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Cloud Computing: Google Apps cloud has a relatively high carbon intensity

Cloud

I have been researching and publishing on Cloud Computing for quite some time here. Specifically, I’ve been highlighting how it is not possible to know if Cloud computing is truly sustainable because none of the significant Cloud providers are publishing sufficient data about their energy consumption, carbon emissions and water use. It is not enough to simply state total power consumed, because different power sources can be more, or less sustainable – a data center run primarily on renewables is far less carbon intensive than one that relies on power from an energy supplier relying on coal burning power stations.

At Greenmonk we believe it’s important to get behind the headline numbers to work out what’s really going on. We feel it’s unacceptable to simply state that Cloud is green and leave it at that, which is why we’ve been somewhat disappointed by recent work in the field by the Carbon Disclosure Project. We would like to see more rigour applied by CDP in its carbon analytics.

Carbon intensity should be a key measure, and we need to start buying power from the right source, not just the cheapest source.

I was pleasantly surprised then yesterday when I heard that Google had published a case study ostensibly proving that Cloud had reduced the carbon footprint of at least one major account.

However, it is never that straightforward, is it?

The Google announcement came in the form of a blog post titled Energy Efficiency in the Cloud, written by Google’s SVP for Technical Infrastructure, Urs Hölzle. I know Urs, I’ve met him a couple of times, he’s a good guy.

Unfortunately, in his posting he heavily references the Carbon Disclosure Project’s flawed report on Cloud Computing, somewhat lessening the impact of his argument.

Urs claims that in a rollout of Google Apps for Government for the US General Services Administration,

the GSA was able to reduce server energy consumption by nearly 90% and carbon emissions by 85%.

An 85% reduction in carbon emissions sounds very impressive – but how does Google calculate that figure? Also worth considering is the age of the server estate – any data center that decommissions older servers in favour of new ones is likely to see an efficiency bump. Assuming the GSA servers running Microsoft apps were more than five years old, they would have seen a considerable efficiency bump simply by running the apps on new servers, on premise or off. Without disappearing down a rathole, its also worth noting cradle to cradle factors in server manufacturing – supply chains consume carbon.

We looked at a whitepaper titled Google Apps: Energy Efficiency in the Cloud [PDF], where the search company shares some of the methodology behind the blog post. We would like to see a lot more detail about assumptions and methods.

The key reference to how Google calculated carbon emissions is this line:
The following summary tallies up every GSA server dedicated to email and collaboration across 14 locations in the continental U.S. and applies the appropriate PUEs, electricity prices, and carbon intensities for each location

Here’s the table:
Google Apps GSA case study

The data in the table above is interesting but if you look at the carbon information, you start to notice something strange – here’s a slightly different view on Google’s data:

Google Apps carbon intensity

While it is no real surprise that Google’s servers produce less CO2 per annum than the GSA’s (4.75 vs 7.69 tons), what is very surprising (to me at least) is the fact that Google’s facilities are significantly more carbon intensive than the GSA’s were (14.5 vs 10.63 tons of CO2 per kWh).

In simple terms, carbon intensity is a measure of the amount of CO2 released in the generation of electricity. The data above, clearly show that the data centres hosting the Google Apps Cloud are not optimised for reduced emissions (the best way for data centers to optimise for reduced emissions is to source electricity generated from renewable sources).

I guess the good news is that, while Google has helped the GSA to reduce its carbon emissions, there’s plenty of room for improvement!

I reached out to Urs for a response to this and because he’s traveling at the minute, the only answer I received pointed out that since 2007 Google’s net emissions are zero. And, in fairness to Google, they do fund some worthwhile offsetting projects, as you can see in the video below (check out the farmer towards the end, he’s just awesome!).

Cloud photo credit mnsc

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Use open source platforms to find cloud computing’s energy and emissions footprint

Dials

Regular GreenMonk readers will be very aware that I am deeply skeptical about claims that Cloud Computing is Green (or even energy efficient). And that I talk about the significant carbon, water and biodiversity effects cloud computing can have.

One of the biggest issues with any claims of Cloud Computing being energy efficient, or Green, is the lack of transparency from the Cloud Computing providers. None Almost none of them are publishing any data around the energy consumption, or emissions of their Cloud infrastructure (article updated from “None of them” to “Almost none of them…” after comments from Memset and Greenqloud in the comments section below). Without data to back them up, any claims of Cloud computing being efficient are worthless.

Last week, while at the RackSpace EMEA Analyst day, we were given a potted history of OpenStack, RackSpace’s Cloud Computing platform. OpenStack was jointly developed by NASA and RackSpace and they open-sourced it with an Apache License in July 2010.

Anyone can download OpenStack and use it to create and host Cloud Computing solutions. Prominent OpenStack users include NASA, RackSpace (not surprisingly), AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, HP and IBM.

What has this got to do with Cloud Computing and energy efficiency I hear you ask?

Well, it occurred to me, during the analyst day, that because OpenStack is open source, anyone can fork it and write a version with built-in energy and emissions reporting. What would be really cool is, if this functionality, having been written, became a part of the core distribution – then anyone deploying OpenStack, would have this functionality by default.

And, OpenStack isn’t the only open source Cloud platform – there are two others that I’m aware of – Citrix’s CloudStack and Eucalyptus. Having the software written for one open-source platform, should allow reasonably easy porting to the other two.

Of course, with the software written as open-source, there could be constant improvement of it. And as part of one of the cloud platforms, it should achieve widespread distribution quickly.

Having energy and emissions information available, will also allow inefficiencies in Cloud infrastructure to be quickly identified and fixed.

So, the next step is to get someone to write the software – anyone up for it?

Or, what are the chances of getting someone like HP, IBM, RackSpace, or even NASA to sponsor a hackathon whose aim is to develop such software?

Photo Credit Jeremy Burgin

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Efficiency and Ecological Responsibility of Cloud Computing (including water footprint)

A BrightTALK Channel

Unfortunately the provider for this webinar requires a login to listen to this discussion. If you don’t wish to register, my username is tom@redmonk.com and my password is 000000

Mark Thiele from Switch recently invited me to participate in a webinar he was moderating on the Efficiency and Ecological Responsibility of Cloud Computing which took place yesterday evening.

Also participating in the discussion were Harkeeret Singh (aka Harqs) Global Head of Energy & Sustainable IT at Thomson Reuters and Jason Hoffman CTO and Founder of Joyent.

