Friday, January 27, 2012

Can Clouds Plug the Ozone Hole? (pun intended…)

Environmental protection has been a major concern over the past few years... and if it hasn't been an issue for us, it probably should be.  In any case, as an IT analyst it is important to know where we fit in and scrutinize our contribution to the environment from an analytical perspective, leaving all subjectivity aside.

For those of us who are not EPA experts, let us say we can help conserve the environment by:
1. Protecting the environment from pollution and habitat degradationCloud computing does not do much when it comes to habitat degradation or water pollution, but it does play a part in controlling air pollution.  This is because physical servers are consolidated into more efficient blades and chassis in the cloud.  Consolidation of resources results in less power and cooling requirements, which in turn reduces air pollution.  Moreover, cloud data centers can be placed in colder parts of the world to further save on power for cooling.
2. Sustaining the environment by avoiding depletion of natural resources
In the same way that cloud data centers can be placed in cold parts of the world, they can also be placed in remote areas with high wind (to harness wind power) or areas with more direct sunlight (for solar power).  As a result, alternative sources of energy can be used to power cloud data centers.  This placement of cloud data centers away from consumers is feasible because data and compute processing is not lost over wireless networks (unlike power loss during transfer of electricity from wind farms in the West coast to consumers in the rest of the country).

However, there are a number of underlying assumptions that need to be satisfied for cloud to successfully deliver Green-IT...
Assumption 1: Utilization of cloud resources is high and efficient.
Underutilization greatly reduces the consolidation ratio from physical to cloud resources and power savings are minimal.  Efficiency in the cloud can be boosted by turning VMs on/off based on demand (i.e. autoscaling) and load balancing between VMs.
Gravitant's CloudMatrix technology specializes in "optimizing" the cloud for consumers through a SaaS console across multiple providers.
Assumption 2: Data being collected is summarized and compressed before storage.
Otherwise, the constant collection and storage of data will lead to data obesity which brings into question "how much duplication there is and more importantly how much integrity does the data have?" (CloudVisions).
EXAR's hifn technology provides data deduplication and data compression services.
Assumption 3: Virtualization and storage caching technology is continuously improving.
Otherwise, the ever increasing processing and data needs will catch up and diminish the relative benefit of the cloud.
Cisco and EMC are constantly improving their virtualization and thin provisioning technology respectively.

Therefore, it is safe to say that Cloud computing can deliver Green-IT provided that the right tools are used and innovation continues unabated.

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