How cloud computing can reduce your carbon footprint

By Robert Jaques
04 Apr 2011 View Comments

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The cloud computing paradigm is sending shock waves throughout the IT world as companies and organisations of all sizes across all vertical sectors wake up to the potential benefits of the cloud.

As this shift increasingly affects every part of the IT ecosystem, from service providers and systems architects to developers and end users, much attention is  devoted to the economic benefits of the game-changing model. A great deal of attention is also devoted to the fact that transitioning services into the cloud can offer vast improvements in efficiency, agility and innovation. And these efficiency savings include very compelling environmental benefits.

Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, pointed out that – in these days of rising energy costs – the cloud model can offer substantial green advantages. “As it turns out, the cloud has many green properties. By aggregating data in datacentres that are well run for efficiency, you’re able to drive the cost down of energy and actually get huge green benefits. So there are a lot of reasons to move everybody into the cloud,” said Charney.

Analyst group Quocirca advises IT and business decision makers to carefully evaluate green benefits of the cloud model as sustainability continues to gain importance as a performance indicator for organisations and their IT departments.

“The green story behind the cloud comes down to aggregation. Cloud allows applications to be run using the same underlying hardware at much higher utilisation levels. Therefore, there is less equipment, less energy to power the equipment and less energy for cooling. If a company is running its own datacentre on a basis of one application per physical server, then its hardware utilisation rate is around 10 per cent. On a storage level, hardware utilisation is only around 30 per cent,” explained Clive Longbottom, service director at Quocirca.

However, virtualisation in on-premises private cloud infrastructures can increase hardware utilisation rates and thus boost energy efficiency. Longbottom added: “So if you can force utilisation rates up to around 50 per cent, then you will be using one fifth of the power to keep the servers running and also reduce the energy used in cooling down the server room.”

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