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EMC sustainability czar explores cloud computing's green credentials

EMC sustainability director Kathrin Winkler is the latest to extol cloud computing's green credentials.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

As we entered 2009 (I'm ready to leave it behind, how about you?), many of my industry contacts questioned the relevancy of green IT discussions and why, exactly, I continued to be so excited about this blog gig. "The economy will trump all other concerns," they declared. "As it should," I answered, "which is exactly WHY green technology continues to become more and more relevant with each passing day."

But thinking about green technology requires thinking beyond simplistic ROI arguments. It requires a lot of gray matter, and not just in the intellectual sense. Procurement is no longer a matter of making a few black-and-white decisions. There's a whole lot of gray involved: Such as power costs that weren't previous a part of purchasing decisions. Or considerations about how to handle tech gadgets and equipment at the end of its useful life.

For these and many other reasons, I believe that green technology and cloud computing dialogues will begin to blur together in the coming 12 months.

I've been pondering this topic on my own for several months, but I got an extra bit of education earlier this week by Kathrin Winkler, who is senior director of corporate sustainability for EMC. Winkler, in turn, was inspired by comments made earlier this fall by White House CIO Vivek Kundra who declares cloud computing to be the "green computing option." Here's one of Kundra's blogs about the topic.

Winkler believes that: "Clouds will do for data centers what virtualization did for individual servers."

That is, it will force businesses to rationalize whether or not a facility really is necessary in the first place.

There are a couple of basic reasons why more and more people are starting to make the connection between green technology strategy and cloud computing initiatives. Here are a couple of high-level observations:

  • Sharing infrastructure resources helps eliminate the redundancy of underutilized infrastructure. Since most IT departments have SOME servers or storage somewhere, opting for a cloud alternative (or at least virtualized infrastructure) is both cost-effective and green.
  • Cloud is a great alternative to the tendency of CIOs to opt for "overdraft protection." This is Winkler's phrase to describe the practice of overprovisioning to handle peak demand. That infrastructure just sits around and consumes energy until (or IF) it is called upon to do something. Why not call upon "the cloud" for that overdraft protection instead of building out your own resources?

The full text of Kathrin's own blog about the link between being green and embracing the cloud is here.

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