The discussion started off asking whether or not cloud computing is efficient and the panel was fairly unanimous in deciding that cloud computing is not efficient. The main point I made here is that because cloud providers are not publishing energy information, it is not possible to say whether or not cloud computing is energy efficient.

At around 15 minutes into the conversation, we shifted on to asking whether or not cloud computing is green. There was a good discussion on this with the fact that efficiency not necessarily being green being one of the main points raised. Also brought up was how plummeting costs of cloud computing are leading to an explosion in consumption – in itself not very green. And as a counterpoint Harqs raised the fact that lower costs are beneficial to start-ups in developing countries.

Then 33 minutes into the conversation, we started discussing the impacts on water of cloud computing. One point I raised is that if you run a 25kW rack for one hour the water footprint from electricity productions is:

  • 0.1 litres if the electricity comes from wind
  • 2.5 litres if the electricity comes from solar
  • 45 litres if the electricity comes from coal and
  • 55 litres if the electricity comes from nuclear (and this doesn’t include the considerable water footprint of uranium mining).

Nuclear power plants use phenomenal amounts of water. From the Union of Concerned Scientists report [PDF] on this

the typical 1,000 Mwe nuclear power reactor with a 30oF ?T needs approximately 476,500 gallons per minute. If the temperature rise is limited to 20oF, the cooling water need rises to 714,750 gallons per minute. Some of the new nuclear reactors being considered are rated at 1,600 Mwe. Such a reactor, if built and operated, would need nearly 1,144,000 gallons per minute of once-through cooling for a 20 degree temperature rise.

Actual circulating water system flow rates in once-through cooling systems are 504,000 gpm at Millstone Unit 2 (CT); 918,000 gpm at Millstone Unit 3 (CT); 460,000 gpm at Oyster Creek (NJ); 311,000 at Pilgrim (MA); and 1,100,000 gpm at each of the twp Salem reactors (NJ).

And that level of water consumption has big biodiversity effects – imagine the large water intakes required for a nuclear plant taking in one million gallons of water per minute. These water intakes don’t just take in water, they also take in any life forms in that water. None of these life forms survive going through a nuclear power plant obviously. And then there’s the heat pollution effects from the warmer water coming from the power plant outlets.

Towards the end of the discussion Jason asked if making this data available to end users would be a clear differentiator for Joyent. I responded that it would be because a) there is a demand for this information and b) because having seen how Greenpeace successfully went after Facebook, (and in their latest report are now targeting Apple, Amazon and Microsoft) for their dis-regard for the footprint of their cloud computing infrastructure, nobody wants to be the next company in Greenpeace’s sights.

Harqs added that any company pursuing such a policy should open-source it so everyone could contribute to the development of constantly improving reporting standards.

The highlight of the webinar for me was at 47:30 when Jason committed to doing just that.

All in all a superb discussion with a fantastic outcome. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Is Cloud Computing Green?

I gave the keynote address at the Digital Trends 2011 event organised by HePIS and CEPIS in Athens recently. My talk was on Cloud Computing’s Green Potential and in my presentation, I claimed that Cloud Computing is NOT Green.

I started the talk by explaining what Cloud Computing is and the many advantages it can bring to companies. However, because none of the Cloud providers are publishing energy figures around Cloud computing, we can’t say whether or not Cloud computing is energy efficient.

I went on to point out that even if Cloud is energy efficient (and we have no proof that it is), that is not the same thing as being Green.

My slides are available on my SlideShare account and a transcript of my talk is here:

Okay, so my talk this morning is on Cloud Computing and its Green Potential. So a quick couple of words about myself.

So my name is Tom Raftery, I work for an industry analyst firm called RedMonk. My area of interest within RedMonk or the area I specialize in is energy and sustainability. We have termed the practice within RedMonk that concentrates on energy and sustainability GreenMonk. So the place that I blog at is at GreenMonk.net.

And a little bit about my past. I worked in an organization called Zenith Solutions back in the 90s and early 2000s, and Zenith Solutions was a software company creating what has now become termed cloud applications. At that time we called them web applications, they were web based software with the database backend online.

Then I worked for a company called Chip Electronics in the early 2000s and Chip Electronics was again a company which created Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP applications which were cloud delivered, at the time we called it Software as a Service. No at the time we called it active service provisions, since become Software as a Service. And I am also a co-founder and Director of CIX, which is a hyper energy efficient data center based in Cork in Ireland. So I know both from the hardware side and the software side.

I mentioned my blog on GreenMonk.net, I am on Twitter and twitter.com/tomraftery. My email address is there, my mobile phone number is there, please don?t ring it now. And this site here, slideshare.net the last line there and I am sorry for the bullet points, I don?t normally use them, but I did just here and in one other slide. slideshare.net is a site where you can upload a presentations.

So, this presentation I am giving this morning, I uploaded it to SlideShare earlier this morning, so it?s already online there at that site and if you go there now you?ll see it has already been viewed over 277 times so far. So, it?s a great site for getting your talks out all available, it?s also downloadable there.

One thing you?ll notice as well about the structure of my talks is a lot of them have images like this, but they also have this bit of text at the bottom which you can?t read, don?t try right now, but what they are is those are links to the source material. So, if at any point you do download the presentation you can go and click on the links, they are clickable links you can click on them and see where I?ve got the information from.

So that?s me, who are you guys?

A couple of questions, so how many people here have deployed applications to the cloud? Not very many. How many plan to? A few more, okay. How many people here think that cloud computing is green? Okay, good few people. Right. I hope to burst that bubble, unlike Nancy who spoke just a minute ago, I am not a, I am not a believer that cloud computing is green and I hope to explain why. I am a huge fan of cloud computing, I have to say, I use it extensively, going back to the slide for a second.

The Chip application, the Zenith stuff, the GreenMonk, Twitter, SlideShare even my email are all cloud delivered. Our organization RedMonk we use Google applications for domains for our email, so my email is cloud delivered as well. So I am a big user of and believer in cloud for lots of things. But I just don?t happen to believe it?s green.

So what is cloud computing? Well at kind of first blush it?s software that?s delivered in a browser, so that?s an very easy definition of it, something we can all kind of sign up to it. It?s a lot more complex than that at various other levels and I?ll go through a couple of those other levels as well, just very briefly to kind of give you that the kind of complexity that?s involved in it, but I am not going to go into any great depth. So it?s also nothing that?s very new, this is the original sign up screen for Hotmail.

Hotmail was an email application developed and sold to Microsoft back in ?97 for $450 million if memory serves. But this was before it was sold to Microsoft, this was the original sign up screen when they launched in July ?96 and it was one of the first widely used Software as a Service or cloud application.

So cloud is nothing new, it keeps getting rebranded, so the cloud name is newish alright, but the delivery mechanism is not that new. It actually harps back to mainframe computing back in the 60s.

So there are several types of cloud computing and the first type, the first level of cloud computing is kind of Software as a Service. That?s where you kind of take your packaged software and convert it into something as I mentioned already delivered in a browser. And I mean you probably are aware of these I mentioned Hotmail and its analogs the Google applications, there is also Zoho, there is social networking the Twitter that I mentioned, SlideShare all these kind of things, they are all Software as a Service.

So they are just basic applications that you access through a browser. But you can go back one level of abstraction from that to where you get to what?s called platform as a service. And don?t worry about these acronyms basically a lot of the times you don?t need to know this stuff, the platform as a service stuff is where you, as I could say, you go back one level of abstraction and you give people a platform on which to deploy cloud applications.

And the kind of platforms that you can get are ones like the Google app engine and Amazon and Microsoft?s Azure, these are the kind of platforms that are available if you want go down that route. Most people don?t need to go there, but if you do that kind of stuff is available as well. And then you can go back one further level of abstraction where you are actually delivering Hardware as a Service and this is called Hardware as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service and both names are valid, HaaS for hardware or IaaS for infrastructure as a service and that?s where you?re delivering stuff like networking, storage, compute, CPU cycles that kind of thing as a service.

And VMware, Rackspace, OpenStack again Amazon with their EC2 and their S3 services are those kinds of types of cloud computing. If that?s a little confusing and I know it can be, this is a slide which is also confusing, but if you actually stop and study it in your own time, you could download this application and if you are interested about it, this is a good way of seeing how the different types of cloud computing stack up as it were.

So over here on the very left, you have your traditional packaged software with the entire stack from networking up through applications where you manage the entire stack on your machine. So that?s the traditional Microsoft Office whatever applications, you do the whole thing.

Over on the other side you got your Software as a Service, something like Google apps or domains or one of these things where the provider the Google or whoever are responsible for the entire stack, all you have is a browser. And then in the middle you have the two other ones, the platform as a service, where the vendor managers up to here and you manage the applications and data or infrastructure where the vendor managers is just this part and you manage the rest.

So that?s the kind of way it stacks up. As I say on the deck itself there is a link down there to where you can find that image if you are interested in checking into it. It?s quite a nice way of seeing the differences between the different types of cloud computing.

And then just to complicate things a little further, there are different deployment mechanisms. You can have private cloud, private cloud is hosted by yourself on your own infrastructure behind your own firewall. You can have public cloud which is what most people are familiar with or you can have a hybrid where you have some stuff private, some stuff public and that?s one that a lot of people are looking at, because it means you can have your data behind your firewall, but the functionality you are accessing it from public. So your stuff remains on premise.

And that?s quite important, because as Nancy alluded to, there can be a lot of issues with the data in cloud computing, because for example if you are a European company do you really want your data hosted on servers in US territories where for example the data privacy laws are a lot more lax. So I have spoken to several European companies who have said categorically they will not use cloud computing if their data is going to be hosted in US territories. It?s only if it?s in the EU and only if they know where in the EU. So you are noticing cloud providers taking that on board and starting to become aware of those issues and while they can?t change US law, they can start providing storage mechanisms that they are guaranteed to be in region.

So that?s cloud computing and the next question we get to is, is this really energy efficient because lots of people say it is and even Nancy alluded to that report from the Carbon Disclosure Project which I?ll blow apart in a minute. They aren?t the only ones Microsoft, Accenture and WSP environment brought out this story in November of last year. And this is the actual title of the story, where they say it shows significant energy in carbon emissions reduction potential from cloud computing and again the link to the report is down there at the bottom.

The difficulties I have with that are several, first is Microsoft are a cloud computing provider so they kind of skin in the game. The second is that, they don?t actually use any hard data, it?s all imputed. And the third is that after months and months of work from all these people the best they could come up with is they could say it has potential. Yeah it has potential to end world hunger and bring on world peace and fix the euro, anything kind of potential. So that?s a non-report.

Cloud computing has phenomenal advantages, don?t get me wrong, I am a big fan. So if you are into traditional IT, you know well that if you are deploying a new application or a new server it?s pain staking, you have to go through an RFP process, a tender process, PO process. You have to put, you have to go to tender and you have to get that — when you have to place the order, the order then can take several weeks from the supplier. When it comes in, it goes into the logistics area, if you got to get the guys in warehousing to tell you where the server is, you have to get the server, you have got to put the company image on the server, you got to install the applications, you got to do testing, you got to patch the server, the list goes on and on. Basically you want to deploy a new server, it?s a process that can take weeks to months.

You deploy a cloud application, there is usually no RFP and no PO process because there is — the capital cost is minimal. So typically the time to deploy for a cloud application shrinks from weeks to months to hours to minutes depending on what you are deploying, so phenomenal, cloud is fantastic for streamlining that kind of stuff.

It?s also great for what?s called dynamic provisioning. So this is the Alexa graph, the website traffic of a website for the Australian Open. The Australian Open is a big tennis competition happens in Australia every January. So you?ll notice 11 months of the year no traffic to the site, come December, January vroom, spike, that?s 2006, 2007, larger spike 2008, larger spike and the spikes keep getting bigger as you go in that direction.

So if you were the website owner for the AustralianOpen.com website you would need to have — if there were no cloud computing options you would need to have servers that could hit and deal with the traffic at this growing spike for 12 months of the year when the traffic is only there one month of the year. But with dynamic provisioning and cloud computing you can use the elasticity of the cloud to turn up the resources assigned to that site as the traffic starts to build up in December and January and then as the traffic falls off, you turn it back down again.

So in that respect cloud computing is fantastic as well, you are not using resources needlessly. You?ve also got the idea of multi-tenancy and if you can?t see what?s in this picture it?s actually a Mini Cooper with 26 people inside in her, EMC sponsored it as the world record attempt to fit people into a Mini Cooper and they fit 26 people into it. So they stuff people into it with multi-tenancy in cloud computing it means you are sharing applications across companies, lots of different companies often competitors are using the same single version of the application.

And that?s fantastic, that adds greater value. You know, you have only one instance of the application which is great as well for updates, updates of the application are instantly deployed. You know, you don?t have to download the latest update and apply it to the test server and make sure it works in the environment, the whole thing, you know, it?s just instantly on.

