Is Cloud Computing Green?

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Those who promote cloud computing are often the same ones who cite the fact that moving to cloud computing means lower power consumption, thus a better earth.  Right?

However, based upon a recent report from Greenpeace, that does not seem to be the case:

“The cloud is growing at a time when climate change and reducing emissions from energy use is of paramount concern. With the growth of the cloud, however, comes an increasing demand for energy.  
For all of this content to be delivered to us in real time, virtual mountains of video, pictures and other data must be stored somewhere and be available for almost instantaneous access. That ‘somewhere’ is data centres – massive storage facilities that consume incredible amounts
 of energy.”

Unfortunately, the greenness or non-greenness of cloud computing is one of those bad consultant answers…”It depends.”

Ultimately, cloud computing will bring clearer skies to the Earth.  Instead of running 100 data centers that support specific companies, we can run one big one that supports all.  Thus, by sharing compute and storage resources through public cloud computing, eventually, things should get a bit better in terms of carbon footprint.  But, we’re a long way away from that future.

The problem is that we can’t fire up the public cloud center and then shutdown the corporate data centers at the same time.  This migration will take years, and count on an interim spike in power consumption to get us there…which is much of what Greenpeace is complaining about.

So, is cloud computing green?  Not now, but it should be at some point.  I think it’s worth the journey.