The advantages of cloud computing are numerous. The flexibility of infrastructure, storage, processing power and much more has allowed industries to become more efficient and deliver better experiences to consumers. However, some care needs to be taken because the cloud does not magically operate and still requires energy to function.

Companies and organizations typically contact cloud service providers to begin using a cloud model such as infrastructure-as-a-service. Essentially, an organization is renting out server space in the vendor’s data center. If more storage or processing power is needed, the organization is loaned more space. From then on, organizations then decide how to best utilize these resources.

Because today’s global economy is nonstop, businesses need to have the infrastructure in hand to ensure constant access. A “snooze” button does not exist to power down a website for a number of hours, and that means data centers are always operating. The drawback exists with a facility’s energy consumption. However, data centers are increasingly being designed to utilize renewable energy and more energy-efficient equipment. High cloud computing demand is leading to facilities implementing free-air cooling, for instance. Sprawling facilities have been constructed to house the many servers that provide cloud services and maintaining server room conditions, such as temperature, are a huge energy consumption. In fact, an April 2015 survey from IDC revealed data centers spend approximately 24 percent of operating budgets on power and cooling. Free-air methods help lower those costs by using a natural resource and reducing energy consumption.

The cloud is also helping improve energy efficiency. A recent development by General Electric may showcase how to combine the benefits of cloud computing and clean energy.

New developments
According to reporter James Passeri from TheStreet, a digital wind farm built by GE combined traditional wind turbine technology with cloud-based tools. The result was a 20 percent increase in wind energy. The cloud comes into play by hosting software that collects and studies data and subsequently improves a turbine’s performance over time based on data learnings. The cloud can therefore help wind farms produce more power. If data centers receive wind energy, chances are high energy efficiency will be increased even more.

The software pulls data such as vibration levels, temperature and misalignments. In a statement, GE said because the system is constantly learning, top performance would continue to be maintained and issues known to plague old wind turbines could be avoided.

Environmental impacts
An April 2014 report by Greenpeace said 2.5 billion people are currently estimated to have connection to the Internet. Over the next five years, that number is expected to increase 60 percent. More users equates to heavier workloads. The cloud can meet these demands and still maintain energy efficiency. In the long run, it makes financial and environmental sense to use the cloud. First, organizations will save money by not having to purchase and maintain on-site hardware. An infrastructure-as-a-service model represents an ideal cloud solution for organizations to virtualize servers. Savings can also come in the form of scalability. A business will only pay for the resources used but it can easily increase or decrease storage and processing power needs.

According to Wired magazine, a new technology may make cloud computing even more energy-efficient. Essentially, some have advocated to switch to Linux containers and by doing so, energy consumption can be reduced. This process, called containerization, has led some to predict that wider adoption could reduce CO2 emissions more than electric cars.

The advantages of cloud computing have allowed organizations to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Yet, cloud computing is having a larger, positive impact on the environment and will continue to do so.