This is the issue of server utilization which again Nancy referred to, Nancy you stole my talk, come on. So this is a typical graph of server utilization and you can see this the memory part, but this is the server utilization and it?s at zero percent here. And well that?s a bit of a outlier, you?ll often and get in normal server, you?ll often get utilizations in single digits 7, 8% server utilization for traditional servers in data center environments. But with the advent of virtualization and cloud computing you can ramp that up significantly. So that should be quite energy efficient.

Then you have got this kind of outlier thing called chasing the moon, which you may or may not have heard off. It?s one I am kind of found of as an idea, but not many people have deployed it yet. People are kind of talking about it as out there, and what it is, is with cloud computing if you?ve got data centers in say, US, West Coast, another in Northern Europe or Southern Europe, Northern European typically because it?s cooler there and cooler I mean colder not more ?hip?. And you?ve got another data center say somewhere in Asia or Eastern Russia. Then you?ve got the time zones covered about eight hours apart. So if you have an application in those three centers, you can move the compute to where energy is cheapest at any particular point in time. So if you are doing that typically energy is cheapest when it?s in highest supply, when it?s in highest supply and it?s cheapest, its actually, this is on the wholesale markets, it?s actually greenest as well.

So when electricity is at its cheapest, it?s actually also at its greenest that?s ? it?s kind of counter intuitive but I can explain that if any one who is interested later.

So if you move your compute to where the energy and the compute is cheapest at any point in time, it?s typically night time when wind is blowing and at that time you are chasing the moon, you are putting your applications wherever the moon is out, it?s called chasing the moon.

And so it?s something you could only do — something that?s only made possible by the likes of cloud computing. Your information is ubiquitous, it?s wherever you have an internet connection, so your road warriors, your sales people on the road, can access the application while sitting up in the beach.

It also enables a lot more home working, homeshoring, teleworking whatever you want to call it. And people like ATT, IBM, lots of big companies are huge fans of this. IBM reported a couple of years back that 25% of their employees did teleworking and those 25% were saving IBM $700 million a year. That?s significant savings and a lot of that savings comes from a lower real estate footprint and a lower energy footprint because of the lower real estate footprints.

So is it energy efficient or lot of those savings coming from less commuting or from less building stock or are they from offsetting your energy? So if you are working from home you are still burning energy, it?s just not in your company?s building, your company isn?t accounting for it anymore. These are kind of questions we are not sure of, there hasn?t been any definitive studies either way, and it?s difficult anyway because it differs in every company and every geography.

One huge problem I have with cloud computing and people saying that cloud computing is energy efficient is that none of the cloud providers are publishing data around their energy utilization, not one of them. So I often do a kind of a hands up exercise at this point and I don?t know if it?ll work here, because very few people admitted that they were going to be putting stuff in the cloud, but let?s raise hands again. Hands up everyone who has or plan to deploy applications to the cloud? Okay, so keep your hands up, keep your hands up. Now keep your hands up if you know the current energy utilization of the applications you are going to deploy to the cloud or the energy applications you have already deployed to the cloud, if you know how much energy your applications burn, keep your hands up. Okay we got one, anyone else just the one? Good. Okay, keep your hand up, we are not finished. Okay keep your hand up if you know the energy utilization of that application in the cloud. You do, is it a private cloud?

And they are giving you the energy utilization of that?

Okay, I am interested in that because I do a lot of work for SAP and they can never tell me the energy utilization of any of their cloud infrastructure.

I think, okay I must get back to you on that because I — if that is the case it must be very new, because it?s not something they?ve ever shown me before and if they do it it?s often kind of what we call humbligated it?s often — they will give you an average but they won?t tell you exactly what your application and what your users are utilizing which is what you need to know.

So as I say with the possible exception of SAP, most cloud providers do not provide the data. So without that data, we have no way of knowing if our applications are in fact energy efficient in the cloud. Even if they are, energy efficiency is not the same as being green. Just because something is energy efficient does not mean it?s green, and this is a very common mistake that people make.

So what is green? Well I’m also going to quote from the CDC report that Nancy mentioned. And this CDC report, it?s called Cloud Computing – The IT Solution for the 21st Century and again there is a link to it there.

One of the quotes that the CDC put into that was that that a typical food and beverage firm transitioning it?s HR application from dedicated IT to public cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years. That sounds good, I buy that, that sounds quite green actually. They also went on though in their executive summary to say allowing companies to maximize performance, drive down costs, reduce inefficiency, and minimize energy use and therefore carbon emissions. So they have made the classic fundamental mistake of thinking that reducing or making something energy efficient makes it green or reduces emissions. There is nothing that says that is the case. I will tell you why?

And by the way Nancy and this is the blog post I wrote on GreenMonk where I explain in significant detail why the CDC report is completely flawed. So there is a link there you can go and have a look.

I will give it to you later, I will give you the link later. So two reasons why that report is deeply flawed. One of them is it?s based on assumptions and they say so in their model, they say their model is based on assumptions and the second is based on metric called PUE. So I?ll get the PUE in a second. PUE is Power Usage Efficiency. Anyone here familiar with the term PUE? Couple are, okay. So I?ll get to in a second. They based their model on this PUE metric, which is a widely used metric. But they have based it on a average PUE across the entire United States which is put out by the EPA, so that?s not really very indicative firstly.

But secondly, PUE the measurement itself, it?s a ratio of the total amount of power used by data center compared to the power deliver to the computer equipment. So the total power delivered to a data center is the power delivered literally to the door of the data center, which goes to power of the lighting, it goes to power the cooling, it goes to power of the UPSs, the whole thing, that?s the total power. And it?s a ratio of that to the amount of power which actually makes to the IT equipment. So the closer your PUE figure is to 1.0, the better.

Now couple of problems with PUE as a metric. The first is there hasn?t traditionally been any standard about where you measure the power. It?s measured at the meter, the power meter, the electricity company power meter but in data centers that is often been measured on the high voltage site, the medium voltage site, or the low voltage site depending on the data center, depending on where they put the meter. And of course if you are measuring out at these different place one data center measures at one place, another at another place you can?t cross compare because you are leaving out the loses that occur in the conversion from high to medium to low voltage.

So right there the lack of standardization that?s been worked on at the moment, and it is getting better, they are start to standardize but traditionally it hasn?t been standardized. So that?s one issue straightaway.

