Green IT: Cloud computing not so Green: Academic

University of Melbourne professor, Rod Tucker, says it is better to using a modern, mid-range computing over cloud-based computing in some instances

Cloud computing isn't particularly energy efficient, according to University of Melbourne professor, Rod Tucker.

Speaking at the Green IT virtual conference this week, Tucker said that, in some cases, using a modern mid-range computer for computing tasks used less energy than relying on existing cloud storage and computing services.

Director of the university's Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES), Tucker conducted research into the energy efficiency of various cloud computing tasks and how they relate to traditional, local computing processes.

In his main example, Tucker compared how much energy different types of computing sources would use when encoding multiple half hour videos over the course of a week. In the tests, cloud-based computing sources proved more efficient than a mid-range, modern computer for low quantities of video encoding tasks but, as the number of tasks increased, cloud computing became less energy efficient and ultimately cost more than running a mid-range computing.

"As you use more encodings per week, because more data is transported across the network, the amount of energy increases," Tucker said, attributing extra energy to transport energy costs.

Tucker's studies concluded that, "at least in some instances, cloud computing is less energy efficient than using an efficient modern computer at the place you want to do the computing."

On the contrary, however, Tucker pointed to video conferencing as a much more energy efficient way to communicate over long distances when compared to transport by plane.

According to Tucker's studies, a trip between Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand would produce 300 kilograms per person of carbon dioxide. When using video conferencing between the two locations, however, the amount of carbon dioxide produced would be an average of 5kg per person for the same amount of productivity.

"I think video conferencing is clearly gong to be a very important way in reducing greenhouse gases from travel."

IBES is a member of the GreenTouch consortium, an Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs-led initiative which aims to reduce the Internet's carbon footprint by 1000 times what it currently is today.

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