Misconceptions Growing About Cloud Computing Energy Usage

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The New York Times recently published an article critiquing the wastefulness of data centers. However, according to columns in Forbes and InformationWeek, the piece was littered with inaccuracies and misinformation.

Forbes asserted the article did not draw a clear enough distinction between energy usage by internet and on-premise data centers. Therefore, the statistic about utilization rates for IT data centers being between 7 and 12 percent is misleading, particularly since many data centers were designed in the 1980s or ’90s. Utilization rates for cloud-based giants Google, Facebook and Amazon are not available, yet the article seemed to lump them in with the rest of the group.

Charles Babcock, InformationWeek’s editor at large, accused the Times article of creating a straw-man argument. He criticized the piece for not even mentioning that, although cloud computing is gaining popularity worldwide, the amount of electricity it consumes per unit is decreasing.

Babcock pointed to the power usage effectiveness (PUE) numbers for Microsoft, Google Facebook and Yahoo data centers. Typical data centers – as in those built in previous decades – have PUEs that measure between 1.92 and 2. By contrast, data centers for Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have PUEs ranging from 1.07 to 1.22.

In addition, the article failed mention that the clean technology market, while relatively new, is expanding rapidly. A report by the German government, released in early September, found that the green tech market has increased by an average of 11.8 percent since 2007.

 

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