But even more important is, quick look at this graph here, if I have a data center which takes in two megawatts of power and of those two megawatts of power, one megawatt goes to powering the servers, then I have a PUE of 2.0, very simple. However if I realize that my one megawatt isn?t being used very efficiently, and I realize that some of my servers are being under utilized, may be I?ll virtualize some of them and I shut some of them down. Then my power draw from my IT equipment drops to 0.75 a megawatt. My total draw drops to 1.74 and my PUE goes up to 2.33. Remember I said PUE closer to 1.0 means you are more efficient. I?ve actually made it more efficient and my PUE has gone from 2 to 2.3, so it?s a huge problem right there with the PUE metric.

Another issue and I am sorry this is a little bit complex, but I?ll walk it though it again another issue with PUE is it takes no account of carbon. So top line is a typical data center, typical data center in a European country, a European country where the supply of power causes CO2 per kWh that?s not unusual that?s a pretty average figure. So if that typical data center has a PUE of 1.5, just quiet good, then we get 1.5 by 0.5 we get 0.75 kg CO2 per kWh is the IT carbon intensity, is how much the IT equipment is producing in terms of CO2.

So if we have a data center with the a good PUE 1.2 and that good data center is drawing mostly from coal-fired power, so it?s got a supply carbon intensity of 0.8 kilos, the you are — 0.8 by 1.2 means you are producing — even though you have got a good PUE in your data center, you are producing 0.96 kilo CO2 per kWh.

On the other hand if you have got a really bad data center with a PUE of 3, very inefficient data center, PUE of 3 but is fired mostly by renewables. So your carbon intensity on your supply is 0.2, but still it?s not 0 it?s 0.2, it?s significant, there is still carbon being produced per kWh. 0.2 by 3 gives you 0.6, which is significantly less. It?s, you know, 60% of the carbon intensity of the data center with a PUE of 1.2.

So PUE is no indicator whatsoever of how green some thing is, it?s a very bad metric. There is other metric called a CUE the Carbon Usage Efficiency but it is not widely used by the industry unfortunately.

So given that, the report that the CDC produced could just as easily have said that your typical food and beverage firm transitioning HR to a dedicated public cloud could increase CO2 emissions by 30,000, just as valid. They pick the number out of the air and they base it on a flawed metric, so it?s just as valid to say it could increase CO2 as decreased CO2.

And a good example of this in fact is Facebook, Facebook build this lovely new data center in Prineville, Oregon, they opened it early this year. Had an unbelievable PUE coming in around 1.08, highly efficient, they have open sourced it. If you go to opencompute.org you can get the blueprints for building the data center and the list of suppliers, so you can go on build that same data center yourself. They reduced their energy consumption per unit of computing by 38%, that?s fantastic, that?s really good.

Unfortunately, their energy supplier is a company called PacifiCorp. PacifiCorp produces 58% of its power from coal, this is their website, they say it themselves right there. They produce 9.6 million tons of coal from their own mines every year. They also produce another 12% of their electricity from natural gas, so that?s 70% they produce from fossil fuels, plus they also buy 22.5% of their power from other suppliers. Now they don?t say how those other suppliers generate theirs. So they get at least 70 and possibly significantly more of their energy from fossil fuels. So right there Facebook?s really impressive 1.02, sorry 1.08 PUE is blown out of the water by the fact that it?s all produced using carbon or almost all.

To contrast that this is the graph of power production on the Spanish grid. I picked Spain because I happen to live there and you can see that this was taken last Friday, the snap shot and again you can get information from the Red El?ctrica de Espa?a. The red bar here, or bar whatever it is area is coal, comes in around 20%, green one here is wind, the other is, the rest of the renewables put together except water, which is down here.

So on the Spanish grid, carbon intensity comes in around 20% at the moment based on that plus the gases and other 15% sorry. And that?s actually bad compared to the same grid two years ago. The same grid two years ago, coal was coming in single digits here on 9% and the reasons gone from the 9% two years ago to 20% today is because Zapatero, the now former President of the parliament comes from Castile and Le?n which is a coal producing part of Spain and he went to the EU and he petitioned for years to be allowed to give subsidies to the coal miners and the coal production in that part of Spain. And last February, sorry February 2010 he succeeded and they got 4.5 billion Euro in subsidies for producing coal in Spain and that?s a direct result, it?s scandalous.

Anyway that?s either here or there let?s move on. Dublin, I am originally from Cork, so I?ll talk of Ireland for little bit. Dublin has become a European, key European datacenter hub. Most of the big data center providers have significant operations in Dublin. Microsoft have their largest datacenter outside of US in Dublin. It provides the Microsoft Live and Azure services for EMEA. Similarly Amazon are there, Google are there, they all have significant centers there and they are all expanding. Google have announced new expansion as of Microsoft representatives.

Unfortunately, Ireland produces 84% of its electricity from Fossil fuels, that number is falling as it rolls out wind, it was a 87% a couple of years ago, but now its 84%. So that?s not really very green. On the other hand Apple have announced their iCloud service and their iCloud service is currently housed in this datacenter in North Carolina, it?s a photograph of it under construction. Unfortunately this datacenter gets 78% of its energy from Duke Energy who get it from, no they get all of their energy from Duke Energy, Duke Energy get their energy from 78% coal and nuclear.

Coal is obviously really bad, nuclear is also really bad, not just because of the Fukushima reasons, but you got to think as well, nuclear power plants have an enormous water footprint. And that is, it can often be devastating to the environment around them. But Apple have said in fairness to them that they have got a 121 acres site behind them that they are now clearing for scrub to install a solar facility, it will mitigate a little their emissions, a 121 acre solar facility is not going to complete power the plant and it certainly won?t power at night time but it will have at least.

Google are the really interesting player in this field, because Google have gone to extreme lengths to get their carbon footprint down to zero. They have signed power purchase agreements with Wind farms. A power purchase agreement is where you sign on the dotted line with a wind farm or any one in this case it?s wind farms in Google?s case, you sign on the dotted line and you say, for the next X years and in Google?s case its next 20 Years I will take all of your power, all of it.

For wind farms that?s a huge win because that means they can go to investors and say, we?ve got checks rolling in from Google for the next 20 years guaranteed and here is the contract, do you want to invest in us now. So obviously it will help them get investment inward investment. It?s a great win for Google on two fronts, one is they?ve got guaranteed renewable energy and the second is they?ve got guaranteed pricing for their energy for the next 20 years. How many people can say they know what the price of their electricity is going to be in 20 years?

