How green is the cloud?

Technology editor Lia Timson wonders about cloud computing's green credentials, and if some statements on the topic are hot air.

Technology vendors are huge fans of buzzwords and two have captured their imagination at once.

The first is cloud. Cloud computing has been the subject of many discussions and sales presentations of late, with the pundits betting it is the future of all technology.

Cloud is, of course, the term used when data, services or infrastructure, or all three, reside on remote servers and are accessible usually via the internet or a private network.

Cloud can be private (dedicated to your company) or public (shared by co-tenants) or a hybrid, but let’s not digress.

The second buzz word is green. So now we have ‘green cloud’.

There is an argument that cloud as a greener alternative than purchasing and maintaining a whole lot of hardware which you may or may not need all year around, and for sharing some of those resources with other companies.

However, one must remember that wherever the servers are held, there still needs to be the infrastructure to run them. This tends to be in the form of very large energy-hungry data centres, fully equipped with industrial-strength heating and cooling, back-up power supplies and state-of-the-art equipment.

So is cloud itself a greener option?

That’s a question posed and answered in a new white paper by Fujitsu who, you guessed it, claims a global commitment to reduce customer greenhouse gas emissions by 15 million tons by 2012.

“This target is intended to allow Fujitsu, as a corporate group with a global business, to make a significant contribution to reducing their customer’s greenhouse gases worldwide,” the white paper says.

The commitment is delivered in terms of greener data centres which are used as client cloud facilities.

Other companies are following a similar path. Dell is also building data centres for cloud providers which claim better energy rating, recycled water cooling and natural cross-ventilation cooling. Their first Australian venture was recently opened in Adelaide.

So when considering cloud computing, avoid the greenwash and press your potential vendor to prove how green their services are. Only then you will know whether your company can breathe easily knowing it is contributing less carbon emissions to the planet.

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