When Google wrote on its blog earlier this week that switching to Google Apps could help a business save a boatload of energy, simply because Google Apps uses the cloud, I admitted my skepticism, noting that the cloud is only as green as the data centers that host cloud-based systems and services.
Today, Tom Raftery of GreenMonk adds his thoughts on the matter, coming to the conclusion that Google Apps cloud actually has a relatively high carbon intensity, or in other words, how much carbon emissions are generated to produce the electricity used by the data centers. He states:
I have been researching and publishing on Cloud Computing for quite some time here. Specifically, I’ve been highlighting how it is not possible to know if Cloud computing is truly sustainable because none of the significant Cloud providers are publishing sufficient data about their energy consumption, carbon emissions and water use. It is not enough to simply state total power consumed, because different power sources can be more, or less sustainable – a data center run primarily on renewables is far less carbon intensive than one that relies on power from an energy supplier relying on coal burning power stations.
Raftery notes that Google's calculations are a bit misleading, as there are many factors that can contribute to such an energy efficiency bump as large as Google claims it can give businesses that switch to Google Apps. He also notes that the data centers hosting the Google Apps Cloud are not optimized for reduced emissions, which means, as Raftery states, "there’s plenty of room for improvement!"
You can read the full post over at GreenMonk.