The Big, “Green” Cloud: Reducing the IT Footprint

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Cloud computing doesn’t just save money and time for companies. It could also save the world. The efficiencies that come from using a central large data center that is shared among multiple uses aren’t just money savers. They also reduce waste and energy use by reducing the IT footprint.

Efficiency is built into the business model of a cloud operation. For example, virtualization lets multiple separate servers run on one piece of hardware. If those servers weren’t in a virtualized cloud environment, they’d all be separate pieces of hardware with separate power supplies, wasting power. They’d all be periodically replaced, turning into e-garbage. Load balancing is also part of a cloud operation. A single-company network is usually sized for peak demand, meaning that, most of the time, it consumes electricity and space but is not being used. In cloud data centers, applications and users are blended so that each has a different peak time, leading to greater overall utilization. 

Transition to cloud computing has made a major difference in the environmental footprint of the IT industry. A 2010 survey indicates that small businesses that use cloud-computing can reduce their per-user carbon output by up to 90 percent while large businesses can save 30 percent. One major cloud application provider, Salesforce, estimates that its customers saved 37,000 cars worth of carbon simply by unplugging their CRM servers and using Salesforce’s cloud-hosted service instead.

Cloud computing is also supporting changes in how power is generated. Some major technology companies have green policies already in place. Google, for example, directly purchases renewable energy. Green data centers in Iceland are 100 percent carbon-free thanks to their use of geothermal and hydroelectric power. Data centers that use renewable energy achieve double reductions in carbon — both by saving electricity at their customer’s offices and by using low-carbon energy to power their activities.