Cloud computing could save significant amount of energy, study finds

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Energy consumption could be dramatically reduced if more organisations used cloud computing, a study suggests.

Using cloud computing services instead of traditional static IT systems could reduce worldwide levels of energy consumption, according to a new study.

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Microsoft investigated the ways in which the cloud could cut energy usage and how this would translate into a reduced carbon footprint for businesses.

It was found that cloud computing is 95 per cent more efficient than servers, with researchers at Harvard University, Imperial College and Reading University working out that if 80 per cent of public and private organisations used cloud-based email, customer relationship management and groupware, 11.2 TWh less energy would be consumed each year.

This is the equivalent of taking more than 1.7 million cars off the road and abating 4.5 mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

It is not just big businesses that could make a difference either. The team discovered that 60 per cent of the potential savings in energy and emissions could come from small to medium-sized enterprises.

Lead author of the study Dr Peter Thomond said: "The findings show, contrary to the perception of power-hungry data centres, that the energy efficiency of cloud infrastructure and its embedded carbon outperform on-site services by an order of magnitude."

He added that governments should set an example and use cloud computing when considering service procurement in order to encourage private industry owners to do the same.

GeSI chairman Luis Neves commented that the research represents "the first academically rigorous and industrially relevant study of its kind".

This could be an important discovery at a time when the world’s resources continue to be put under pressure. The US Energy Information Administration recently reported in its International Energy Outlook 2013 that global consumption of energy will jump by 56 per cent in the next 30 years, with increased consumption of all fuel sources through to 2040.

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