Saturday 22 October 2011

Is the Cloud Green?

A lot of Cloud service suppliers and for that matter some industry commentators would certainly have you believe this to be true, but is it?
Well, as other commentators have said, its difficult to know, our opinion is that its too early to tell.
These are just some of the noted people that have voiced an opinion:
“I’m sure that if you were to compare a traditional data center deployment to a near exact replication in the Cloud you'd find the Cloud to be more efficient, but the problem is there currently is no way to justify this statement without some kind of data to support it” –Reuven Cohen (CTO, Enomaly Inc.)
So, in a sense, the "greenness" of Cloud computing is a kind of Schrödinger's box problem today, in which we won't know the actual savings to the environment until someone actually observes--or measures--it” –James Urquhart (Product Marketing Manager of Cloud Computing, Cisco Sys)
Cloud doesn't save power but displaces it. Ultimately, roughly the same power is drawn from the grid, just by different companies. So it's no greener. Cloud is more about dealing with company-specific issues than planetary ones” –Andy Lawrence (Research Director, 451 Group)
I voiced my opinion at a recent Green IT Talk I gave at the BCS Hampshire branch "

“ I think that the cloud has the potential to be green, but its certainly not there yet. In the absence of any independent testing, no one can say with any certainty that the cloud is green, however the recently announced GHG Protocol ICT Sector guidance which specifically mentions that there will be a recognised standard for measuring Cloud carbon emissions does give me some hope”
 I've taken the opportunity to conduct some very basic calculations and I'm afraid the outcome is not one that I expected, but it does go to show that moving into the cloud may on first view look to be greener but in fact once one delves a little deeper all sorts of nasties come out.
We hypothised that company A virtualises 100 servers down to 10 and puts the lot into the Cloud, energy reduction on site did go down, energy use in the Cloud rose (due to enhanced power, cooling and network provision) despite lower server energy and on the telco network energy consumption rose.
Overall, our 3 senarios resulted in energy consumption increases of 4.62kW, 0.5kW and for a straight relocation of the 100 servers into the Cloud (not a true cloud option, it has to be said) a rise of 89.25kW
The main culprit for the energy rise was the core switches in both the DC and the Telco network, we used a core switch with a max power rating of 7.5kW and assumed a 3 hop senario, we recognise that the use of a core switch is not exclusive to the customer and so the overall power consumption is probably not as high as the figures quoted above but it does give food for thought.
Now, most cloud services providers say that they are "carbon neutral", this means in effect that they buy carbon offsets, it is a green option but it does stick in my craw, its like getting someone else to do your dirty work for you for a fee.
Anyway, we'd like to make an offer to any UK based SME company that is planning to go into the cloud.
We come along and install our PC Power monitoring and DCIM tools for a modest fee, we'll work out the totals and advise you exactly what your current energy and carbon cost is for your IT estate.
You then move into the cloud, and we'll conduct the same test again on your premises and at your cloud service provider (thats if you can persuade them to allow us to conduct the test) and we'll prepare a report for you.
We'll conduct the test in accordance with current global carbon accounting standards and will take advice from the Carbon Trust who are co-ordinating the GHG Protocol ICT Sector guidance in this field (this may cost though!)
We'll get the research published and we reserve the right to use the information on our media portals (twitter, blogger and the Carbon3IT website) and for our own academic research.

So, if you really want to test the Cloud and its allegedly lower energy use in the real world, let us know.
You can contact us on, please put "Cloud Green Test" in the subject line.

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