Ah, the cloud . . . with images of blue sky, white puffy shapes and pure, clean air. For IT, the cloud was to save us from the evils of infrastructure build out. But alas, it turns out, the cloud is not so pure after all. In fact, the cloud itself is driving quite the massive build out of global data centers.
Every day, the news is filled with plans by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and many others for new, huge data centers. Even with highly efficient servers, power-saving cooling systems and ingenious ways to leverage natural resources, such as locating the data center in the arctic, data centers are still creating a large carbon footprint, hogging electricity and energy resources, and wreaking havoc on the environment.
The EPA raised the flag first, noting that some 2% of North American electricity consumption comes from data centers and servers. And now, Greenpeace, the warriors of green, have come out with a comprehensive evaluation and scorecard of cloud computing vendors. It’s not pretty, and shows most companies are not going beyond the bare minimum.
With some input form the Greenpeace research and our own expertise, we’ve come up with five ways to evaluate if your cloud is green:
- Energy Consumption: How many watts is your cloud vendor or your private cloud consuming? Google consumes 260 million watts continuously; enough to power a city of 200,000 people. Does your vendor employ virtualization, distributed systems or other efficiency measures?
- Electricity Grid Strain: Is your cloud powered by a data center that is located in one of these growing central data center areas, where multiple data centers are clustered in a typically rural area? If so, it could be putting a huge strain on the regional electricity grid.
- Pollution Contribution: Just as behind every cloud is a data center – behind every data center is a power station, and ideally, your cloud is powered by a renewable energy source or at least a clean one. However, Greenpeace reports that many cloud vendors are relying on less than clean sources, such as coal.
- Rating on the Greenpeace Score Card: Greenpeace just came out with new research on “How Clean is Your Cloud” and in it, they evaluate 15 cloud computing vendors and grade them from A to F on key green criteria. In the report, Greenpeace notes that Amazon, Apple & Microsoft are rapidly expanding without adequate regard to source of electricity and rely heavily on dirty energy to power their clouds. Facebook and Google got some greenie points from Greenpeace for prioritizing access to renewable energy. And Akamai is first company to report on its carbon intensity. You can see the complete scorecard here
- Use of Decentralized or Distributed systems: Look for solutions that don’t rely on data centers at all. Skype is a great example. And so is Symform, with our peer-to-peer storage network