Go Green with Cloud Computing?

November 25, 2009

Can cloud computing be green? It depends largely on the service you use, but yes, putting your programs and applications on other services can save you energy, among other benefits.

Ronan Kavanagh on Web 2.0 writes:

[The] consolidation of workloads [resulting from virtualization] will mean that there are a reduced number of servers that need to be powered. This can lead to cost reductions of between $300 and $600 per year for each server that is removed from the infrastructure. In the case of data centers, the reductions will be in the region of $600 to $1,200 per year when cooling costs are included.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced real estate costs, resulting from less rack/floor space requirements.
  • Reduced management costs from streamlined operations.
  • Improved agility and responsiveness in bringing servers on line.
  • Improved availability and business continuity, practically eliminating the need for maintenance windows.
  • Simplified infrastructure, as disparate legacy and new applications can all be run on the same physical hardware.

My fellow GreenTech Advocate, Michael Knowles, adds these important benefits:

  • Improved access to applications and services for mobile or remote employees.
  • Improved systems reliability.
  • Reduced equipment life cycle and end-of-life costs resulting from reduced hardware inventory.
  • Pay-as-you-go services result in more predictable technology budgets and better cost control.

“Most cloud environments are great for standardized system loads,” says Knowles. “Being able to add resources as needed is an extra benefit. If I need more storage, for instance, I just pay a flat rate for an extra GB or two.

“Businesses are beginning to see the benefits of putting private clouds together in the workplace, too, using tools such as Ubuntu version 9.10 and eyeOS, both open-source offerings that have widespread support in the IT community. They’re reducing software license fees, sometimes on the order of tens of thousands of dollars a year, and simplifying system maintenance.”

Kavanagh says small and medium-size businesses should jump on the cloud. Though not all is rosy.

The Yankee Group, in a recent webinar, Pinning Down Cloud Computing, looks at this still-maturing business and has a few points of advise for those looking at cloud computing vendors:

  • Look at the small print: What is and isn’t in the contract. For example, what are they giving you for down-time, and is that worth it?
  • Look at data protection, security, and performance monitoring.
  • Is it a public or private cloud, private being owned by one company and not shared.
  • Who’s responsible for the data backups? You or them?

Agatha Poon of The Yankee Group describes the cloud computing business as still in a state of “overcast.”  “What’s missing is cloud portability (the ability to switch between providers) and cloud interoperability,” she says.

“There are definitely issues with the cloud where applications that require specific performance tuning are concerned,” adds Knowles.


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