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Green cloud

aserocarmela's picture
Submitted by aserocarmela on Sat, 2012-04-21 13:23

The recent report by Greanpeace ( cast a light on importance of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources for cloud environments and data centers.

Should policy address such issues in future EU cloud strategy and how ensure a green and sustainable cloud development?

Your ideas on this subject are more than welcome.

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4 users have voted.


paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Sun, 2012-04-22 17:06

By some measures (eg, data centres already consume over 1% of global power, and this is presumably only going to get worse.

With finite fossil fuel resources, renewed dissatisfaction for nuclear, and ongoing problems with getting renewable sources to scale, we clearly need to do something in order to curb power usage.

*However* that requirement applies to all areas of life, and not just to the cloud.

We *want* green, sustainable, and efficient data centres. We *need* green, sustainable, and efficient data centres. But I'm quite concerned at the idea that we might seek to use regulation to coerce data centre owners to adopt green and sustainable strategies. We have a far more powerful (and fairer) weapon, and it's the price they pay for energy.

The cost of the energy used to power and cool servers is already the most significant part of a data centre's operational budget. Data centre operators are *already* making their facilities greener, using waste water or air for cooling, running servers hotter than ever before, and more. But, despite the positive PR of appearing green, the real driver that is effective here is cost; by adopting some of these approaches, their energy bill falls, and they save money. In the process, everyone wins.

If we make Green too big an issue on its own, we almost force data centre owners to make bold gestures that may often be little more than Greenwashing - they do little to address the data centre's real power needs and may (in the case of solar or wind farms spread over vast areas, for example) cause harm to other areas of the environment/landscape/ecology that we're not currently so concerned with. Who does that help?

Amazon's James Hamilton, for example, recently took a look at the contribution of renewables to the power requirements of two flagship data centres, Facebook's and Apple's - I went delved a little deeper into the Apple case in a blog post of my own, based upon James' figures -

Apple's own response ( to the recent Greenpeace report would suggest that their power requirements are lower than James or Greenpeace thought, but the broader point may stand. If we cajole/bully/legislate data centre owners to adopt explicitly green strategies, we may be missing the point. We may also be missing the opportunity.

Data centres are businesses. They want to cut costs, to be more profitable businesses. Cutting their energy bill is the single easiest way for them to cut their costs and be more profitable. Let's help and encourage them to do *that*, using all of the innovation at their disposal... rather than considering even for a moment that we should impose specific Green mandates.

One way that Government and policy can help this, of course, is through the provision of funds that *support* big changes in infrastructure. Carrot rather than stick, but recognising that some short-term pain (or cost) may be involved in ensuring a long-term gain (or saving).

2 users have voted.

conder's picture
Submitted by conder on Sun, 2012-05-06 18:00

Put data centres in cold places? Use the heat they generate to warm up the offices?
Use more local data centres for local data, why does everything have to be in one big centre? A web of centres.
Use the heat generated to grow food? Heat swimming pools. heat homes. Why waste heat?

When you think how much energy a data centre is going to save in terms of global footprints it makes sense for any country to get them built now, or asap, and build them with sustainable renewable energy at the forefront of their plans.

0 users have voted.

tom's picture
Submitted by tom on Tue, 2012-04-24 08:24

Greenpeace are correct - data centers are using dirty power to run their clouds.

Unfortunately this is often outside their control - especially in the US where the utility companies are regional monopolies and there is no choice in energy provider.

In the EU, there is more competition, and data centers should be encouraged to use energy from renewable sources and to site new builds where renewables are available. The greater the demand for renewable energy, the more will be built out.

I think the best way to encourage this is through transparency. Data centres need to be required to report fully and regularly their complete energy and emissions.

Iceland is currently running one of the world's most reliable energy grids (it doesn't have any outages). As well as being highly reliable, it has the cheapest energy in the western world and it is 100% renewable.

Iceland is due to become a full member of the EU in the coming year - so that should help the EU in attracting cloud providers looking for a renewable energy source.

But that is quite a local solution.

The real requirement is to move our all energy generation away from fossil fuels as soon as possible - this is important not just for cloud computing, but for every aspect of our life.

As Paul says above, mandating data centres to use Green power is not an answer, moving our generation to renewables (and requiring full transparency and reporting from data centres) is.

3 users have voted.

fhr's picture
Submitted by fhr on Mon, 2012-04-30 23:15

Strongly agree with Tom, although I am less forgiving of US public cloud data centre providers since the larger ones do have an amount of geographic mobility and could shift between grids if they chose.

Much public cloud usage now is globally fungible: for example, many UK public cloud users I talk to are using AWS US East in Virginia. Users would often be happy to move to greener providers or locations within providers, if the data were transparent. As long as there is no transparency requirement, those providers running on dirty energy do not suffer any market or PR penalty. It is difficult to make completely accurate inferences about their carbon footprint as they do not release data about their power consumption or power sources.
My company has attempted to rank public cloud locations' footprints per compute hour using publicly available data, as a resource for cloud users, but this can only ever be an estimated ranking until providers release properly audited data. As long as footprint numbers are estimates, it severely limits the proportion of companies prepared to act on the information, as it's too difficult to give guarantees about its accuracy and the companies cannot claim credit for making greener choices in their CSR statements.

1 user has voted.

Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Fri, 2012-05-04 11:44

The answer is yes but not as you think.

Could in itself is not interesting - ISOLATING cloud processes so control REMAIN with citizens are.

This means ensuring a virtualisation layer between cxitrizens and cloud, so NO CLOUD PROCESS EVER IDENTIFY OR IS ABLE TO COLLECT DATA ABOUT REALWORLD ENTITIES.

This enable all the key values
a) Secure - when, not if, cloud data are non-legitimately access, the attacker even insiders cannot use data for attacks out of context.

b) Market - when control remain with consumers, it ensures processes oriuent themselves according to needs rather than trying to control people. It enforces market processes and market principles.

c) Sharing - data are free for sharing as they can only be used to serve the customer and the main provider is free to control the contextual relationship preventing intermediation, fraud etc.

An "EU Cloud strategy" raise the requirements of other processes that have failed to deliver as secondary objectives have been permitted to override the fundamentals.

E.g. "the right to be forgotten" unvarible require non-identification in the first place as no regulatory process can ensure data is deleted and not abused unless the technology ensure control of data never transferred in the first place.

E.g. Single Payment Area. Where are the Secure and interoperable payment strcuture? I only see surveillance and lock-in - what about Digital Cash? What about parameterized payment standards facillitating change and choice?

Where are the secure and non-trackable mobile phone and RFIDs that can interact with cloud services without creating unmanagable risks?

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