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Greenpeace calls out cloud names on green claims

Calls on Apple, Amazon, Microsoft to clean up

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In spite of claims that cloud computing is getting “greener”, Greenpeace has launched a campaign calling on Apple, Amazon and Microsoft to improve their performance.

In its How green is your cloud? report, Greenpeace has also criticized the industry as a whole, saying that cloud providers and data centre operators need to be more transparent about their energy sources, given the continuing rapid growth of cloud services worldwide.

The giants the environmental activist group singles out “are all rapidly expanding without adequate regard to source of electricity, and rely heavily on dirty energy to power their clouds.”

Greenpeace has accompanied the release of the report with a new campaign calling on Apple, Microsoft and Amazon to clean up their act.

Yahoo! and Google get back-patted as leading the industry by giving renewable energy priority in their strategy, along with Facebook, which is building a 100 percent renewable-powered data centre in Sweden.

A key problem, the report states, is that the “green” claims surrounding cloud computing are almost impossible to assess. Both transparency and actual data are lacking; what metrics exist (such as Power Usage Effectiveness) are flawed and inadequate; and the industry is too keen to make statements about energy efficiency as a substitute for assessing their environmental impact.

The Greenpeace study highlights one of the key issues facing the cloud business: the location of infrastructure. The location of a data centre, the report notes, becomes a key consideration in how electricity utilities manage their networks – something that can lock utilities into “dirty” energy choices.

However, the cloud business isn’t the only sector under attack. Greenpeace also notes that the huge growth in mobile networks is also problematic, especially in developing countries where mobile infrastructure is leapfrogging inadequate fixed networks.

The problem is that it’s not just the telecommunications infrastructure that’s inadequate in such countries: sub-standard or non-existent grid connection means many mobile base stations are powered by standalone generators.

“The consumption of diesel by [India’s] telecoms sector currently stands at a staggering 3 billion litres annually, second only to the railways in India. This consumption is responsible for 10 million tons of carbon missions annually, and is growing,” the report states. ®

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