One of the favored tropes about cloud computing is boasts about its inherent green properties. It’s easy to imagine, somehow. Green computing feels good. It makes us think about trees and growing things, which need rain, which comes from clouds. This circuitous logic makes no sense when closely examined, like so many public opinions.
Can cloud computing be greener than a traditional data center? Yes, absolutely – and also no.
Like all things cloud computing, the assessment of its inherent greenness is all about nuance. How big is the data center being replaced/negated? Does the migration to a cloud hosting provider leave an organization with a lot of electronic waste to dispose of or recycle? How well is the organization's data center designed?
Most of the reduction in carbon emissions from cloud computing come because the service provider has a much more efficient data center than private, on-site facilities. Some cloud hosting providers locate their data centers in geothermically advantageous climates like Iceland and Nova Scotia, offering further natural cooling benefits. But to answer the question of whether cloud computing is a truly green solution, CIOs will need to compare their providers infrastructure and PUE ratings against their organization’s own energy and cooling usage.
Berkeley Lab created the CLEER model to help IT executives determine exactly how much energy they could save in moving to a cloud computing hosting provider. While it's obviously an inexact science, Berkeley Lab estimates that overall adoption to public cloud computing could save approximately 87% in primary energy use across the board.
Action Item: CIOs can use the CLEER model to estimate how much their own organization will save by migrating to public cloud computing, but it's entirely dependent upon individual organization size, vertical and business model.