Call for green figures from cloud providers

23 Apr 2010

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A leading green IT analyst has called on cloud computing providers to be more transparent about their environmental efforts, saying that businesses will need this data in the future to support their own green compliance efforts.

Tom Raftery is the lead analyst of GreenMonk, the energy and sustainability practice of industry analyst firm RedMonk and is a director of the Cork Internet eXchange data centre. He was giving one of the keynote speeches at the inaugural Green IT Summit in Croke Park yesterday.

Asked whether a company moving to cloud computing would simply be outsourcing its emissions, Raftery said he was “quite sceptical” about this issue. “None of the cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft or IBM are publishing metrics at all. Intuitively you have to think that because you’re outsourcing that to someone of that scale that they’re being more efficient but we’ve no way of knowing. Frankly, that’s worrisome. I don’t know why they’re not publishing it and I wish they would,” he said.

Energy regulation compliance

In the years ahead, compliance with energy regulations is likely to force companies to audit suppliers in order to provide verifiable details about their own sustainable IT efforts. This will put renewed pressure on cloud providers to come up with the numbers, added Raftery.

However, that may prove difficult. Some delegates at the conference pointed out that electricity in Ireland comes from a range of generator companies and some source their energy more sustainably than others. In Ireland, this electricity is pooled before being sold to customers through various utility companies – a process which can make it hard to determine the exact source of the energy that a company uses on a given day.

John Shaw, CIO of Mainstream Renewable Power, said measuring carbon emissions isn’t always the most accurate measure of a company’s green credentials. He claimed Google’s data centres are not the most energy efficient in the sector according to some measures, but the company invests in a range of green energy sources and in doing so is removing the carbon emissions question from the debate. “If the provider has a solid strategy at that bigger level, the micro management of that part of their strategy is taken away from the customer,” said Shaw.

By Gordon Smith

Photo: In the future, compliance with energy regulations is likely to force companies to audit suppliers in order to provide verifiable details about their own sustainable IT efforts

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