7 ways cloud computing could be even greener

Pretty much everyone agrees that the cloud brings substantial energy-efficiency benefits, but Forrester Research offers 7 suggestions for how to make your cloud computing agenda even greener.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Forrester Research is the latest organization to explore the link between cloud computing and green IT.

Like others, it believes that the cloud approach can be inherently more energy-efficient than other IT infrastructure approaches. But it says that infrastructure and facilities professionals should take a stronger stand on the choices they make for private cloud infrastructure strategies, or cloud infrastructure that will serve a limited set of hand-chosen constituents versus the public at large.

The research firm's suggestions are outlined in a report released at the end of June, "Cloud Computing Helps Accelerate Green IT." Forrester notes that by its nature, cloud computing is more efficient. But here are seven ways that an IT professional can make his or her cloud computing even greener -- regardless of whether or not the approach is public or private:

  1. Make sure the data center is using power generated by renewable energy sources or that it uses "free cooling" methods. As an example, Forrester cites the Microsoft data center in Quincy, Wash, which uses hydroelectricity. As you pick your cloud provider, ask the question: Does the data center is uses take advantage of solar, wind or other sources. Can it rely on free air cooling at least part of the year?
  2. Look for modular data center approaches. That means the cloud service provider -- or your own organization, if we're talking private cloud -- is using an "as you go" approach to designing and building out the facility. Infrastructure should be brought on and provisioned as necessary, in order to keep utilization rates high. Forrester also suggests looking for a provider that has invested in a green certification, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation that was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  3. Get yourself more energy-efficient power and cooling systems. There has been a lot written about the need to make computer hardware more energy-efficient. Now, it's time to extend that mentality to uninterruptible power supplies, power distribution units, air-side economizers and the like.
  4. Think converged. Forrester suggest that blade architectures that converge server, storage and network architectures into a single rack aren't just easier to manage, they are far more energy-efficient.
  5. Virtualize and automate. Sure, pretty much every company has done SOME virtualization work. But how much is green enough? Forrester suggests that 76 percent to 100 percent of a company's total server footprint should be virtualized in order to deliver significant green IT benefits.
  6. Measure and manage. Energy information should be coupled with management automation that consumption can be optimized. So, for example, certain energy-intense workloads could be moved (if appropriate) from daytime to night in order to take advantage of better prices per kilowatt hour. Likewise, an organization could affect its carbon footprint position, but centering the most intense It workloads in data centers that are more energy-efficient.
  7. Set goals and strive for them. You can't really improve your green IT strategy unless you have one. And you can't make it better, unless you focus on specific goals. There are three primary areas in which a green IT strategy can be "greener": procurement (as in, buying the most energy-efficient technologies), operations (taking advantage of software and automation tools to provide the best experience) and end-of-life (which means ensuring that technologies are disposed of properly according to emerging electronic-waste policy standards).

Forrester's report underscores one potential loophole in the argument that cloud computing is inherently greener than other approaches by pointing out the fact that many organizations aren't asking that second layer of questions.

I believe the spirit of the Forrester suggestions should be embraced by any organization seeking to set up its cloud computing as green than its old approach or that organization could be in for a rude awakening.

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