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There is much hype around cloud computing, the reality is that the IT industry is once again reinventing itself to create demand.  Mainframe computing moved to distributed computing, SAAS moved it back again and the Cloud is just another name for central provisioning, wasn’t that what the mainframe was for?

Whether you believe the hype or not, and whether you are investing in private clouds or going all out on the Interweb, it is abundantly clear that the cloud potentially comes with some unwanted overheads if not designed and more importantly managed efficiently, namely increased energy and increased CO2 emissions.

The Smart 2020 report forecast that the global carbon footprint of the main components of cloud-based computing – data centres and the telecommunications network – would see their emissions grow, on average, 7% and 5% respectively each year between 2002-2020. Underlying this analysis is the number of data centre servers growing on average 9% each year during this period. With this massive growth come increases in energy consumption, despite increased efficiencies from underlying infrastructure.

Smart companies will design smart and will run infrastructure efficiently.  The cloud brings with it an obligation to reinvent service delivery and refocus efforts of efficient delivery. More cloud-computing companies are pursuing design and siting strategies that can reduce the energy consumption of their data centres, primarily as a cost containment measure.

Unfortunately for most companies, the environmental benefits of green data design are generally of secondary concern.  Key trends that do impact the environmental footprint of the cloud, namely, energy efficient servers and reducing the energy footprint of the infrastructure of data centres are clearly to be commended, but efficiency in itself is not green if you are simply wasting resource by utilising efficient resources inefficiently.  How many servers in your cloud are really required 24 x 7.  Why does ‘efficient’ infrastructure run idle?

As our collective demand for computing resources increases, even the most  efficiently built data centres with the highest utilisation rates serve only to mitigate, rather than eliminate, harmful emissions.  However, running a highly efficient datacentre with as much waste eliminated as possible is what every organisation should be striving for.

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