September 3, 2014 | Written by: Maamar Ferkoun
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Reducing resource waste is on everyone’s mind these days, and “going green,” even if it’s not on the top of everybody’s agenda, is still the right thing to do. Did you know that cloud computing is helping to reduce the environmental impact of computing services and infrastructure? This includes carbon emissions from data centers as well as energy consumption.
The eco-value of cloud
Operating a cloud is undeniably more efficient than having an on-premises infrastructure. For one thing, data centers are usually more efficiently managed than on-premises infrastructures. And it is worth noting that energy efficiency during data transport is also improving.
Allowing companies to remotely access their computing resources can contribute to reducing their carbon footprint. They can access their data from anywhere, at any time, which in return allows them to use less office space and requires less energy consumption. The sharing of computing resources by many companies results in more efficient utilization.
(Related: The future of the energy industry and cloud computing)
Some environmental challenges remain
The benefits are not entirely cut and dry, however. While cloud may help reduce energy consumption and capital expenditures for a company, the rapid growth of generated data, storage, processing power and power requirements in supersized data centers still results in some greenhouse emissions. Such data centers are projected to continue expanding as cloud grows; therefore, the environmental impact is something we should monitor.
Consider this analogy: Remote access for employees, while praised for saving energy by not requiring workers to drive to the office, is also shifting energy consumption from the office to the home. The energy is still being consumed somewhere, even though it’s no longer in the workplace. Likewise, in the absence of accurate quantitative studies, some doubt remains as to the efficiency of the cloud in light of the energy that is still being consumed while data is in transit. In addition, data centers may aim for profitability at the expense of the environment. Last but not least, security concerns often get in the way of using off-premises infrastructures.
Will cloud be a game changer?
While no one can dispute the benefits of cloud computing, there is still debate on whether cloud computing will have a significant impact on energy consumption and emissions. Cloud is consuming ever-increasing amounts of energy as it grows, but it is still contributing to energy savings for organizations. Although for most organizations profitability remains a primary concern, we have every reason to believe that cloud computing and the use of green data centers will be the next big thing in reducing carbon footprint. We have the capability to do this today through cloud-driven efficiency, usage, performance and, most important, renewable energy.
There have been numerous studies regarding how green cloud computing is, with both advocates and objectors weighing in on the topic. For more information, check out this article from Forbes, or download a PowerPoint presentation on green cloud computing from IBM.
Do you think cloud computing will significantly address the environmental impact of computing resources? Please use the comments section below to share your opinions on this topic.