Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner, Charlotte Spencer-Smith, Jnan Dash

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Agile Computing

@CloudExpo: Article

Acid or Green Rain from Cloud Computing?

Can cloud computing really deliver the environmental benefits that the hype suggests?

The world's data centers collectively are said to be producing more carbon emissions than consumers within many countries (Italy, The Netherlands and Argentina are some of the more headline-grabbing examples that have been cited of late). "The whole industry must be more efficient" is an all too common battle cry, in reaction to that. But does that really wash - or is it just more greenwash?

As the need for computing technology grows, we are seeing more and more organizations considering building in house data centres, which will lead to a huge overall increase in carbon emissions. It's madness, really, when the data they are storing and processing could be residing on someone else's servers, under an outsourcing agreement. This is all about economies of scale. After all, a business that has only a single rack, or very few racks, in its data centre still has to power and cool the whole data centre. So it makes no sense at all.

As for the scare stories about massive upsurges in the amount of carbon being belched out by data centers, well, no sooner have these stories hit the mat than they are followed by articles saying: ‘Don't worry, the future is bright; Cloud Computing is riding in to save the day'. But is it? And how can it? A participant at a recent technology seminar that I attended, stood up and boldly stated that Cloud computing signaled the end of data center industry and the need for data centers, as "we would all now simply plug into the Cloud". When asked to elaborate, he gave the impression that he genuinely believed that the ‘cloud' was simply ‘out there', as if it was some form of vaporous computing magic and that it would result in the abolition of data centers - all data centers.

I use this as a real example of the confusion and hype that appears to have set in around all things ‘cloud'. While the delegate's point about ‘plugging into the Cloud' has factual basis, the assumption that data centres will no longer exist is quite obviously a work of fiction. Of course, they will exist - the Cloud has to be hosted somewhere. And the plain truth is that all of us have been accessing the ‘Cloud' in some shape or form for many years.

The simple truth is that the ‘Cloud' is a natural and, some would say, marketing-led progression of computing technologies. Just as the mobile phone is no longer the size of a house brick, so servers and computers have become faster, more efficient, powerful and we can do more with less. What we are now seeing is the industry attempting to ‘package' these improvements and create buzz to entice business to reconsider their computing options. And clearly the ‘green' angle is seen as both relevant and compelling.

If we compare Cloud computing with one of the last great ‘must-haves' - Broadband - it was only a combination of affordable pricing, coupled with compelling applications - streaming video and social networking - that led to the explosion in adoption during the past six years to the levels that were once predicted by the Telcos/ISPs back in 2002/3.

One of the key reasons for its lack of early success was that the industry failed to explain the benefits of broadband clearly. It was hung up on ‘contention ratios, ‘Nat' and ‘Non-Nat' configurations and ‘upload speeds', and other technical features that were only understood by an elite few. And I can see the same mistakes being made with the Cloud.

One very simple definition of the Cloud is that of a resilient, high availability ‘infrastructure as a service' solution for organizations, offering selected outsourcing at lower cost than in-house - or economies and efficiencies of scale, at a reduced cost. For many of today's businesses, the benefits of Cloud Computing, of a centralized computing infrastructure that can be easily accessed via the Internet, are just too compelling to ignore. Server virtualization, storage, ‘play and pay as you go' web hosting, integrated communications are a sample of the current services that are delivered as cloud offerings and all of them, if utilised properly, should deliver substantial operation and financial savings. And this is the benefit that we need to explain and market.

Until now, the expected primary source for Cloud-based revenues was large companies. And yet the current economic climate creates an opportunity for the SME to derive as much benefit as the blue chip. But how are they to be reached?

A relatively recent survey of 644 mid-ranged US companies highlighted that 25% of respondents defined Cloud Computing purely as a buzz word, 36% were unsure of the benefits, 12% had no intention of using Cloud services and 39% only predicted a maximum of 10% of their IT services being delivered via the cloud. This is not unexpected, but shows the challenge the industry faces in promoting its message.

We need to get the balance right between demonstrating real bottom-line cost savings to the business, while reducing carbon emissions through good practice. Cloud computing should not simply be positioned around looking to cut emissions; it needs to be advocating better utilisation and efficiencies for IT and thus the business. The core benefit is not about lower power consumption, but about a better automated business process that's able to run more effectively. Being green will be a natural by-product of that.

