Enterprise IT Planet’s Green blog reported yesterday on a move by Greenpeace to take advantage of that new product Apple is launching to criticize the move to hosted computing services (aka, the cloud) as bad for Mother Nature.
The report [Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change] claims that the iPad and similar devices, in relying heavily on “the cloud” rather than local disk-based media, are much more damaging in their carbon footprint than previously thought. In fact, Greenpeace claims data centers generally will consume 1963 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by 2020, more than the power consumed by France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined. The report also claims that if global telecommunications and data centers were considered a country, it would rank fifth in the world in energy use in 2007.
The report’s biggest problem with the cloud is that most data centers are plugged into power grids fueled by coal, a known contributor to carbon emissions. The organization has already launched a PR war against Facebook for its new Oregon-based data center for relying almost exclusively on fossil fuel for generating electricity, while holding out Yahoo and its 100% renewable-energy data center in New York as a good-citizen alternative.
I mention this because people usually argue that the move to hosted computing centralizes all of the small drains on the power grid from indivual devices that are more powerful than many people need into a relatively few large datacenters where it is much easier to get leveraged gains from small improvements.
This argument still seems to make the most sense to me, but you should be aware that if you’re building a mammoth HPC center to…I don’t know…cure cancer, Greenpeace may be sending you a note.