Graph of the Day: Insatiable energy appetite of cloud computing

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Cloud computing services such as Google Apps, Office 365, Amazon Web Services, Facebook and Zoho is causing energy consumption to soar.

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The fact that cloud computing services use wireless networks does not mean they need less energy. In fact, it could be that the opposite is true.

According to a new report prepared by Melbourne’s Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) suggest that energy requirements for data networks (WiFi and 4G LTE) will surge more than five fold in the next three years, and will consume more than 10 times the amount of energy of data centres.

The report – The Power of Wireless Cloud – warns that industry has vastly underestimated energy consumption used by services such as Google Apps, Office 365, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook, Zoho cloud office suite, and many others. It says urgent action is required to curb spiraling energy consumption and CO2 emissions. It says these networks will likely consume 43TWh by 2015, but it could be as high as 51TWh. That compares to 9TWh in 2012.

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“When Greenpeace analysed cloud efficiency it hit a nerve with the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple by suggesting that data centres are to blame for a ‘dirty cloud’,” said Kerry Hinton, the deputy director of CEET.  “In fact, the problem is much worse, data centres aren’t the biggest issue. The trend towards wireless is the real problem, and the networks are to blame. By 2015, the energy consumption of data centres will be a drop in the ocean compared to wireless networks in delivering cloud services.

“The problem is that we’re all accessing cloud services – things like webmail, social networking and virtual applications – over wireless networks. It’s the modern way but wireless is an energy monster, it’s just inherently inefficient.”

CEET is investigating ways to improve the way networks are managed for energy efficiency. The global telecommunications system is estimated to consume 2 per cent of the world’s energy, and that figure could grow to 10 per cent by 2020 if no action is taken.

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6 Comments
  1. Beat Odermatt 7 years ago

    I would not trust Greenpeace if the swear to lie on a stack of bibles and all the hash of all the aged hippies. I you use cloud computing, you can use computing devices with far lower power demand. In fact, cloud computing is suitable not only to reduce the need for power hungry home computers, it is also suitable to be powered by 100% renewable energy. Data networks need to have their power backed up with batteries, which means renewable energy can be used at all times. Tablets also have now a long life time and can be re-charged with solar power at home.

  2. Sean 7 years ago

    non news story, except for the pitiful physics knowledge of the wider community.

    transmitting radio requires a huge amount of energy, and is incredibly wasteful if it is only going to one recipient.

  3. Stewart Taggart 7 years ago

    Stories like this only tell half the story. The research is incomplete without examining the pollution SAVED through the cloud (less commuting, less transportation, less paper consumption, less underutlised hardware at the ‘edge’ of the network). And on and on it goes.
    Yes, cloud computing is consuming ever more power. The REAL question is how much power is it displacing — and which number is bigger.

    • Peter 7 years ago

      Spot on Stewart. I believe a proper “Cloud” analysis would show substantially reduced energy consumption – SOHO servers are energy inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. I recently read that Apple’s cloud service runs almost entirely on renewable energy – the economics make sense, centralised energy consumption connected to a nearby renewable source (take your pick – hydro, solar, wind…)

      Lets focus our effort on reduction of energy consumption of mobile networks it that’s where the problem is.

  4. Sean 7 years ago

    wow….. and comments that don’t look at what the article is saying….
    this is about wireless data transmission – a very inefficient (but convenient) method.

    the energy used by data centers pales in comparison to power used for wireless transmission.

  5. Beat Odermatt 7 years ago

    I have never heard about Greenpeace ever supporting any true environmental imitative. They are very good on wasting massive amounts of diesel for their protest actions. Greenpeace is a global conglomerate highly skilled in attractive global attention to drive the massive donation stream. Has Greenpeace ever undertaken any comparison for example to check the carbon footprint of reading a story online compared to reading a newspaper? Sending electronic data has always a far lesser environmental impact then its physical alternatives.

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