We are being told cloud is cheaper but what about its environmental impact – are the clouds green?

It would seem that cloud computing is the natural way to go for the sake of nature. I am basing my response on a study commissioned by Microsoft, and conducted by WSP and Accenture, that was published in November 2010. This study discovered that energy savings of up to 30% could be attained by moving from local servers in server rooms to equivalent hosted solutions.

A result I found most interesting was that the smaller the organisation considered, the more effective the energy reduction proved to be; as small businesses have almost the same resources as larger organisations without the scalability to reduce consumption per head. For a business of 100 people, the gains are as much as 90%, while for larger enterprises the reductions dipped to 30% (which is still significant).

When we look at the motivation to conserve energy, large data centres as run by Microsoft and Amazon are highly motivated to innovate to reduce cost at a wholesale level. But, a small business or small corporate data centre lacks the motivation or budget to innovate to reduce costs. So cloud computing creates the need for the innovation required.

According to the report, the power reduction comes from four key areas:

  • Dynamic Provisioning: This means that as resources are required by a specific client they are assigned in the data centre, and when they are no longer needed they are claimed back. In this way, many clients scale up and down on the same set of resources elastically.
  • Multi Tenancy: This allows multiple businesses and multiple people to share the same infrastructure for the same application, ensuring reduced surplus equipment is used.
  • Server Utilisation: Standard servers are only partially used and spend many hours of each day idle. By sharing the resources over a wider pool of end users there is less power consumed by idle servers.
  • Data Centre Efficiency: Innovation in data centre design to achieve improved cooling and power conditioning, which ensures reduced consumption.

Clearly, this is compelling advice that indicates that we will not only be accessing a more stable server environment and gaining productivity from cloud-based applications, we will also be improving the longevity of our delicate planet. So, in my opinion, the clouds are looking very green.

Of course, do explore your options and ensure that the cloud solutions you are considering for adoption in 2011 are the best applications for your business and not just a greener choice for IT. But, do make a New Year’s resolution to have great IT systems for your business in 2011, as Australia needs to make 2011 the year of working more productively.

All the best for your festive season and a happy New Year, and do let me know if you have any great IT questions for 2011.

Click here to read more IT Systems expert advice.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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