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Environmental benefits of cloud computing

Environmental benefits of cloud computing

Airplane_cloud_HOR_0Both cloud computing and sustainability are emerging as trends in business and society. Most consumers, whether they are aware of it or not, are already heavy users of cloud-enabled services like email, social media, online gaming, and many mobile applications.

At the same time, sustainability continues to gain importance as a performance indicator for organizations and their IT departments. Corporate sustainability officers, regulators and other stakeholders have become increasingly focused on IT’s carbon footprint, and companies of all sizes are also placing more emphasis on developing long-term strategies to reduce their carbon footprint through more sustainable operations and products.

Is the cloud a “greener” computing alternative?

While cloud computing may not seem all that eco-friendly at first glance, a closer look reveals a number of benefits. A six-month study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University with funding from Google has found that moving common software applications used by 86 million U.S. workers to the cloud could save enough electricity annually to power Los Angeles for a year.

The report looks at 3 common business applications: email, CRM software and bundled productivity software (spreadsheets, file sharing, word processing, etc.). Moving these software applications from local computer systems to centralized cloud services could cut IT energy consumption by up to 87 percent. This is the amount of electricity used each year by all the homes, businesses and industry in Los Angeles.

Energy savings in the cloud

Moving to the cloud can mean big energy savings for an organization, both in direct power costs and indirect measures, such as the reduced need for shipping and manufacturing. Here are some of the ways that the cloud can help a company cut its carbon footprint down to size:

  • Fewer machines – With the cloud, server utilization rates are typically 60-70%, while in many small business and corporate environments, utilization rates hover around 5 or 10%.  As a result, shared data centers can employ fewer machines to get the same capacity.
  • Equipment efficiency – Larger data centers often have the resources to allow them to upgrade to energy-saving equipment and building systems. Usually, this is not an option in smaller organizations where this efficiency is not the focus.
  • Consolidated climate control costs – In order for a server to run at its peak performance, its temperature and humidity level must be carefully controlled, and cloud providers can use high density efficient layouts that are hard for in-house centers to replicate.
  • Dynamically allocated resources – In-house data centers need extra servers to handle peak data loads, and cloud providers can dynamically allocate resources where necessary in order for fewer machines to sit idle.

Cloud computing has enormous potential to transform the world of IT: reducing costs, improving efficiency and business agility, and contributing to a more sustainable world. Do you use the cloud or other green technologies in your business?

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  • Duane Tursi

    November 18, 2013

    Thanks for sharing that study; very powerful! Green/sustainable initiatives always seem like the ‘right thing to do,’ especially if you can accomplish them for near neutral cost differences and and still achieve your business objectives. The ‘cloud’ seems like a big Economics equation…weigh the pluses and minuses, consider the differences very seriously and make an informed decision. Amazing how traditional IT in the enterprise with IBM, HP, EMC, Vmware, etc…versus…Amazon, Google, etc…in the cloud are completely different, isolated silos. Seems like businesses need a departure from traditional technologies and need to find tech that reduces cost, improves efficiency and improves business agility, all while being sustainable. Virtualized, software-defined ‘everything’ on commodity hardware sounds like a step in the right direction!

  • ComZetta

    May 6, 2014

    Cloud computing means less electro-waste! We explain it here:

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