Right moves, wrong reasons
But while the environmental activist group applauds cloud-computing companies for "pursuing design and siting strategies that can reduce the energy consumption of their data centers," it faults them for doing so "primarily as a cost containment measure. For most companies, the environmental benefits of green data design are generally of secondary concern."
For example, Greenpeace has taken Facebook to task for its decision to site its new data center in Prineville, Oregon, where it will be powered by Pacific Power, a utility that Greenpeace claims is fueled primarily by coal.
"Increasing the energy efficiency of [Facebook's] servers and reducing the energy footprint of the infrastructure of data centres are clearly to be commended, but efficiency by itself is not green if you are simply working to maximise output from the cheapest and dirtiest energy source available," the report reads.
In an effort to shame Facebook into using renewable energy, Greenpeace has somewhat ironically set up two Facebook pages - one in English and a second in Spanish - to pressure the company to use renewable rather than coal-based energy. As of Wednesday afternoon, the pages had nearly 375,000 members.
Google and Yahoo!, good. Apple and Microsoft, bad
As for the iPad - a device that The Reg once referred to as having "a data-center soul" - the report notes that Apple's $1bn data center in Catawba County, North Carolina, currently under construction, will get its energy from a local electrical grid that contains only 3.8 per cent renewable energy, and a full 50.5 per cent from dirty ol' coal and 38.7 per cent from nasty nukes. Google's data center in The Dalles, Oregon, by contrast, gets 50.9 per cent of its juice from renewable sources, according to Greenpeace.
Greenpeace and Apple have had a rocky relationship in the past, although the activists had nice things to say about Cupertino in its January Greener Electronics Guide - but that was after dope-slapping them back in 2006 for their environmentally unfriendly manufacturing.
It remains to be seen whether Greenpeace and Apple can remain buddies as the iPad, iPhone, and other Cupertinian devices suck more and more content from what Greenpeace sees as a rather dirty cloud. ®
Consolidation means more efficiency surely?
The "cloud", by many observers, offers a possibility of consolidation of data services.
That is certainly the chief benefit of those companies taking their computing requirements to the cloud.
Instead of each company requiring in-house IT services, they are off-shored to a data centre. Surely where processing equipment is centralised, it is easier to gain efficiencies of scale, this the supposed benefit of virtualisation. Just think of all the idle CPU cycles in your in-house systems being put to use elsewhere to handle someone else's compute requirements, not to mention all the power and space requirements of UPSs, air conditioning equipment, displays, network hubs, backup devices etc.
I think they have got this cloud thing all backward.
The problem is, the cloud computing paradigm offers a lot of opportunities for the delivery of services that your just couldn't do in-house. Think of what a modern search engine does these days? Does anyone really think that it would be cost effective for each company to do that in-house? Consolidation made that feasible and cost-effective.
The problem is these large data centres are easy targets. They consume lots of power and equipment and therefore look definitely "ungreen".
The reality is that this is the future and it holds the possibility of increasing the green credentials of IT rather than reducing it.
Rather than iPads, it would seem that Greenpeace would have us use clay tablets instead.
I for one welcome them to make bicycle powered generators out of sticks and twine then pedal their little hearts out to save us all!
... but that won't work either, the use of trees and all. The only real solution is for them to donate their bodies for breakdown into the required components and right quick because we don't have a moment to spare before the sky falls.