Cloud Green or Cloud Nine?

The cloud metaphor gives the cloud storage of our data a misleading somewhere-up-in-the-clouds, ethereal quality.

Perhaps we could use a bit of grounding from the implied benevolence of cloud storage of our unending flow of music, videos and documents.

After all the lofty green ‘n clean cloud imagery, cloud storage resolves to mundane bricks and mortar data centers.

Coal Trains of Cooling

Traditional data centers:

Require massive numbers of power-sucking, heat-generating servers that consume COAL TRAINS OF COOLING KILOWATTS.

Cloud storage is an energy-intensive proposition. For our collective well-being, two questions worth considering are:

  • What’s the energy source? and
  • What’s the impact on public safety and public health?

While a traditional data center might be sourced from a finite supply of air-fouling coal, a forward-thinking data center might be sourced from the steady winds of Wyoming, or from geothermal energy stored somewhere under the half-light and bitter cold of an Icelandic winter.

Wind Energy

In Cheyenne Wyoming, Green House Data is powered by 100% renewable wind energy. According to Green Data Center News Green House Data is about 40% more energy-efficient than traditional data centers. It helps that Cheyenne’s average annual temperature is 46 degrees F.

Hydro-Electric and Geothermal

In Iceland, west of Reykjavik, Verne Global operates a power-conscious data center that is dual-sourced by hydroelectric and geothermal power. Verne Global’s energy is 100% renewable hydro-electric power and its facility is 100% cooled by the natural environment of Iceland. Brrrr.

Present & Near Future

The Greenpeace report How dirty is your data? includes a Clean Cloud Power Report Card.

Despite a poor to middling report card among the cloud storage players, there is a trend toward clean, renewable energy.

Facebook is building a new data center in northern Sweden that will use hydro-electric power. Sited about 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Facebook servers will be cooled by Arctic air.

Google’s Hamina Data Center is sited on the Gulf of Finland. The data center uses sea-water for cooling rather than freon-packed compressors in traditional air conditioners.

Both Facebook and Google are driven by economics more than earth-stewardship. Nonetheless when earth-friendly infrastructure collides with profit-increasing cost-savings, cloud green isn’t simply cloud nine.