Make IT “green” with a green and renewable cloud
Cloud computing and its contribution to climate change
The term cloud, or cloud computing, used as a metaphor for the internet, is based on an infrastructure and business model that, instead of it being stored on your own device, the data, entertainment, news and other products and services are delivered to your device, in real time, from the internet.
Growth of the cloud
The iPad received more media attention than any other gadget released in recent memory. Whether or not you actually want an iPad, there is no doubt that it is a signal of things to come. The iPad relies upon cloud-based computing to stream video, download music and books, and summon email. Already, millions access the “cloud” to make use of online social networks, watch streaming video, check email, create and share documents, and store thousands of digital photos online on popular web-hosted sites like Flickr and Picasa.
A warning from Greenpeace
Greenpeace is warning that the emergence of cloud computing technologies could lead to a massive spike in carbon emissions. It is calling on IT firms to make clean, green energy a priority as they open new data centers to handle the abundance of data moving to the cloud.
Cloud growth and demand for energy
The cloud is growing at a point in time when climate change and reducing emissions from energy use is a chief concern. With the growth of the cloud, however, comes an increasing demand for energy. For all of this content to be delivered to Internet users in real time, virtual mountains of video, pictures and other data must be stored somewhere and be available for almost immediate access. That “somewhere” that we are referring to is data centers.
What is a data center?
A data center is an enormous storage facility that consumes incredible amounts of energy. A data center is a physical place that houses a computer network’s most critical systems, including backup power supplies, air conditioning, and security applications. Cooling a data center, as you can imagine, consumes a great deal of electricity. Each piece of equipment generates heat and must be kept cool.
Data centers and renewable energy
Unless cloud data centers are strategically placed to utilize or be developed with renewable sources of electricity, the data center operators are stuck with the same problem everybody has — having to accept the mix of traditional dirty energy sources that the electric utilities rely upon to feed the grid.
Data centers being built in alarming frequency
Technology giant Dell announced recently that it is entering the cloud hosting market with a series of new cloud services, technologies, and data centers. Dell plans to invest a huge $1 billion throughout the coming year to deliver “leading solutions, services and cloud-based delivery options” to launch and sell cloud services.
Dell building 10 data centers
Over the next 24 months, Dell says it will build 10 data centers around the world so that customers can access its public and private cloud technologies. The announcement underscores CEO Michael Dell's remarks last month, where he said the company is planning to build data centers in 10 countries around the world, starting with a new facility in Australia.
Will the new clouds be green or brown?
Ultimately, if cloud providers want to provide a truly green and renewable cloud, they must use their power and influence to not only drive investments near renewable energy sources, but also become involved in setting the policies that will drive swift deployment of renewable electricity generation.
How much electricity does it take to power the cloud?
How much electricity will be generated to power a much bigger cloud in 10 years? The answer is far from clear, given the swift growth, and the unfortunate fact that many major cloud brands refuse to disclose their energy footprint.
Growth of energy-efficient data centers
More cloud-computing companies are pursuing design strategies that can reduce the energy consumption of their data centers, primarily as a cost containment measure. For most companies, the environmental benefits of green data design are generally of secondary concern.
Maximize output from the cheapest and dirtiest energy source available
Facebook’s decision to build its own high-efficient data center in Oregon that will be mainly powered by coal-fired electricity clearly underscores the relative priority for many large cloud companies. Increasing the energy efficiency of its servers and reducing the energy footprint of the infrastructure of data centers are to be applauded, but efficiency by itself is not green if you are simply working to maximize output from the cheapest and dirtiest energy source available.
Large cloud data centers and their use of renewable energy:
- Lenoir, NC - 3.8%
- Dalles, OR - 50.9%
- Apple, NC - 3.8%
- Chicago, IL - 1.1%
- San Antonio, TX - 11%
- Lockport, NY - 27.7%
- La Vista, NE - 7%
Why use renewable energy?
It is clear that as the energy demand of the cloud grows, the supply of renewable energy must also keep pace. Additionally, the industry as a whole should campaign for strong policies that result in economy-wide reductions in carbon emissions.
So, choose a IT provider or web hosting provider that utilizes a data center powered by renewable energy. Be a part of the solution to global warming.