Summary:

Private businesses in London are bracing for power shortages during the 2012 Olympics, and it appears data centers located within the city won’t be spared, a turn of events that could have U.K. businesses turning to cloud computing.

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Private businesses in London are bracing for power shortages during the 2012 Olympics, and it appears data centers located within the city won’t be spared, a turn of events that could have U.K. businesses turning to cloud computing. According to RedMonk’s James Governor, Peer1 Hosting has been stoking fears of a power shortage during the 2012 Olympics that could leave data center operators without power to serve their customers. Although he noted the company might be invoking fear to drum up business for its forthcoming Portsmouth, England data center, it looks like that fear might be justified. Can the cloud save the day?

Energy experts have been predicting such a situation at least as early as 2007, when London began upgrading its power grid to achieve greater efficiency during the games, at the expense of power-hungry data centers. But it’s not just the Olympics that have London data centers in peril. According to a 2008 Guardian article, the Olympics are just the latest blow to an already underpowered London from which data centers operators are migrating en masse to cities — or countries — outside the metropolitan area.

Pushing expansion to outside geographies and retrofitting or otherwise revamping data centers to achieve higher efficiency are potential solutions for data center operators, but so is cloud computing. Done right, cloud hosting can seriously reduce data center energy usage thanks to practices like virtualization and automation, on top of the economies of scale that already come from operating large data centers. As Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge has pointed out, Rackspace has seen significant gains in revenue per server since expanding its cloud computing business, in part because of the efficiency gains from hosting multiple customers per physical server.

Cloud computing could be good news for local businesses, too, either as a short-term solution to the specter of their London-based hosting providers going down during the Olympics, or as a long-term solution to save themselves from power issues as their computing needs increase over time. As with most geographies, cloud-adoption surveys are inconclusive, but the wild success of Amazon Web Services’ Dublin data center — its sole European Availability Zone — might be telling about whether U.K. businesses will move to the cloud.

According to research from Netcraft, AWS now accounts for one-third of all web-facing servers hosted in Ireland, and, since AWS  launched there in 2008, “there is a clear increase in non-Irish companies hosted in Ireland.” No one can say for certain what percentage of these non-Irish companies are headquartered in the United Kingdom, but London is the economic center of the area — if not all of Europe — so it’s safe to assume the United Kingdom is driving a fair amount of AWS’s Dublin business. And AWS isn’t the only cloud option available for companies currently hosting large numbers of servers in power-strapped London, as Microsoft also has a Windows Azure data center located in Dublin. As companies begin shaping contingency plans for London 2012, and beyond, one has to wonder how big a role cloud computing will play.

I’ve asked Amazon and Peer1 Hosting, for comment, but neither has responded yet.

Image courtesy of English Wikipedia user FirstFreddy.

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