Cloud computing's effect on IT services
There is no doubt that the transition to Cloud computing has caused a major alteration in the acquisition, application and management of global ICT services. Whilst the cost and complexity of owning and operating IT systems are eliminated by outsourcing in data centres, users can benefit from rapid deployment, large returns on investment and low upfront costs in a scalable and flexible online environment. Its efficiency and appeal is escalated further as it also allows organisations to free up resources and focus on strategy and innovation. However amongst the vast benefits of virtualising IT, what does this mean for the environment and its future?
The abstract concept of the Cloud and the word itself provokes images of a clean and simple environmentally friendly solution, but many envisage the data centres behind the Cloud being supported by unattractive industrial facilities packed with processors and hard drives. Furthermore according to a recent Greenpeace report, IT related services account for 2 per cent of all global carbon emissions which is equivalent to that produced by aviation services.
However, market leaders are paving the way for a more sustainable cloud environment after taking into consideration that 78% of all small businesses will be in the Cloud by 2020. With data centres at the foundation of Cloud technology, Apple are leading a global example by committing to powering it’s iCloud through renewable geothermal and solar energy at its North Carolina data centres. Facebook have also followed suite, with their growing quantity of data centres sourced by 100 per cent renewable wind power, leading them to make the single largest purchase of wind turbines in the world. A similar example can also be seen with GCIs UK based data centres, as the ex NATO smartbunker runs purely on wind generated energy offering a high performance facility that emits zero carbon emissions.
Although leaving room for improvement, many companies are considering how to provide greener solutions in the IT sector. A report from The Carbon Disclosure Project found that in the US alone companies using Cloud Computing will save 85.7 million metric tons of C02 emissions annually by 2020, with the greatest advantages coming from consolidation. With most companies now seeing a brighter future by hosting in the Cloud, gone will be the days of using onsite hardware and inefficient and underused servers that idly soak up electricity. The Cloud can offer multi-tenancy and data centre efficiency, utilising advanced data centre infrastructure and reducing peak loads by serving larger numbers of organisations and users on a shared infrastructure. Not only this, but dynamic provisioning has the ability to reduce wasted resources by matching supply with demand.
Hardware aside, the Clouds ability to host many services online can reduce fuel emissions by eliminating the need to commute as it allows remote working. Furthermore, how many trees are no longer cut down because of the production of online documents and collaborative solutions?
Aside all of this, you may ask what is happening outside of these data centres and how their presence might affect the environment. This question cannot be ignored, as the growing need for data centres used to power Cloud technology may mean building them offshore to ensure that they remain in secure and remote location. However, what does this mean if sea levels rise and the stability of the sea bed is reduced? The same applies to flash flooding or landslides where data centres are forced to reside in remote locations across the world as demand increases.
Although no one can predict the environments future, there is no doubt that in terms of environmental benefits the Cloud reaps advantages over ageing IT systems of the past. The Cloud can create great economies of scale by centralising power, and this is imperative when taking into consideration that the number of people online is expected to grow by 60% in the next five years alone. However, with this in mind, companies need to progress with the times and consider the impacts Cloud computing will have as demand increases and climate issues develop. It may seem like there’s a long way to go, however with the number of users increasing, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the power behind the Cloud.