Why Cloud Computing is Huge for Green Technology: An Interview with Michael Kanellos

cloud_computing_and_environment

I was recently honored to get to spend some time with Michael Kanellos, the VP of Eastwick Communications  and a seasoned technology writer (he has worked at CRN and CNET and  is a contributing author to Forbes, Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal). He last spent 4 years as the senior analyst and editor in chief of Greentech Media and is a renown expert in green technologies.

In this interview I really wanted to explore how moving your data to the cloud (with a solution like TrackVia) will not only help you manage your job and reporting more effectively, but will simultaneously help you streamline resources in a way that saves the planet.

Jen: In your recent Forbes article you say that in cloud computing “operational competitiveness is the new dividing line,” arguing that not all cloud services are created equally.  If this is true, then, from a consumer perspective, what do you think separates one cloud solution from another?

Michael: I think it’s boiling down to that experience.

Let’s say you went to Box, or Dropbox, or even Google drive, they all do the same thing – they basically have a huge mountain of hard drives somewhere out there on the cloud and they let you and your friends access it. But it’s the ease of access, and ease of navigation, that someone remembers.

It’s interesting how when you look at someone like Amazon Cloud Services, the one thing people talk about is when it fails. They don’t talk about everyday when everything is great, they just talk about when it fails. So it’s always comes back to that experience and the fact that for better or worse there’s a level of expectation that people expect it to work – smoothly and consistently.

(Jen interjects) A couple minutes of downtime and you’re the villain!

Michael: Oh, absolutely! But the pleasant experience? People love it.

Jen: Are there certain providers that you think are the strongest?

Michael Kanellos The Key to Success in Cloud ComputingMichael: It’s hard to say because the difficult part is that customers are really a pain in the ass. You look back at the old days where people used to have a little bit of leeway, but now everyone seems to be on these short tempers. Today, one bad thing happens and there’s a customer outrage and the news media covers it. So you know, it can change day by day.

But, I will say that when I talk to corporate customers, I still hear a lot of great things about Amazon. A lot of people like them and like the services they provide. So even though they blackout every once in awhile I’m not hearing a lot of serious complaints from people who buy the services. DropBox too, people LOVE that service. I end up using it a few times a week myself. It’s a little handier and a little bit of an easier UI than Google Drive.

Jen: One of the big things we hear people worry about all the time is whether or not the cloud is secure enough for their data. What’s your opinion on that? What do you think people should look at when evaluating cloud services in terms of their data and their security and their privacy?

Michael: That’s a tough one because it really varies vendor by vendor. I think overall it’s tough to generalize – the cloud is probably more secure than everyone trying to keep their data on their own because even though it’s a centralized target there’s employees that can really monitor the data. At the end of the day, security issues are inevitable – banks have gotten robbed for centuries and people still keep money in them, and people still keep banking online even though there are criminal organizations from Eastern Europe breaking into them. But, that said, I do think security is getting better and better and it will get harder and harder to break in and violate it. Still, as of now I think the cloud solution is probably a better solution than keeping things isolated. Your house is always going to be less secure than a Bank of America downtown – you want the staff and the professional monitoring that comes with a centralized center.

Jen: So, on another note, you are very passionate about green technology, and I’ve heard some argue that cloud technology is a form of “going green” for reasons ranging from data centers being incentivized to be energy efficient and utilize cheap, renewable energy to the fact that it supports location-independent employee collaboration (and eliminating unnecessary travel and commuting). Do you see cloud computing as an especially “green” technology or is that “grasping for straws,” so to speak?

Michael: Oh no way, cloud computing is huge for green technology.

Take online shopping, for example. You need tons of database centers to support online shopping, but look at what you’re doing – you’re taking tons and tons of people off the roads and saving gallons of petroleum. It’s just fantastic. And video conferencing – I once went to SAP headquarters in Palo Alto and they had a bunch of green technologies. So I asked them which of them pays off the quickest and they said, “Without a doubt, video conferencing. You won’t believe how many plane tickets we’re not buying now because of this.” Microsoft was able to cut their travel budget by a third because of video conferencing.

But then there’s another thing, too. There’s a company called AutoGrid, and they have a cloud service that allows utilities to reduce power – certain lights in certain buildings, or cut off a couple escalators – over the cloud. What that does is curve power that’s being used but isn’t being used in a very productive way. It’s an extension of cloud managing electricity, which is largely unmanaged now. It’s a huge area, it’s really amazing. We generate a lot of power right now, and at least third of it is wasted. Cloud is going to reduce those levels of waste way down.

(Jen interjects) That’s amazing! That’s really exciting.

Michael: You know it’s funny, next time you go walk around at night and you see an elegant urban skyline, instead of looking at it and going “wow, what a beautiful skyline!,” start thinking about it in terms of energy. Once you look at things that way, you’ll stop thinking it’s so beautiful and wonder “doesn’t anyone want to turn off some lights around here!?!” Because there’s nobody in those offices, they’re just on! So you have cloud services that take advantage of that and can turn it down to 50%, or 30%, and the cumulative effect of this is that we would save a LOT of power.

Cloud computing as green technology infographic

To see the infographic full size, or learn how to put it on your website, click here.

Want more Michael? Visit him on Twitter @mikekanellos