Server virtualization is already proving itself as the ‘low hanging fruit' in reducing overhead. Industry figures indicate that, for every server workload virtualized, hardware and operating costs are reduced by as much as 50% and energy costs by 80%, saving more than £2,500 per year. When you add this to the fact that IT services can be delivered on demand, and that server utilization can be improved by a ratio of 10:1 or better, the benefits are hugely attractive. In the past, businesses would have put up with this excess capacity, given the IT department's risk-aversion, but not so today, it seems.

A McKinsey & Co study found that within one media company, almost one-third of the servers in operation had utilisation rates of below 3% and nearly two-thirds of the servers had utilisation rates of below 10%. So it's not surprising that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has predicted that, if the current trends continued, energy consumption by data centers will almost double to more than 100 billion kWh per year by 2011. The McKinsey study concluded that the ‘"the greenest data centre is the one that you don't have to build" and this is where cloud computing offers its biggest advantages - economies of scale. A data center needs to power and cool, thereby consuming energy, whether it contains one rack or six hundred.

As with the anything that ‘appears too good to be true' there is a catch. And the catch, quite simply, with cloud hosting is that you lose direct control. When you are dependent on someone else for the management and care of your technology, you are effectively placing your business in the hands of a third party. The recent spate of well publicised data centre outages has really highlighted this fact and has led to pain for many businesses. But can outages be avoided? The simple and very truthful answer is ‘no'.

While cloud service and data centre providers can take every practical measure possible to prevent downtime, there is always a chance, no matter how slim, that an event might occur that is totally outside of their control. If cloud computing is to succeed and deliver the benefits that it so obviously promises, then the market must accept the fact that trust and understanding, as much as fiscal and ‘green' benefits, will be the real keys that unlock it's obvious potential. Cloud service providers must be totally honest about the underlying infrastructure that they operate - eg, the data centers, the power and network supplies, the fail-over options and perhaps, more importantly, outline what happens, should things go wrong.  Likewise, customers must understand about redundancy and, crucially, the costs associated with the provision of a fully redundant solution.

Why would you not consider a cloud model? To build and manage a secure, fully powered, high-availability environment, capable of withstanding disasters or interruptions, is a costly and resource-intensive undertaking. As new vulnerabilities and growing threats proliferate on a daily basis, application monitoring and patch management becomes a full time job. Wouldn't you rather utilise your highly skilled technical resource on projects that impact directly on your core business? Do you really want to hold stocks of server parts? Wouldn't your accounts department feel more comfortable with an agreed and predictable monthly cost for the IT services that you require? And wouldn't your shareholders and customers feel better about you knowing that you are actively seeking to reduce your carbon footprint by maximising the use of power reducing technologies in which you have not had to invest capital?

Clearly, the benefits of cloud computing can go well beyond any savings that can be made on the power bill from the data centre. Indeed, the more effective IT is in support of the core business processes and objectives, the more cloud computing provides a systemic value.

Thus, the danger of claiming that the ‘Cloud is green' is that you won't see the true holistic benefit of cloud computing as a means of reinventing your IT architecture into a much more flexible and efficient tool for your business. That effort requires some detailed rethinking and those that jump onto the cloud computing bandwagon, focusing on narrow benefits, such as simple power consumption savings, are missing the real opportunities that the ‘Cloud' has to offer.

More Stories By Phil Worms

Phil is the Chief Marketing Officer of one of the UK's largest managed hosting and cloud computing services companies - iomart Group plc. He is a 30 year IT industry veteran, having started his career with BT plc, joining the company as it emerged into a brave new commercial world following privatisation.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel and VarTec Telecom, Phil has been described as “an old head who has been around the block more than once” who “continues to be a powerhouse of ideas in all areas in which he provides his considerable experience to” - which probably means he should have been pensioned long ago.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
eswaran 02/13/12 12:16:00 AM EST

Cloud Computing is like the dog storing the bone for a future date and forgetting where it is stored. So often we store something in the cloud and forget about it; our comments for example. While providers need to be open, users too should be circumspect enough to know technology behind the cloud.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...