Can Clouds Save Energy?

Cloud computing is latest buzzword in the IT industry and also more and more mass-market companies are introducing their so-called ‘cloud services’, including Google, Microsoft and now Apple. 

 

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing enables both businesses and individuals to access software, infrastructure or storage space over the Internet. Thus there is no need for clunky home PCs, servers or vast IT infrastructure at companies. Instead, large data centres serve customers from a distance, offering only as much as customers wish or need at any given moment, on demand.

Such cloud computing services include online email systems (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), as well as online document-handling services like Google Docs or online storage, like Rackspace, besides numerous business applications.

How could cloud computing save energy?

Besides several other advantages of cloud computing, such as scalability, customizability, and cost efficiency through paying for only what one uses, these services also create an opportunity to save energy.

A great number of hardware, which performance is not entirely used and eventually becomes e-waste, can be avoided, while overall energy consumption and so carbon emissions can be lowered both at private users and businesses.

A good example is Google, which is well-known to apply innovative solutions and invest into green energy developments. It claims that its data centres use only a half of the energy of a typical data centre, and Google Energy LLC has been founded to purchase renewable (mainly wind) energy for the company’s operations.

Similarly, Microsoft uses a significant ratio of renewable energy and is also located in ‘sustainable buildings’. Furthermore, Microsoft recently commissioned a study, according to which cloud computing solutions at large firms could decrease energy consumption by thirty to sixty per cent, while this could reach even ninety per cent at smaller companies.

Challenges

While cloud computing can be promising for energy reductions at IT operations, there are also some challenges to overcome.

According to Greenpeace, global data usage is expected to grow significantly in the coming years and decades, which means increased load for data centres, as well as growing emissions.

Answers to this issue can include portable-size, new-generation data centres for more efficient operation, or renewables (wind, hydro, solar) as energy sources at these facilities. Cloud service providers are already addressing these issues, and hopefully will achieve significant results in the near future.

Sources:

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