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One of the buzzwords we hear in the marketing campaigns of this cloud era is the concept of Green. Some of the cloud providers target our guilt to sell their services. They clearly understand that most of us are very worried about the impact of global climate change and we are willing to do everything possible to stop/reduce it. So, every single cloud provider use the idea of going green in their marketing campaigns giving an impression that anything cloud computing is green. In this post, let us dig through the hype and cut to the chaff.
There are many ways in which we can make IT environment friendly and chief among them are the efficient use of compute resources and reduction of environment impact due to power and cooling. The former could be achieved by the effective use of virtualization and automation. The latter can be achieved by adding efficiency in power generation and cooling and, also, by tapping into non-conventional energy resources. An example for this approach is the new datacenter opened by IBM last week at their Research Triangle Park campus in North Carolina. The data center currently is using about 60,000 square feet of raised floor space consuming 6 megawatts of power, with the capacity to grow to 100,000 feet and 15 megawatts. At full capacity, the facility will be able to handle the computing needs of 40 to 50 clients. This datacenter could save 15% in the energy costs and they do this by increasing the efficiency of how the datacenter is operated.
IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative is designed to incorporate greater intelligence into infrastructures—from buildings, transportation systems and utilities to businesses and even cities—to make them run more efficiently. Along those lines, IBM has put in more than 8,000 branch circuit monitoring points that keep an eye on the systems, more than 2,000 sensors that gather temperature, pressure, humidity and air flow data from air conditioners, and more than 30,000 utility and environmental sensors that interconnect with IBM software tools. Data from these sensors can be analyzed to help with future planning for the building and for energy conservation.
Technically, you don’t have to be a cloud provider to do this and even traditional IT can embrace these strategies to reduce the impact on the environment.
However, cloud providers are uniquely positioned to be more effective in achieving the Green IT. By the very definition of cloud computing, they have
- Cloud Economics
incorporated in their business strategy. The consolidation of multiple customers using multi-tenancy will lead to lesser use of energy resources and a positive impact on the environment. The very presence of cloud economics, where the cloud providers offer compute resources for literally pennies, will force the providers to be more efficient in their IT and cut costs in every possible way. This means that the cloud providers will find ways to cut down drastically on the power and cooling costs, leading to a greener IT.
In reality, none of these cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. offer any raw data to show how energy efficient they are with respect to the utilization of compute resources. Some players like Amazon employ ideas like Spot Instances which gives us some understanding of their strategy to maximize their resource usage. Still, there is no hard evidence available to show us that these cloud providers are much greener than the traditional IT vendors who are employing a good mix of virtualization and automation. Now, if we include the fact that many SaaS vendors don’t use the cloud infrastructure providers for their infrastructure needs and they either use their own datacenters or resort to the traditional managed hosting providers, the green claims gets more and more foggy.
There is too much hand waving going on when it comes to Cloud Computing and Green IT. There are no known hard data and unless the cloud vendors come forward with complete information about their energy efficiency, there is no way we can verify these claims. However, the following factors are clear
- Even the traditional vendors can be highly energy efficient with a proper use of virtualization and automation
- Cloud Computing offers us great opportunity to cut down tremendously on the energy costs
- More importantly, the cloud computing era and the associated awareness regarding the environmental impact of IT has kick started a realization that we need not spend more money on running IT. This, in turn, has forced enterprises of all sizes and shapes to optimize their IT towards Green IT.
I take this post to call upon the cloud providers to come forward and offer some insights to customers by giving some raw numbers explaining their Green strategy. Such voluntary steps from vendors will go a long way in shaping sustainable, socially responsible capitalism.