Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Green Cloud: Hype or Reality?

The cloud, as we all know, is the hot IT topic of the moment; in Gartner's latest Hype Cycle, published last month, Cloud Computing holds the dubious honor of being tied with e-book readers at the top of the "peak of inflated expectations."
From the press release announcing the latest Hype Cycle:
The “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies” is the longest-running annual Hype Cycle, providing a cross-industry perspective on the technologies and trends that IT managers should consider in developing emerging-technology portfolios. This Hype Cycle features technologies that are the focus of attention in the IT industry because of particularly high levels of hype, or those that may not be broadly acknowledged but which Gartner believes have the potential for significant impact.

“Technologies at the Peak of Inflated Expectations during 2009 include cloud computing, e-books (such as from Amazon and Sony) and Internet TV (for example, Hulu), while social software and microblogging sites (such as Twitter) have tipped over the peak and will soon experience disillusionment among enterprise users,” said Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner Fellow.
 But in the last week, I've happened upon a number of blog posts and news items talking about the most important (from my perspective, at least) element of the cloud: Is it green?

I raised this question, somewhat indirectly, in July from the standpoint of Microsoft's online-Office announcement:
Both Microsoft and Google have extremely efficient large-scale data centers; both companies are aiming for an industry-leading PUE of 1.12 in their computing centers. Expanding the use of these services means more incentive to concentrate IT operations in these top-of-the-line facilities, and will continue the shift that individuals are already undertaking toward netbooks -- cheap, web-centric laptops that forgo much of the established abilities of desktops and full-sized laptops for more portability and lower price.
We'll come back to my take on this topic, but first, the rundown. In a new article on NetworkWorld, Tom Jowitt looks at the findings of Rackspace's latest Green Survey, and finds plenty of skepticism:
over 21% of IT managers believe that cloud computing is a much greener alternative to traditional computing infrastructures, but it seems that the vast majority still remain to be convinced.

Thirty-five percent said they were not convinced on the green benefits of cloud computing, and 25 percent felt that there was too much hype around the green benefits of cloud computing. Meanwhile 19% felt that the true green benefits of cloud computing have not yet been realized.

Seven percent admitted that cloud computing was critical to their company becoming greener; 14% are currently evaluating cloud computing and its environmental benefits; 13% have considered the benefits of cloud computing as part of their overall environmental strategy; and 20% would be interested in learning more about the green benefits of cloud computing.

But a sizable portion (46%) said that cloud computing was not a part of their overall environmental strategy.
 While CIOs and IT managers as a whole are still uncertain about the green benefits of the cloud, big business -- and industry experts -- see the green lining. Exhibit A: a blog post from David Talbot at MIT's Technology Review, which kicks off thusly:
Cloud computing may raise privacy and security concerns, but this growing practice -- offloading computation and storage to remote data centers run by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo -- could have one clear advantage: far better energy efficiency, thanks to custom data centers now rising across the country.

"There are issues with property rights and confidentiality that people are working out for mass migration of data to the cloud," says Jonathan Koomey, an energy-efficiency expert and a visiting professor at Yale University. "But in terms of raw economics, there is a strong argument," he adds. "The economic benefits of cloud computing are compelling."
 Original Article - http://us.mobile.reuters.com/mobile/m/AnyArticle/p.rdt?URL=http://www.reuters.com/article/gwmTechnology/idUS350327231420090928

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