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Greener Computing in the Cloud


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Credit: slipperybrick.com

Researchers say that custom data centers being built for cloud computing systems are very energy efficient. "There are issues with property rights and confidentiality that people are working out for mass migration of data to the cloud," says Yale University professor Jonathan Koomey. "But in terms of raw economics, there is a strong argument."

Surging server-related energy consumption is a major issue. Energy consumption in data centers doubled between 2000 and 2005 and now accounts for 1.5 percent of worldwide electricity consumption. The Uptime Institute says that data center energy consumption could quadruple by 2020. Cloud computing could offer a solution by focusing on energy efficiency within large data centers.

For example, Yahoo's Scott Noteboom says a Yahoo data center being built near Buffalo, N.Y., will use as little as 25 percent of the electricity used by older data centers. The center's servers will be more efficient — they will use less electricity when performing fewer computations — and the building will primarily use natural air flows for cooling. Only when the temperature rises above 27 degrees Celsius will the center use air conditioning, which should only be needed about 212 hours per year. The new data center mimics the design of manufacturing facilities in the area that were built before air conditioning and will take advantage of winds coming off of Lake Erie.

Koomey says moving data to the Internet has helped reduce overall energy consumption. "Moving bits is inherently environmentally superior to moving atoms," he says. "People worry about energy use of data centers, but they forget that IT enables structural transformation throughout the economy."

From Technology Review
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