So they have done it in a number of wind farms, this one is in Iowa, 114 megawatts, this one is in Oklahoma, another 100 megawatts. And they?ve gone to incredible lengths and this is the slide I mentioned earlier with all the bullet points and I?m really sorry this slide is more bullet points than I normally have in entire talks. So there is nine bullet points in this but it gives you an idea of the investments that Google have made in renewable energy.

The Potter Drilling one is for geothermal, Makani Power is for high altitude wind power. Solar City, the Atlantic Wind connection, that?s a — I can?t remember how long it is, it?s a massive offshore wind farm off the east coast of the US and they?ve invested in the infrastructure of that, they own a percentage of the infrastructure in that, in total Google have invested $850 million on renewables. So if anyone could be slightly green I guess in cloud it would be Google.

Having said that though, there is lot of having said that in this presentation I am sorry about that, it?s a complex area. Jevons paradox, William Stanley Jevons is an economist in the 19th century in England. And he realized that as steam engines were being made more efficient in burning coal, as they were getting more efficient at burning coal the amount of coal being burnt was actually going up not down. It was kind of counter intuitive but how it worked was as stream engines become more efficient the price dropped, more people bought them, more coal was burnt. And it?s similar with cloud computing. As cloud computing goes and starts taking off in adoption the resources that are used actually go up not down.

So cloud computing leads to an increase in consumption and this also then Parkinson?s Law and a curare of Parkinson?s Law which says data expands to fill the space available for storage, the more storage you have the quicker it fills up, you all know that. And a good example of that is when Gmail started in 2004 Hotmail had a 2 meg limit on the size of your inbox. Yahoo at 4 meg and gmail said, I am offering one gigabyte, blew them out of the water and suddenly they had catch up and go to one gigabyte, Google is now at 7.5 giga byte and they allow you to send emails of 25 megabyte, single email 25 megabytes.

So, also a nice quote I got from Infochimps? Flip Kromer and this really characterizes how cloud computing can promote consumption. And Flip said it very well when he said, EC2, which is one of Amazon?s offerings in cloud means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10 machine cluster with a terabyte of distributed storage for eight hours and because it costs virtually nothing to do it and because anyone can do it — it happens all the time. So that?s not very green.

You?re confused yet? So what if ultimate irony you had cloud delivered green software, Hara, Nootrol, SAP?s Carbon Impact OnDemand, these are all carbon management applications which are cloud delivered. Now, I am really confused I don?t know if they are green or not. Microsoft Iron Earth, cloud delivered using the Azure platform for managing air quality, water quality, noise pollution, that kind of thing, I think my head just exploded.

So my conclusion from all this is that cloud computing has a significant number of advantages, but being green isn?t one of them. One last thing if you are deploying stuff to the cloud, this is not really how you want to do it. Thanks very much.

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Don’t forget – where your cloud apps are hosted helps determine their carbon footprint

Greenwash

Back in July of this year (2011), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in conjunction with Verdantix, released a report titled Cloud Computing – The IT Solution for the 21st Century [PDF warning] which erroneously claims Cloud Computing is Green. Shortly after it was released, I wrote a long post outlining exactly where the report was flawed. I also contacted the CDP directly outlining my concerns to them and pointing them to the blog post.

Then, a couple of weeks back, when preparing my slides for my Cloud Computing’s Green Potential talk for the Cepis and Hepis Green IT conference in Athens, I discovered that Verdantix and the CDP had published

a new report [PDF] on the business and environmental benefits of cloud computing in France and the UK

Unfortunately, not only does the new report make the same mistakes as the original one, but it further compounds those errors with an even more fundamental one.

Let me explain.

In the key assumptions section of the report it talks about the metric tons of CO2/kWh in both the UK and French electricity grids (0.000521 tonnes and 0.000088 tonnes respectively). It uses these figures to extrapolate the savings in both France and the UK for companies migrating their applications to cloud computing.

So? You say. Sounds reasonable to me.

Well, the issue is that they didn’t do any work to identify where applications migrated to the cloud would be hosted. The implication being that UK applications migrated to the cloud, will be hosted on UK cloud infrastructure and French IT applications will be migrated to French hosted cloud infrastructure. In fact this would be a highly unusual scenario.

A quick look at where most cloud hosting takes place shows that the vast majority of it is occurring in the US, with quite a lot happening in Singapore with a lesser amount in Europe (and that split between Ireland, Germany, UK, etc. but almost none in France – Ireland is underestimated in the list as it doesn’t include Microsoft which has a significant Cloud hosting facility in Dublin which it is now expanding or Google’s Dublin facility).

Ok, and what about the carbon intensity of electricity generation in these countries? If a cloud application is moved to somewhere with a lower carbon intensity for electricity generation, then there is a possibility of a carbon saving. However, with the vast majority of cloud hosting still being done in the US, that isn’t a likely scenario.

This table of CO2 emissions from electricity generation, by country shows that the US has one of the most carbon intensive electrical grids in the world. France, on the other hand, with its high concentration of nuclear power (78%) has one of the least carbon intensive electricity grids in the world. While the UK grid’s carbon intensiveness at 557kg CO2/mWeh sits just above the world average of 548kg CO2/mWeh.

While it is possible (though not probable) that UK IT applications outsourced to the cloud would be hosted in a country with a lower carbon intensity than the UK, the chances of a French IT application being hosted in a country with a lower carbon intensity than France are virtually nil.

Given this, the assertion by the CDP report that

large businesses in France and the UK can reduce CO2 emissions from their IT estate by 50% compared to a scenario where there was no cloud computing.

seems, at best, extremely improbable.

One problem with coming up with reports like this is the lack of transparency from cloud providers on their locations, their energy and carbon footprints. If all cloud providers reported these metrics, it would be a far simpler matter to decide whether cloud computing is green, or not. Without these data, there is absolutely no way to say whether moving to the cloud increases or decreases CO2 emissions.

If you are wondering why the Carbon Disclosure Project and Verdantix are so bullish in their assertions that Cloud Computing is Green – if you scroll to the bottom of the report, you’ll see this:

CDP & Verdantix's motivations

This study was supported by AT&T
For more information on AT&T Cloud Solutions go to …

The report was paid for by the Cloud Solutions division of AT&T. Enough said.

Photo credit fotdmike

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HP joins ranks of microserver providers with Redstone

Redstone server platform

The machine in the photo above is HP’s newly announced Redstone server development platform.

