Cloud services depend on energy-hungry data centres to store information
remotely. Now Greenpeace has produced an environmental report card for
these data centres that gives a thumbs-up to Google and Facebook, but
wags a finger at Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
To work out who has the cleanest cloud, Greenpeace looked at the
capacity of existing and planned data centres and the sources of
electricity used by each, based on the mix in the local grid and
declared agreements to purchase from renewable sources - defined as
wind, solar and existing hydropower.
This indicated that data centres run by Google and Facebook draw on
renewables for 39.4% and 36.4% of their power respectively, compared to
just 13.9% and 13.5% for those operated by Microsoft and Amazon. Apple,
with 55.1% of its iCloud powered by coal and just 15.3% drawing on
renewables, also scored poorly.
Our enthusiasm for cloud services means that more and bigger data
centres are on the way. To lessen the impact of this growth, companies
can reduce the carbon intensity of data storage. Facebook says that it
has increased the energy efficiency of its data centres by 38% by
redesigning the hardware - from the servers themselves, to buildings
that use evaporative cooling rather than energy-hungry air conditioners.
The company's blueprints are open-source so that others can use and
improve on the technology.