The Cloud Paradox: Energy Requirements of Cloud Computing

Cloud-based computing has made great leaps over the past decade, and it’s no secret that more and more companies, government organizations, and academic institutions are storing their data off-prem or “in the cloud.” But as technology continues to move forward, old problems have a way of potentially slowing things down. Yes, cloud-based computing has changed the way we do business and use the Internet, but the energy it consumes is far greater than that used by a system to the system network.

Given that many of these cloud computing storage facilities are located underground or in remote locations, and controlled by intricate electronic devices (to ensure the rooms are climate controlled, for example), many of these facilities will employ those with strong IT and electronics technician backgrounds to be on-call for repairs. As the demand for this technology continues to rise, so too will the demand for power.

This article will examine the energy requirements of cloud computing and how to manage them effectively. If you’re thinking of moving over to a cloud-based computing system, you’ll need to make sure you have the right infrastructure in place. Having someone with electronics training at your disposal can help with that.

Jevons Paradox vs. Moore’s Law

As enticing as cloud computing is, there are some scientific principles that potentially put it’s universal adoption at odds with reality: Jevons Paradox and Moore’s Law.

Jevons Paradox – What it could mean for cloud computing

This concept states that as energy efficiency continues to increase, the consumption of the resource will increase commensurately because the cost of adoption is so low it would be silly not to invest in cloud-based computing. Of course, this sounds like a good deal all around, right? The problem is that any energy efficiencies gained in advancing the technology will be offset by the exponential growth of the use of said technology. If cloud-based computing grows faster than the development of renewable energy sources, the cloud will need to draw it’s gargantuan energy demands from energy produced by burning fossil fuels. Naturally, this goes against many of the beliefs held by corporations and other entities to lower their carbon footprint.

Moore’s Law – What it could mean for cloud computing

If you haven’t heard of Moore’s Law, it stipulates that, considering the exponential growth rate associated with technological advancements, processing speeds will continue to double every 24 months. With this rapid growth, the cost associated with powering such growth is also expected to double – every 18 months. As we can see, there is a real environmental and financial cost that could very well pose barriers to entry into cloud computing.

Data Storage & Security Efficiency

With Jevons Paradox and Moore’s Law entrenched in the back of your mind, there are other things to think about when considering a cloud computing solution, namely data storage and security. Remember that not all systems are created equal. Some, for example, prioritize features like the speed of access and data sorting, while others market themselves heavily as a sound alternative to securely storing your data.

Though security is not necessarily everyone’s primary focus when it comes to cloud computing, some of the world’s largest corporations like Toyota, Amazon, and Microsoft (all of whom deal with sensitive information) are required by law to store their information on a secure server. In short, most companies can cherry-pick the features that are most important to them while others are mandated to put security in the upper echelon of their requirements.

Environmental Challenges

We’ve already brought up that the rise in popularity of cloud-based computing brings with it an increased demand for energy, and that energy isn’t always clean. If Moore’s Law and Jevons Paradox hold true and the energy consumption required for this technology outpaces the development of green technologies that can fuel them, cloud computing may not live up to its potential.

Fortunately, ISP services are beginning to offer cloud servers with neutral carbon output. Granted, these carbon-neutral alternatives may cost more than other providers, but for a company that has made going green or becoming carbon neutral a part of their corporate culture and business plan, they are still a very viable solution.

One such ISP, ISP Internode, has been carbon neutral for almost two years – and while they do pay upwards of 20% more to power its data centers and offices, it does so gladly because doing so allows them to reap the benefits of cloud-based computing without compounding the world’s global warming crisis. Internode uses solar-powered microwave towers to deliver high-quality voice and data broadband to more than 6,000 users in Australia.

While the transition towards cloud-based systems is rapidly becoming the norm, our energy solutions must keep pace with the energy demands of these evolving systems. Carbon neutral ISPs are a good start, but greener energy solutions must be applied universally.

Nethra Gupta
Nethra Gupta
Nethra Gupta, with a Master’s in Tech and Digital Media, she's an expert in the latest tech trends and social media. Recognized in tech forums Nethra is known for her reliable insights. When offline, she loves digital art and gaming.


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