So, I've written several times here about research suggesting that larger data centers and the phenomena of software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing are somehow greener for the IT industry than the practice of using hundreds of smaller data centers. Not so fast, suggests Greenpeace, in a new report that it is releasing this week in tandem with the Apple iPad launch.
According to the Greenpeace report, "Make IT Green, Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change," the electricity consumption for cloud computing has the potential to triple to 1,963 billion kilowatt hours by 2020. This is more than half the current electricity consumption for the entire United States. The bigger problem, though, is that many of the data centers currently running cloud applications are fueled by coal-generated electricity. Case in point: Facebook is building a data center in Prineville, Oregon, that will be powered by PacifiCorp, which Greenpeace says uses mostly coal to generate its electricity.
In its report, Greenpeace is calling on the big players here -- companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Facebook and Apple (after all, iTunes is an enormous cloud application) -- to start wielding their influence to change where electricity for the cloud is sourced. By the way, if you want to weigh in on the Facebook data center sourcing decision, there is (of course!) a Facebook page where you can do so.