Is cloud computing always the greenest option for SMEs?

A new report has suggested that cloud computing is generally a better option than on-premise when looking to save energy, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), alongside WSP Environment and Energy looked at how on-premise computing compared to the cloud in terms of energy efficiency – in particular power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the server room or data centre; how much of the server’s hardware is utilised; and carbon emissions.

Overall it was revealed that while running an app in the cloud is generally more energy efficient than running it in your server room, variables such as PUE and hardware utilisation are vital to cloud’s carbon footprint.

“The results confirm claims that running a business application in the cloud is generally more energy and carbon efficient than running it on-premise...however, this study demonstrates that this is not always the case and exceptions exist,” the report notes.

Five hypothetical deployment situations were examined in the report, with WSP hoping that it would be easier for companies to compare their options when analysing a more sustainable cloud.

The report found that sharing servers across customers can greatly increase average server utilisation, and that this was the key difference between private and public clouds in this regard.

Similarly, the report noted that upgrading server equipment is a good way to improve energy efficiency, although noting a word of caution that server utilisation needs to be similar in order to reap the rewards.

“While cloud computing is generally more energy and carbon efficient than on-premise server rooms, SMOs looking to improve the environmental sustainability of their operations should ask cloud service providers for full disclosure of the carbon efficiency of the services they offer,” said Pierre Delforge, NRDC project manager.

How much do you agree with this research? Will it make companies become more informed on the cloud before leaping in?

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18 Oct 2012, 6:02 p.m.

There is a lot of wasted resource still in data centres and cloud/virtualisation can certainly help address this. One option that companies can think about taking to further improve energy efficiency is through high ambient temperature data centres. Raising the ambient temperature and using natural cooling resources can have a striking impact on energy usage.