Shifting software to the cloud could slash energy use

If all US companies were to move their core systems from in-house servers to the cloud the amount of energy used could be reduced by up to 87 percent a new report claims.

The research carried out by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that if all the email, CRM and productivity software in the US were running in the cloud it would save 326 petajoules of energy. Just in case you were wondering a petajoule is around 278 gigawatt hours or the amount of energy you get from burning 34,121 tonnes of coal.

The figures are based on an estimated (from census data) 86.7 million workers using computers. They assume that all of those use email, 58.9 million of them use productivity tools like word processing and spreadsheets, and that 8 million use CRM software.

Email is the most energy hungry because there are lots of servers -- some 3.6 million. Next come the 1.3 million productivity servers and 73,000 CRM servers.

The report estimates that if all this was shifted to the cloud there would only need to be 47,700 mail servers, 32,400 productivity servers and a mere 4,390 CRM servers. Little wonder then that a major move to the cloud would see the petajoules plummet.

All of this is worked out using the Cloud Energy and Emissions Research (CLEER) model which is available in open access form if you want to have a go yourself.

The report concludes, "Our hope is that, together, the CLEER Model and case study presented here can provide foundational resources from which other researchers and decision makers who seek to understand the net energy and emissions implications of cloud services can build more comprehensive and impactful analyses".

There's no doubt that the numbers look impressive but it's worth noting that the study is funded by Google which obviously has a bit of an interest in shifting things to the cloud. Maybe we should wait for a report commissioned by the energy industry before we decide to throw away our in-house servers.

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