Capable of fitting 288 servers into a 4U rack enclosure, it packs a lot of punch into a small space. The servers are System on a Chip based on Calxeda ARM processors but according to HP, future versions will include “Intel? Atom?-based processors as well as others”

These are not the kind of servers you deploy to host your blog and a couple of photos. No, these are the kinds of servers deployed by the literal shedload by hosting companies, or cloud companies to get the maximum performance for the minimum energy hit. This has very little to do with these companies developing a sudden green conscience, rather it is the rising energy costs of running server infrastructure that is the primary motivator here.

This announcement is part of a larger move by HP (called Project Moonshot), designed to advance HP’s position in the burgeoning low-energy server marketplace.

Nor is this anything very new or unique to HP. Dell have been producing microservers for over three years now. In June and July of this year (2011) they launched the 3rd generations of their AMD and Intel based PowerEdge microservers respectively.

And it’s not just Dell, Seamicro has been producing Atom-based microservers for several years now. Their latest server, the SM10000-64 contains 384 processors per system in a 10U chassis with a very low energy footprint.

And back in April of this year Facebook announced its Open Compute initiative to open-source the development of vanity free, low cost compute nodes (servers). These are based on Intel and AMD motherboards but don’t be surprised if there is a shift to Atom in Open Compute soon enough.

This move towards the use of more energy efficient server chips, along with the sharing of server resources (storage, networking, management, power and cooling) across potentially thousands of servers is a significant shift away from the traditional server architecture.

It will fundamentally change the cost of deploying and operating large cloud infrastructures. It will also drastically increase the compute resources available online but the one thing it won’t do, as we know from Jevons’ Paradox, is it won’t reduce the amount of energy used in IT. Paradoxically, it may even increase it!

Photo credit HP

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Carbon Disclosure Project’s emissions reduction claims for cloud computing are flawed

data center

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a not-for-profit organisation which takes in greenhouse gas emissions, water use and climate change strategy data from thousands of organisations globally. This data is voluntarily disclosed by these organisations and is CDP’s lifeblood.

Yesterday the CDP launched a new study Cloud Computing ? The IT Solution for the 21st Century a very interesting report which

delves into the advantages and potential barriers to cloud computing adoption and gives insights from the multi-national firms that were interviewed

The study, produced by Verdantix, looks great on the surface. They have talked to 11 global firms that have been using cloud computing for over two years and they have lots of data on the financial savings made possible by cloud computing. There is even reference to other advantages of cloud computing – reduced time to market, capex to opex, flexibility, automation, etc.

However, when the report starts to reference the carbon reductions potential of cloud computing it makes a fundamental error. One which is highlighted by CDP Executive Chair Paul Dickinson in the Foreword when he says

allowing companies to maximize performance, drive down costs, reduce inefficiency and minimize energy use ? and therefore carbon emissions

[Emphasis added]

The mistake here is presuming a direct relationship between energy and carbon emissions. While this might seem like a logical assumption, it is not necessarily valid.

If I have a company whose energy retailer is selling me power generated primarily by nuclear or renewable sources for example, and I move my applications to a cloud provider whose power comes mostly from coal, then the move to cloud computing will increase, not decrease, my carbon emissions.

The report goes on to make some very aggressive claims about the carbon reduction potential of cloud computing. In the executive summary, it claims:

US businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion can cut CO2 emissions by 85.7 million metric tons annually by 2020

and

A typical food & beverage firm transitioning its human resources (HR) application from dedicated IT to a public cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years

But because these are founded on an invalid premise, the report could just as easily have claimed

US businesses with annual revenues of more than $1 billion can increase CO2 emissions by 85.7 million metric tons annually by 2020

and

A typical food & beverage firm transitioning its human resources (HR) application from dedicated IT to a public cloud can increase CO2 emissions by 30,000 metric tons over five years

This wouldn’t be an issue if the cloud computing providers disclosed their energy consumption and emissions information (something that the CDP should be agitating for anyway).

In fairness to the CDP, they do refer to this issue in a sidebar on a page of graphs when they say:

Two elements to be considered in evaluating the carbon impact of the cloud computing strategies of specific firms are the source of the energy being used to power the data center and energy efficiency efforts.

However, while this could be taken to imply that the CDP have taken data centers’ energy sources into account in their calculations, they have not. Instead they rely on models extrapolating from US datacenter PUE information [PDF] published by the EPA. Unfortunately the PUE metric which the EPA used, is itself controversial.

For a data centric organisation like the CDP to come out with baseless claims of carbon reduction benefits from cloud computing may be at least partly explained by the fact that the expert interviews carried out for the report were with HP, IBM, AT&T and CloudApps – all of whom are cloud computing vendors.

The main problem though, is that cloud computing providers still don’t publish their energy and emissions data. This is an issue I have highlighted on this blog many times in the last three years and until cloud providers become fully transparent with their energy and emissions information, it won’t be possible to state definitively that cloud computing can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo credit Tom Raftery

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Friday Green Numbers round-up for July 8th 2011

Green Numbers

With the summer slowdown in travel, I’m re-instating the Friday Green Numbers Round-up – and so without further ado…

  1. Whitehall surpasses 10% CO2 reduction target

    Whitehall has surpassed its target of slashing its CO2 emissions by ten percent in one year, achieving a cut of almost 14 percent.

    Prime minister David Cameron said central government emissions have fallen by 13.8 percent in the past year, reducing energy bills by an estimated ?13 million.

    Topping the table was the Department for Education, which achieved a 21.5 percent cut, while the… Read on

  2. Britain’s richest man to build giant Arctic iron ore mine 300 miles inside Arctic Circle

    Lakshmi Mittal’s ‘mega-mine’ is believed to be the largest mineral extraction project in the region but threatens unique wildlife

    Britain’s richest man is planning a giant new opencast mine 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle in a bid to extract a potential $23bn (?14bn) worth of iron ore.

    The “mega-mine” ? which includes a 150km railway line and two new ports ? is believed to be the largest mineral extraction project in the Arctic and highlights the huge… Read on

  3. Amazon Resists Pressure To Disclose Data On Carbon Footprint

    Amazon revolutionized the retail industry in the United States, and for several years has had a strong presence in Europe and Asia. Its market cap among retailers lags only behind Walmart.

    Despite its successes, the e-commerce giant has attracted criticism for a perceived lack of transparency of its carbon footprint…. Read on

  4. Facebook in the top 10 most hated companies in America

    Business Insider posted an article titled ?The 19 Most Hated Companies In America.? The data was based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which releases industry results monthly and updates its national index quarterly.

