Cloud computing and the environment{1}

by Giselle N
The article I read this week was mainly about the impact of IT on the environment. According to the author, the demands for computing and data storage have increased so much that by the year 2020, the emissions produced by IT may be higher than those used by the airline industry. Right now, most of the IT industry uses client servers, where businesses such as, Microsoft, have workstations with servers and IT staff to run it in order to be able to file share, email, etc…. The environmental problem with client servers is the increasing amounts of power they require. For example, Microsoft has a data center in Chicago that has about 400,000 servers and adds about 40,000 more every month to keep up with its competitors. Imagine how much power is required to run this data center. According to a study, server utilization is only 6 percent on average, which means that the other 94 percent these serves are not being used, but are still using up a lot of power. In fact, 30 percent of the servers around the world are not even being used, but are still on because some businesses do not want to risk anything by shutting them off. However, the author believes cloud computing is the answer. Instead of having hundreds of client servers on the premise of the company, Google uses cloud computing, where email, word documents, etc… can be used through the web.  Cloud computing also includes virtualization, which allows virtual machines to be run on a single physical server, instead of having one server for each task such as and one email server, one file server, and so on. This allows the server to be used to its capacity and not just 6 percent as one server might only be used for. Cloud computing can reduce emissions by reducing the number of servers, by using virtualization and allowing the server to reach its full potential. Still, the real answer to decreasing emissions from IT is for data centers not only to use cloud computing but also renewable sources of energy. The author concludes that this, “will ensure that could computing is, in fact, green computing.”

This article was a good read. I found it interesting that it was published in the Law Journal, but I guess it falls into emission and pollution controls and what not. I was kind of surprised when I read that emissions from IT may be higher than those from the airline industry by 2020. Just puts into realization how much power is actually used by IT, how much pollution and how the majority of it is very unnecessary. It’s also hard to realize that not all companies are switching over to cloud computing centers using virtualization seeing as some servers are only being used 6 percent. This would not only help the environment, but also reduce costs by having less hardware and software to buy. I guess some companies just want to stick to traditional ways, but hopefully increasing the popularity of could computing benefits will help some switch over, and at least help reduce IT’s emissions a little.


Newton, J. (2010). Is cloud computing green computing? GPSolo, 27(8), 28-31.