Google reveals its energy footprintBy Ryan Noik 12 September 2011 | Categories: news
While cloud services gain traction, one of the large concerns for environmentally aware users is what impact exactly the data centres required to power the cloud has on the environment. According to Google, this concern has been an obsession for the company. In a recent post on the company’s official blog, Urs Hoelzle, the senior vice president for Technical Infrastructure, explained that the company has focused on reducing the amount of energy its services use.
“In fact, to provide you with Google products for a month — not just search, but Google+, Gmail, YouTube and everything else we have to offer — our servers use less energy per user than a light left on for three hours. And, because we’ve been a carbon-neutral company since 2007, even that small amount of energy is offset completely, so the carbon footprint of your life on Google is zero,” he elaborated.
Hoelzle asserted that the company has designed and built some of the most efficient servers and data centres in the world — using half the electricity of a typical data centre, while its newest facility in Hamina, Finland, which opened this weekend, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity. He added that the company further takes advantage of renewable energy, specifically through the use of solar panels at its Mountain View campus, along with purchasing the output of two wind farms to power its data centres.
The company has also recently released on indepth case study into potential benefits of using cloud-based services from an energy efficiency point of view. The case study compared the energy savings and carbon footprint of using Gmail via Google Apps — Google’s cloud-based messaging and collaboration suite - versus housing local servers to manage the same email. According to the study, for a small office of 50 people, choosing Gmail over a locally hosted server could result in an annual per-user power savings of up to 170 kWh and a carbon footprint reduction of up to 100 kg of CO?, while larger organisations showed smaller, though still impressive efficiency gains.
The study concluded that cloud-based services like Gmail allow companies of all sizes to reap advantages of increased efficiency, reduced overhead costs, and smaller carbon footprint without needing the expertise of an army of software developers, hardware designers and data centre technicians.
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