The cloud is eco-friendly!

Moving servers into the cloud saves money and brings the flexibility needed to survive in today’s fast-paced world – but it’s also a great ecological feat. Cloud providers consume significantly less power than the hardware in your own server room. There are several reasons why, and they quickly add up.

Effective computers in the cloud

Computers are simultaneously getting faster and more energy-efficient. There is now a standardized measurement, known as SPECpower_ssj2008, to determine how power-efficient servers are. That’s great news! So how do you pick the right one to buy?

That’s a tricky question. Private ownership of a server kills its efficiency. For most of their lives, private servers run at a fraction of their computing capacity, to be able to cover future growth or demand peaks. When a server runs at half of its full computing speed, however, it still consumes 75 percent of its maximum power usage. Even when it sits idle, it still takes 25 percent of the full drain.

Cloud providers don’t have this problem with sleepy servers. Hundreds or even thousands of customers occupy shared hardware simultaneously and the load is distributed evenly, so that all machines are either fully utilized or switched off.

Another reason why efficiency is higher in the cloud is that the primary computing and storage hardware requires a lot of supporting infrastructure for networking, security, monitoring, management or backups. Again, when this is all shared among many, power is saved.

Ecological data centers

Modern data centers that house cloud providers are much more energy-efficient than any private server room, which commonly requires as much power for its cooling and other overheads as for the actual computers. An efficient data center only needs about half of that: Many cloud providers say they only have 20 percent of overheads, and an experimental “Green IT Cube” data center in Darmstadt even claims to have brought that figure down to seven percent.

When you add all of this up, your private servers need about twice as much electricity as a virtual server in the cloud.

In one of our subsidiaries, T-mobile Czech, we calculated how much energy is saved by moving customers to our cloud solution. The answer for just that one cloud environment is 600 tons of coal saved annually. Is that an impressive number? Yes, when you think of it as seven train wagons full of coal that would produce 451 tons of carbon dioxide, 140 tons of ash, 15.7 tons of sulfur dioxide and one kilo of lethal arsenic.

It becomes slightly less impressive when you consider that coal-fired power stations burn up millions of tons of coal per year. However, if you observe the pace at which cloud adoption continues to spread, it surely will have a very real impact on the environment. So, think about migrating: Mother Earth needs you in the cloud.

Author: Miroslav Pikus Cloud Expert
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