Costas Galonis, CTO of cloud provider Cirrus Stratus, says Google’s huge energy bills mask how green cloud computing can be
Is Google’s energy footprint really that big or does the sheer scale of the organisation mask a Green agenda? I think the latter is the case and I will explain why.
These recent reports about Google’s large energy footprint miss the point that cloud computing offers businesses, and squeezed public sector organisations, not just a number of key advantages over conventional data centres and allied IT storage platforms, but a fundamentally greener, planet-friendly agenda.
Besides direct energy savings, cloud computing offers healthy savings to a variety of direct costs which in-turn offer more indirect energy savings, by running key aspects of IT systems on a carefully planned and centralised basis.
Big data, big footprint
The sheer scale of Google – which hit a million servers back in 2007 and is currently processing around 24 petabytes of data every single day – is astounding, but the reality for Google, and any organisation that uses cloud computing resources, is that it saves both money and reduces that organisation’s energy footprint.
Let’s take the world of the average in-house IT department. Even in this new world of virtualisation, IT departments consistently over-order to the tune of millions of pounds because they don’t want to be in the firing line if the systems go down. I have seen SME systems which could drive nuclear power stations ten times over – while the CEO signs the spending cheques and makes cuts elsewhere ‘safe’ in the knowledge that his IT will not malfunction.
That same CEO is probably proud to drive his green Lexus, puts “Please do not print out this email unless absolutely necessary” and has avoided complaining about the off-shore wind farm being built next to his sea-side second home because it’s too green – while the unnecessary carbon output from his over-specified IT department would shame a steel production plant.
I am starting to see a trend whereby boards are not going to allow a situation to continue where their hardware sits humming at 10 percent capacity (a situation which is not unusual) because the most pessimistic person in IT wants a 90 percent margin for error! The board is starting to become aware that it can buy little bits of the cloud when it wants to and cut down when it needs to and be greener than ever before.
The efficient, conscientious and really green IT staff will breathe a sigh of relief that a proper serviced environment is becoming clearer – the cloud – these IT staff members will not only keep their jobs but will be hailed as the introducers of green change and progress.
Battling against the odds
As far as Google is concerned we now know that Google used 2.6 million megawatt-hours of electricity last year, but we also know that the IT services giant ensures its IT operations use as little energy as possible – around half that of a typical data centre.
With a million-plus servers dotted around the world, Google clearly load balances and mirrors its data to acculturate its IT resources to the fact that hard drives will fail in the longer term, no matter how carefully controlled its cloud data centres are. But this is what all cloud providers do.
Today’s cloud providers use servers which have no moving parts – no fans and no old-fashioned hard discs to go wrong. They are power efficient and don’t get red hot. They don’t have to be housed in air-conditioned luxury anymore and the only people who are yet to realise it are those paying the bills.
The fact that cloud suppliers rarely have outages is testament to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to maintain the IT service infrastructure. And before IT staff mention certain resent outages from cloud providers how many large organisations suffer such outages regularly?
In many ways Google’s behind-the-scenes IT systems management mirrors the operations of the increasing number of companies that make extensive use of cloud resources – and in doing so, cut the cost of their IT operations and their energy footprint into the bargain.
Compelling pull of the cloud
The benefits of Cloud Computing for businesses are now so compelling that any new business setting up would be very unlikely to provide its employees the internal IT infrastructure that was typical only a few years ago. Why force upon yourself the overheads of PCs which have a cost of ownership, need repairs often because of the number of moving parts and a full-time staff to keep them up to date and running?
Just think of the carbon offset you can earn by ridding the planet of all the vans the engineers would use travelling to fix your broken PCs! Think of the lower heating bills with no PCs in your offices – just dumb terminals and no electric fans going all day to keep that heap of servers in the corner of your office from overheating and in the summer no air conditioning costs. Cloud is good for the planet.
The cloud is greener. cloud data centres are Green – they use virtualisation which cuts down the number of servers needed and the power consumption goes down because new servers don’t even have fans inside them. “Being Green” is not a fad – it is a necessity and cloud is not a fad either.