Go into the Light: Succumb to the Power of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, US data centers consumed 6.1 billion kilowatt-hours of power in 2006. Data centers have been identified as one of the fastest growing consumers of energy. The EPA is mandating that government agencies develop strategies for energy efficiency in government-operated data centers by setting a target of 20% improvement by 2011. Private businesses may soon be asked to meet the same mandate in curving carbon emissions. There are 3 key variables that play a major role on the impact of data center power consumption: data center location, IT load, and electrical efficiency.

Data centers are the facilities used to house computer systems and their associated components needed to manage an information network. Also referred to as server farms, they are the skeleton of a network infrastructure of telecommunications and dataprise storage systems. The applications and sessions they produce are the flesh and tissue of network layers. Data centers are designed to assure that the servers and the data housed on them are protected from environmental hazards and security breaches. These facilities are tooled specifically for the purpose of managing equipment that must maintain high-bandwidth connectivity to the Internet. Care is taken to ensure that minimum downtime is experienced for reasons such as power failure and natural disasters. A data center can be a private entity serving only itself as an independent business managing its own technical objectives or it can be a public hosting firm that provides data center services as a cloud provider. A cloud provider lends their physical infrastructure, as leased space, lines, or services, to organizations that rather not support their own technical computing operations.

Most data center owners have yet to scratch the surface of managing the energy consumption or efficiency of their centers. Traditional power and cooling systems are inefficient, stranded capacity rates are high and server utilization is low. A redesign of national and international power grids would be beneficial in modifying, augmenting or phasing out inefficient fossil fuel plants. Energy efficiency of the reduction in data center carbon foot printing is a long-term and extremely radical worldwide initiative. Tools such as APA’s power sizing, efficiency, carbon, and carbon allocation calculators are a step towards confronting the burgeoning energy challenge.

Something that social enterprise should began to embrace is cloud computing. Current projections show worldwide emissions from data centers will quadruple by 2020. Migrating desktop applications and Web based services to consolidated server farms has numerous sustainability benefits. According to the Environmental Leader in the July 20, 2009 article “The Sustainability Potential of Cloud Computing: Smarter Design,” the following advantages of cloud computing were cited:

•At the macro-economic level, cloud computing helps achieve economies of scale by centralizing compute power and democratizing access.
•At the CIO level, cloud computing helps shift the mindset to commoditize computing power, not servers, and therefore drive efficiencies via virtualization and greater utilization rates which allows systems to scale up or down due to load fluctuations.
•At the data center level, cloud computing’s drive towards consolidation paves the way for new standards for energy efficiency.
•At the R&D level, cloud computing creates incentives for software engineers to code more efficient applications, as often their company will become the host for said applications.

The movement towards cloud computing is the elimination of the need reinvent the wheel by lessening the time spent on technical operations and reallocate this time to the amount of hours needed for business planning and performing. If technical operations is not the focus of your business, off load these tasks to a cloud provider that not only can manage all of the technical attributes of the organization but can also do so while practicing green sustainability efforts.

The Green Grid is a global consortium of companies, government agencies and educational institutions dedicated to resource efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems. The Green Grid Association, the leading voice in data centers efficiency and business computing ecosystem, has announced a Technical Forum and Members Meeting to take place March 1-2, 2011 in Santa Clara, CA. The focus of the forum will be on helping businesses to become more efficient in energy, carbon, and water in their data center facilities. Dr. Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington, D.C. –based policy think tank will deliver the public keynote address. He is also author of the State New Economy Index series and the book, The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth (Edward Elgar, 2005).

For more information on the Green Grid Technical Forum please visit http://www.thegreengrid.org/events/tech-forum-2011.aspx.