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Study finds moving some computer services to cloud would save significant energy

Posted on June 14, 2013

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A six-month study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Northwestern University with funding from Google has found that moving common software applications used by 86 million U.S. workers to the cloud could save enough electricity annually to power Los Angeles for a year. The study is summarized in a report is issued today.

The report looks at three common business applications—email, customer relationship management software, or CRM, and bundled productivity software (spreadsheets, file sharing, word processing, etc.). Moving these software applications from local computer systems to centralized cloud services could cut information technology energy consumption by up to 87 percent—about 23 billion kilowatt-hours. This is roughly the amount of electricity used each year by all the homes, businesses and industry in Los Angeles.

A primary goal of the project was to develop a state-of-the-art model that both researchers and the general public could use to analyze the energy and carbon impacts of cloud computing. This is the first time such a model is available to the public in open-access form, and it can be found online.

“We can’t fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to assessing sustainability,” said Northwestern’s Eric Masanet, lead author of the report. “We need numbers—hard data—to properly analyze how cloud computing compares to how computing is done now.

“Well-thought-out analysis is especially important with new technology, which can have unforeseen effects,” he said. “Our public model allows us to look forward and make informed decisions. What we found overall is that by hosting services on the cloud as opposed to locally, the savings are pretty robust.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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