Adopt public cloud, save the environment

by Sharon Lobo    Apr 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

In the past couple of decades, terms like global warming, climate change, going green have taken precedence at multiple forums worldwide. However, the irony of the situation is that we continue to grapple with environmental issues in spite of the numerous ‘solutions’ put forth before us. Today being Earth Day 2013, gives us a reason to ponder over such pressing issues and re-visit the way we consume IT.

Information is the backbone of any organization, and to store and access humongous amount of data we require power-hungry data centers. Environmental groups across the globe have been time and again holding datacenters accountable for being the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases as far as IT is concerned. According to a New York times article, consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity was used to power servers to perform computations, while the rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations. Also additional power is required for the data center infrastructure including cooling, security, monitoring. So one can imagine the amount of power each data center guzzles.

These figures are undoubtedly alarming and should ring a bell with every organization, even the ones who claim to have mundane activities on Earth Day such as distributing cloth bags or planting saplings. While running datacenters on renewable sources of energy could provide some respite to the environment, there aren’t many who are upbeat about this idea at least in this part of the world. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution in sight. For instance many believe cloud and virtualization together can offer a decent solution.

Most organizations have adopted virtualization, which allows running numerous virtual machines on a single physical one. While, there aren’t many full-fledged adopters of cloud, this surely doesn’t mean organizations aren’t looking seriously towards cloud. As Ed Anderson, research director at Gartner puts it, “Public cloud adoption is accelerating and public cloud services do, and will, cannibalize IT services spending in the coming years, most notably in the data center,”

Public cloud for instance, could be viewed as more energy and carbon efficient than running on-premise datacenters. Gartner believes, the public cloud services market will grow 18.5 percent in 2013 to total $131 billion worldwide, up from $111 billion in 2012.

While regulatory issues, local political climate, the diverse landscape of global and local providers do provide hurdles in cloud adoption. It is imperative that cloud services providers while promoting cloud adoption also consider these factors.

So while we observe Earth Day today and try to be extras cautious by minimising utilisation of resources, let us ensure our organizations have a Green IT strategy in the long run.