By Keith Walker
Cloud. It’s the IT world’s darling. It’s fast, efficient, distributed computing that makes it possible to do everything from bank online to start a business. But despite all this goodness, could the cloud actually have a negative impact on…the environment?
After all, the actual “computing” has to happen somewhere and usually it’s in massive datacenters with thousands of power-hungry servers, network equipment and other infrastructure components.
Never fear, tree-hugging, EV-driving IT friends. IBM’s patent 8,549,125 gives cloud computing a “green” button that can distribute cloud service workloads to low-powered or under-utilized systems to minimize its environmental footprint.
But first a little background. Organizations need a way to deploy their business applications but don’t always have the ability or inclination to dedicate IT resources to the issue. So, they turn to cloud providers. From these cloud providers (such as IBM), they purchase things like server time, space, and storage capacity, all of which resides in the providers’ datacenters, and all of which is available “by the sip.”
These datacenters, however, treat all the applications the same. They’re up and running, sometimes because of need, as in the case of stock trading, or just to tackle a spike in activity, say, for holiday shopping online.
Adding an environmentally friendly option
Our patent lets companies route their requests to under-utilized servers or datacenters, or even to servers or datacenters powered by alternative energy sources. The idea is that if companies want to reduce their environmental impact, they could sign up for this option through their cloud provider. The cloud provider’s online set up wizard that walks IT administrators through questions such as how much capacity and bandwidth is needed, would also have an “environmentally friendly” option. The cloud service requests or deployments would then be flagged, indicating these services should be done with the lowest environmental impact available across the datacenter.
The cloud provider then routes the requests to the network devices, the server devices, even down to the code functions that will process that service to consume the least amount of electricity. It’s like purchasing a computer – you have the choice of buying a high speed hard drive, but do you need it for what you actually plan to do with the computer? Would something less powerful, but more energy efficient, meet your needs? Certain cloud services, or tasks within a service, don’t need a great deal of power, or can be done during off-peak hours.
The idea for the patent came from our team’s experience of buying energy from energy companies. They scale their service and price according to the energy – and kind of energy – they make available. For example, by paying a little more, they can guarantee a certain percentage of energy will come from renewable sources.
Why not do this for cloud services?