Global technology use consumes significant and growing amounts of energy. However, the elements of energy usage and costs in most enterprises are complex. Enterprises that move to the cloud can likely expect savings in their energy usage and costs. Meanwhile, the providers of cloud services are rapidly increasing their energy footprints with more servers, networking equipment, and data centers. The energy equation used to be simpler, with limited sources. But now companies are building and managing their own sources, and the types of sources have expanded to include not only traditional coal-based electricity but also wind and solar.
But it’s not just about costs – enterprises are considering sustainability and public relations associated with their energy usage practices. Green shaming through research and media reports is exposing the practices of some of the best-known brands in consumer and enterprise cloud services. Yet the vendors are not without fault in playing the hype game, with their own publicity about their energy usage claims. Both vendors and end user enterprises should move the discussion from publicity to how to make real improvements.
Whether or not one believes humans are causing accelerated global warming through growing use of fossil fuels, there is no debate over whether computers and other electronics are heavy users of energy globally. By some estimates cloud computing alone is consuming 1-2 percent of the world’s electricity resources. Others estimate that IT-related emissions are approximately 2 percent of global emissions, equal to emissions from the global aviation sector.
Enterprises need to evaluate energy, as part of their decision-making process around implementation of cloud computing. Data center spaces can consume as much as 100-200 times more electricity than standard office spaces. Data centers can require specialized air management, cooling and electrical systems, on-site generation, and heat recovery.
Energy data is certainly a critical data element in the Internet of Things. Interconnecting systems is inevitable for modern businesses, so protections are critical. For example, the recent breaches exposing Target customer data originated in an insecure connection of an outside HVAC management provider. While energy data itself may not be confidential, access to the connected networks can lead to private data. Privacy and security need to be part of energy-related data exchange and services arrangements.
In this Strategic Perspective, we look at the opportunities and challenges for businesses to deal with changing energy needs and expectations in the Boundary-free Enterprise™.
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