A Green Choice That Saves Green

The green movement is slowly spreading. Companies are scrambling to become carbon neutral (it's a major selling point with some markets), and web hosting providers are no different.

How can you assure you attract the green demographic? Offer cloud hosting! Google recently funded a study conducted by Berkeley Lab, and what they discovered isn't surprising: moving all company software to a cloud hosting environment could possibly save a ton of energy. Just how much? Well, they say enough energy to power the city of Los Angeles for an entire year!  the cloud A Green Choice That Saves Green

The Question

The study looks at just one simple question: “How green is the cloud?” In order to answer this question, it is noted more information is necessary — namely, understanding exactly what impact energy usage will have regarding sustainability.

They know that it is tough to gauge a study such as this. After all, technologies are rapidly evolving into something greater, and with differences in scale and complexity from business to business, how do you get an accurate picture of energy used?

Green Choice That Saves Green: The CLEER Model

They relied on what they call the CLEER (Cloud Energy and Emissions Research) Model to analyze energy data for cloud services in different areas and different stages of development. The goal: reduce both energy use and CO2 emissions in the US. This model is available for the general public, giving them a chance to see for themselves what impact their cloud computing scenario has on energy and emissions.

Those curious IT managers can input data regarding their IT services, region, type of servers, and data center type to assess how much energy one would save transferring software, CRM, and/or email from traditional hosting services to the cloud. This means any company, no matter the scale, can obtain an accurate picture of the energy and associated costs they'd save by moving to the cloud.

Green Choice That Saves Green: How It Works

Basically, it relies on complex equations to determine energy usage. It analyzes “different end uses of energy” based on the data provided by the user. The end use of this energy is broken down further into different “energy use elements” that the user also defines.

One equation figures out the overall difference in energy usage between traditional hosting and cloud hosting. Another determines the overall energy usage associated with things like servers, even taking into account the energy required to manufacture the servers. Another equation calculates the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions difference between traditional hosting and cloud hosting. Yet another takes this number and calculates the GHG emissions associated with direct fuel use. It's quite complex, but provides professionals with valuable information!

It even factors in costs associated with appliances within the workplace, such as refrigeration, heating, and even the coffee maker. Why? It's simple, really: if cloud hosting is introduced, more people can telecommute, which saves money on energy consumption within the building.

Green Choice That Saves Green: : Data Centers Are The Issue

The issue of data centers and the environment was raised by the New York Times back in September of 2012, when a reporter pointed out that data centers, no matter how environmentally friendly they claim to be, are anything but. Massive amounts of energy are consumed there, with facilities operating “at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand.” In fact, it was reported that a data center can easily waste over 90 percent of the electricity they take from the grid. California's government issues the Toxic Air Inventory, listing the worst diesel polluters. Guess what? There are many of Silicon Valley's data centers on that list.

What about globally? In all, data centers suck roughly 30 billion watts of electricity. That's just about what 30 nuclear power plants would use, as calculated by experts for the NY Times. They also estimate that the US is responsible for about one-quarter to one-third of that load.

Green Choice That Saves Green: : Can CLEER Really Help?

Will CLEER change all that? Hank Seader, managing principal for research and education at the Uptime Institute in an interview with the NY Times believes the cloud “just changes where the applications are running…It all goes to a data center somewhere.”

Researchers working on the CLEER Model believe it will make a difference. “Cloud computing holds great potential to reduce data center energy demand moving forward, due to both large reductions in servers and large increases in facility efficiencies compared to traditional local data centers.” They go on to point out a higher reliance on the cloud will lead to a reduced demand for physical goods and services.

What do you think? Will a move to the cloud really help reduce emissions and benefit the environment or are efforts futile?

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