Is the cloud green?

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Is the cloud green?

The digital tool has contributed to an evolution of our modern societies. But the digital industry is very greedy in matter and flow ... Is the cloud the solution? Decryption of the received ideas, by Tristan Labaume, president of Green IT Alliance.

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The digital industry is recognized as the most greedy in everything: water, energy, metals, minerals, chemicals ... One idea, which often comes up, is to propose the use of cloud computing as a universal solution to all these impacts.

The cloud is defined by universal access, from any type of terminal (laptop, workstation, tablet, smartphone) to its data (documents, music, videos ...). It is also characterized by the pooling of resources in data centers, where advanced management would enable resources to be optimized, whether they be hardware-based via virtualization or energy processes via monitoring of energy consumption. And finally, it is a great elasticity: a user can immediately mobilize a storage capacity or computing power. The cloud offers tremendous business benefits, meeting the constraints of performance, volume, and flexibility.

The vagaries of the cloud

Unlike the collective imagination and the term used to characterize it, the cloud is physically present on Earth. Indeed, its infrastructures are hosted in data centers where they are shared. Is the cloud really green? The Green IT Alliance, the association of committed professionals for eco-responsible information systems, has tried to answer them.

First of all, the computer equipment we use generates very significant environmental and social impacts, both during their manufacture, but also during their use and their end of life. For example, thanks to the cloud, a director of the IT department can easily manage the peaks of activity as in the Christmas order period, avoiding the purchase of new equipment. But what the director does not see is that the cloud is generating a sharp increase in material needs to circulate more and more information.

In addition, the use of the cloud is generally accompanied by high expectations at the security level, which results in an over-dimensioning of the physical infrastructures. If we take the example of a partner who uses the cloud of the director of the IT department, it is quite practical: his work environment accompanies him everywhere, and allows him to reduce his displacements, and thus his environmental footprint. But the duplication by data security, the illusion of infinite capacity, encourages the use of unbridled computing: this is what we call "infobesity".

However, it is possible to use its cloud in an enlightened way, which can lead to significant environmental gains. The director of the IT department can, for example, start by properly sizing his need by buying the "just enough". It can choose a cloud operator that provides transparency, energy performance, and external recognition, and ask the operator for reporting indicators to track consumption. It can also educate users internally, and communicate on consumption.

A green cloud yes, but under conditions

Many received ideas are frequently heard on cloud computing. The Green IT Alliance decrypts them and associates recommendations.

1 / The cloud is green because it can reduce the number of devices

It depends. On the one hand, the virtual server, as energy-efficient as it is, is indeed based on physical infrastructures. On the other hand, the utilization rate of the associated physical server is not immediately at an optimal level ...

Datacenters proposing energy monitoring services and an analysis of the uses of computer resources could be preferred.

2 / The cloud is green because it can avoid unnecessary copies and storage

Yes, the phenomenon of copying and archiving is shrinking ... but an incredible rebound effect is coming: the ease of deployment encourages you to store more information (longer histories, more detailed data, etc ...). Result: the volume of stored data explodes

We could try to avoid the "anarchic" virtualization that generates a lack of transparency on the storage of information and the maintenance of "ghost" servers. Regarding storage, we could use data deduplication tools and impose quotas on the consumption of resources (storage and computing capacity).

3 / Cloud is green because it reduces employees' carbon footprint

It's true, on average, an employee who achieves a telework day per week reduces his or her greenhouse gas emissions by 220 kg CO2 equivalent per year.

In any case, a global dynamic of dematerialization of the workstations and rationalization of the computer park, combined with energy management and a choice of equipment with high energy efficiency makes it possible to sustainably reduce the environmental footprint of the system.

4 / The cloud is green because it can make it possible to control its digital consumption to optimize it

Unfortunately, billing granularity (eg: combination of the stored volume, the duration of use, the Internet transit, etc ...) makes the economic model difficult to predict.

The detailed, de facto measurement by the supplier for his invoicing must be corroborated by the actual use of the user (even with a posteriori fine measurements) to optimize the use of the resources.

5 / The cloud is green because on the customer side, it avoids the investment for advanced uses

Indeed, the cloud is suitable for many IT services that require a very high load punctually (e-commerce sites at Christmas, development of pay slips at the end of the month ...).

One of the great benefits of the cloud is that its energy expenditure and IT investment spend is just right for the user enterprise. However, it must be ensured that the use is in line with forecasts.


6 / The cloud pools the need for power

Unfortunately, outsourcing in a cloud is necessarily based on a service contract that typically includes a high availability requirement and therefore a high level of redundancy. Since the data center operator can not take a contractual risk, he prefers to oversize his work tool.

We might prefer a host with a modular data center and ideally comply with the recommendations of the Code of Conduct for Datacenter (EU CoC for DC).

7 / The cloud is green because it can adjust its resources to your needs

Attention, the capacity of computation and storage almost limitless can give the illusion of an infinite capacity to the user who will be thus unbridled in its use. While an internal computer system can afford to temper the uses with real arguments (technical, economic and / or ecological), the cloud operator simply presents its bill a posteriori.

We could empower the user by visible indicators on its interface, relating to the billing or the impact of its requests. Indeed, this user-machine link can be preserved thanks to the advanced measurement capabilities of cloud infrastructures.

le cloud est il green?

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