    Facebook was placed at number 10. I decided to take a look at just the 2010 data, which is the latest available if you want to see ratings from all the companies in the US…. Read on

  5. 7 ways cloud computing could be even greener

    Forrester Research is the latest organization to explore the link between cloud computing and green IT.

    Forrester notes that by its nature, cloud computing is more efficient. But here are seven ways that an IT professional can make his or her cloud computing even greener ? regardless of whether or not the approach is public or private:…. Read on

  6. E-On investing $600 million in Illinois wind farms

    Northwest of Kokomo, along U.S. 24 near the Indiana-Illinois state line, the horizon is broken by the sight of dozens of wind turbines slowly turning in the breeze.

    There, in the small town of Watseka, Ill., E-On Climate & Renewables is putting the finishing touches on the Settler’s Trail Wind Farm, and the company soon will start work on the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm in a neighboring portion of Iroquois County.

    E-On also plans to construct a major wind farm across parts of Howard, Tipton, Grant and Madison counties.

    Construction on Phase 1 of the Wildcat Wind Farm is…. Read on

  7. UK’s two biggest solar installations start generating energy

    A huge solar farm in Lincolnshire and another in Cornwall started generating green electricity on Thursday to become the UK’s two biggest solar installations, as developers rushed to beat an imminent cut in government subsidies.

    The 1MW Fen Farm solar park and the 1.4MW Wheal Jane park in Truro are two of several such large-scale projects rushing to connect to the grid. They are trying to benefit from a…. Read on

  8. Missing: 163 Million Women

    AMidway through his career, Christophe Guilmoto stopped counting babies and started counting boys. A French demographer with a mathematician’s love of numbers and an anthropologist’s obsession with detail, he had attended graduate school in Paris in the 1980s, when babies had been the thing.

    He did his dissertation research in Tamil Nadu.

    As it turned out, Tamil Nadu was in fact one of the states where girls had a better prospect of survival, while in 2001 the northwest, a wealthy region considered India’s breadbasket, reported a regional sex ratio at birth of 126?that is, 126 boys for every 100 girls. (The natural human sex ratio at birth is 105 boys for every 100 girls.) The cause for this gap, Guilmoto quickly learned, was that pregnant women were taking advantage of a cheap and pervasive sex determination tool?ultrasound?and aborting if the fetus turned out to be female… Read on

Photo credit Tom Raftery

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3 easy steps to see if your Cloud solution is energy efficient

Cloud

I’ve written a number of posts questioning whether Cloud Computing is Green or Energy Efficient but to be a little more helpful, here is a simple test you can do to see if your Cloud Computing delivered applications are yielding energy efficiency gains for you:

  1. Have you moved some of your applications to a Cloud provider? – if “Yes” go to step 2 (if no, then cloud is not saving you energy)
  2. Do you know what the energy consumption* of that application was before moving it to the cloud? – if “Yes”, go on to step 3 (if no, then you have no way to tell if your Cloud solution is saving you energy)
  3. Do you know the energy consumption of your application after it has moved to the Cloud? – if “Yes” subtract 3 from 2 and if the answer is positive then Cloud is saving you energy (if no, then you have no way to tell if your Cloud solution is saving you energy)

*Obviously, the units of energy consumption in steps 2 and 3 need to be the same for this to work. To make sure they are, try contacting your Cloud provider before moving your applications to the Cloud and asking them what their method for measuring energy consumption is. If they tell you (more than likely they won’t) you can match your measurement units in step 2 to theirs.

Unfortunately, as Cloud Computing providers are, as yet, not publishing energy consumption information, for now, this only works as a thought experiment. However with coming regulatory requirements around reporting of energy consumption, Cloud Providers may be forced to reveal this information.

It is only when Cloud providers detail their energy consumption information that we will be able to say whether Cloud Computing is energy-efficient, or not.

Photo credit kevindooley

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Cloud Computing’s Green Potential – my talk at the Green Economy conference

The good people in Business and Leadership invited me to speak at their Green Economy 2011 conference on the topic of “Cloud Computing’s Green Credentials”

The event was in Dublin and was attended by around 200 people from all walks of business. Fellow speakers were Yvo de Boer from KPMG, Dick Budden from the Carbon Disclosure Project and Dr. Willfried Wienholt from Siemens who talked about Sustainable Cities.

In my own talk, I said that intuitively, you might expect Cloud Computing to be more energy efficient, and in fact some Cloud Computing providers are making claims that Cloud Computing is “potentially” Green and energy efficient. However, seeing as Cloud Computing providers are not publishing any data around Cloud Computing’s energy consumption, then it is impossible to say just how energy efficient Cloud Computing is.

An exercise I tried out was – I asked everyone in the room to put up their hands if their company had deployed apps to the cloud – a good few hands went up. Then I said, keep your hands up if you know what the energy utilisation of those apps was before they went up – you can see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, no hands stayed up at this point. The final instruction I was going to put to them was to keep your hands up if you know the energy utilisation of your app now that it is deployed in the Cloud. If you don’t have that information (and no-one does because Cloud Providers are not supplying it) then you can’t say that Cloud Computing is energy efficient.

Sure, you can say that you deployed your CRM to the cloud for example, and you decommissioned the servers which were handling your CRM internally – so you are saving energy there. But those energy savings are simply outsourced to your Cloud CRM provider and you have no idea how much energy they are burning to provide you with your CRM solution.

As for whether or not Cloud Computing is Green, or not – this is a different question entirely. I gave the examples of FaceBook and Microsoft, for example. FaceBook have a massively energy efficient data center in Prineville Oregan. It’s PUE is 1.07 which is near the theoretical maximum (of 1.0) but it is powered by Pacific Corp 63% of whose electricity is generated by burning coal – very definitely not Green. Similarly for Microsoft’s Dublin data center – again a very respectably PUE of 1.2, but it is powered off the Irish electricity grid, 87.5% of which comes from fossil fuels – again, not Green.

On the other hand, Google have gone to extraordinary lengths, investing over $400m in renewable energy and signing 20 year power purchase agreements with renewable energy providers – so you have to suspect that their Cloud Computing platform is Green, as well as energy efficient (but again, until they start producing data to back such claims up, it remains a suspicion!).

I concluded on Flip Kromer‘s great quote:

EC2 means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10-machine cluster with 1TB of distributed storage for 8 hours

This is a superb example of Jevons Paradox whereby Cloud Computing leads to increased computer resource utilisation, not reduced – which is also, not very Green!

The organisers put some of my talk up on YouTube – this may help get some context around the slides above –