumption of the electronic equipment, and even don´t bother to unplug the phone charger, or disconnect – really disconnect – its electronic devices when they are not being used. But all this things are adding to very large power consumption, and the ICT industry is one of the main consumers.

According to a study  by the Carbon Disclosure Project, by 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil – enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.

More recently a new report was published on the business and environmental benefits of cloud computing in France and the UK, showing that UK companies could save £1.2 billion and more than 9.2 million metric tonnes of CO2, and French companies (PDF) could save nearly €700 million and 1.2 million metric tonnes of CO2.

green cloud

Individually, each company can save a lot on the power energy bill. This week Google showed the results of case studies  related to the adoption of Google Apps, proving that an average company can achieve energy savings of about 65-85 percent. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), that recently switched its 17.000 users to Google Apps for Government, was able to reduce server energy consumption by nearly 90 percent and carbon emissions by 85 percent. That means the GSA will save an estimated $285,000 annually on energy costs alone, a 93 percent cost reduction.

But we need to be careful about this numbers. Greenpeace already questioned the energy source of main datacenters in a report that evaluated 14 IT companies. “How Clean is Your Cloud?” analyzed the energy supply chain of over 80 data centers associated with major brands and found that Google and  Yahoo are showing commitment to clean energy while Apple, Amazon and Microsoft rely heavily on outdated coal and nuclear energy to power their cloud computing.

This is not as green as we want the cloud to be….

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