Large, global brands are changing the way in which we live, work, communicate, enjoy entertainment and more. All of these things demand the creation, consumption and storage of data and companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft (News - Alert) and Yahoo are helping to drive the charge, leveraging the appropriate data center services.
A recent Greenpeace paper highlights the growth and scale of investments in the cloud – a projected 50-fold increase in digital information by 2020, with an expected trillion in investment in the coming year. The cloud is driven by the data center, making them the factories of the 21st century.
Data center services consume considerable amounts of energy, and while green innovations do exist, the majority of IT companies are expanding without consideration for how their energy choices will impact society overall. It’s important to look at how efficiently electricity is consumed, while also considering the source of the electricity.
When innovative data center services are enabled through a connection to the dirtiest utilities lacking innovation, the cloud begins to have a measureable and negative impact on the environment and our communities. On the contrary, leading IT companies, such as Google (News - Alert), are realigning their rapid growth by enabling direct access to renewable energy sources.
With the power and influence these providers have in the global market, they can demand clean energy investments and policy conditions. They are in an ideal position to leverage their data center services to drive the electricity supply to increasing amounts of renewable energy, effectively phasing out dirty and dangerous sources.
Key findings from Greenpeace’s latest report show that three of the largest IT companies building their business through cloud innovations – Apple (News - Alert), Amazon and Microsoft – are doing so without regard to their energy source and are relying on dirty energy. Yahoo and Google are leading the sector by putting a priority on access to renewable energy to support cloud innovations. And, Facebook (News - Alert) has made a commitment to power its platform with renewable energy.
Greenpeace also found that a growing concentration of data center services investments in key locations are significantly impacting energy demand and how the grid is managed. Akamai (News - Alert) is the first IT company to start reporting on its carbon intensity according to the Carbon Utilization Effectiveness (CUE) standard, and an increasing number of companies try to portray the cloud as inherently green, while transparency is actually lacking and poor metrics are used to capture actual environmental impact.
There are, however, increasing positive signs concerning open source sharing of best practices and collaboration in the design of data center services. There are also increasing signs that more IT companies are taking a proactive approach to ensure their energy demand can be met with renewable resources.
As such, there is a growing demand in the data center services industry for green IT. One important point is that energy efficiency in and of itself does not equal green as green IT demands the replacement of dirty sources with clean, renewable sources. Without a clear strategy to make this change, efficiencies will only apply to the costs within that organization and not the impact on the environment or communities.
For the data center services provider, their location is the single biggest factor in whether or not they will use clean or dirty energy for power. Current and projected sources for clean and renewable energy vary between nations and regions and are driven in large part by government policies and current investments. As a result, the large IT firms need to make it a commitment to get engaged in policy conversations and decisions.
Simon Taylor, chairman of Newport-Wales based Next Generation Data (NGD), told TMCnet: “As one of the very first data centers to commit 100 per cent to renewable energy two years ago, NGD welcomes this illuminating report from Greenpeace. It clearly highlights the growing need for abundant supply of power, such as NGD Europe's at 180 MVA, balanced by a responsible approach to renewable energy sourcing and emissions management."
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin