Cloud computing can cut software energy footprint, claims research

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Multiple clouds

Consolidation and improved efficiencies make cloud a green choice, US researchers claim

The use of cloud services could reduce businesses’ software energy footprint by 87 per cent, claims research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The authors of the Google-funded report, titled The energy efficiency potential of cloud-based software: a U.S. case study, said the investigation was undertaken to examine the energy use of data centres, which currently account for between one and two per cent of global electricity use.

“Cloud computing holds great potential to reduce data centre energy demand moving forward, due to both large reductions in total servers through consolidation and large increases in facility efficiencies compared to traditional local datacentres,” the researchers said.

Previously, there have been problems in quantifying how much energy can be saved by moving to the cloud, the researchers claimed.

To overcome this issue, the team built and made publicly available the Cloud Energy and Emissions Research Model (CLEER). The tool was used “to analyse the technical potential for energy savings associated with shifting US business software to the cloud”.

“If all US business users shifted their email, productivity software, and CRM software to the cloud, the primary energy footprint of these software applications might be reduced by as much as 87 per cent or 326 petajoules,” the researchers said.

The team admitted their estimates “are not without uncertainties”, but the energy saving potential of cloud-based software is still likely to be substantial.

However, Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace, told Cloud Pro that - while this study was better than others - now was the time for real-world investigations.

“There is broad agreement that cloud computing has the potential to achieve real efficiency gains,” Cook said. But, he pointed out, that a number of calculated assumptions had been made by the researchers when reaching their conclusions.

“To advance the debate in a more meaningful way, we need to move beyond another report on the potential savings from a fictional cloud, and have the companies provide the data that would allow for actual measurement, with actual grid factors and real world server utilization, that customers could properly compare against.  They have the data,” he concluded.

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