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08-August-2014

The Environmental side of Cloud Computing

If you are an avid reader of our blogs, or if you have kept abreast of developments in IT, you will know that cloud computing is not a new concept. However, what is relatively new, are the attempts by data centre providers to achieve carbon neutrality. Worldwide, data centre providers have begun to focus on the environmental impact of their operations – not only in terms of how they can minimise their impact, but also in terms of the benefits they can provide as compared to individuals and companies running their own comparable services.

Looking at it objectively, large data centre providers achieve economies of scale which individual businesses can only dream of. In fact, in an independent study commissioned by GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative) it was found that “contrary to the perception of power hungry data centres, that the energy efficiency of cloud infrastructure and its embedded carbon outperform on-site services by an order of magnitude.” These efficiencies can then be converted into environmental efficiencies which can be quantified in dollar terms – $2.2 billion annually.

efficiencies can then be converted into environmental efficiencies which can be quantified in dollar terms

But in the process of searching for greater environmental efficiencies, financial gains are but one aspect of the overall picture. A growing number of large cloud computing operations are working towards carbon neutrality: seeking to nullify their impact on the environment by way of smarter implementation and energy use. Here are but a few ways they are working towards this vision.

More efficient use of electricity

Did you know, 50% of the energy consumption and the resulting carbon footprint in an air-cooled data centre comes not from the running of the computing, but from the running of the cooling systems needed to keep the components from overheating? As such, hardware manufacturers and cloud providers are looking at liquid cooled computers which offer more efficient heat transfer and which will lower the reliance on electricity based cooling.

Others still, are looking at ways to save on the heating of associated buildings by transferring the heat from data centres via conduction to vents and ducts. This heat lowers the reliance on the manufacture of warm air which in turn uses electricity and fossil fuels.

Quantifying the benefits of sustainability

As much as people like to focus on the environmental benefits of becoming more sustainable, ultimately business generally exists to make money. As such, the drive towards sustainability has been aided by new methodology which has worked to quantify the value of environmentally responsible practices employed by data centres. In fact a study titled SMARTer2020 found that large-scale, systems-enabled broadband and information and communication technologies could deliver a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions to the magnitude of 16.5% and generate up to US$1.9 trillion in savings by 2020.

Furthermore, numerous studies have found for example that cloud computing lowers the comparative use of electricity due to efficiencies of scale. However beyond this the benefits extend to the fact that data centres mean businesses do not need to invest money in their own hardware, server racks and server rooms, which in turn means there is less reliance on the materials used in manufacturing.

cloud computing lowers the comparative use of electricity

Powering of data centres by environmentally friendly resources

Everyone knows about solar energy, wind power and so forth, but did you know, some large organisations are now looking to use biogas to power their operations. Working with operators of sewage treatment plants and biodegradable waste, methane is captured as it is produced and then utilised to create electricity – lowering both the cost of powering operations and lowering the environmental footprint of those using this power source.

 

As you can now see, the evolution of data centres has come a long way. From a focus on how to improve your connectivity and efficiency through to lowering your overheads, improving your carbon footprint and aiding the environment. And this is just the beginning. At Harbour IT we are always working to improve our standard of service and ensure that not only are we looking after you, but we are looking after the environment. For more information read our environmental commitment or contact us today.

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