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April 17, 2012 at 9:08 AM

Amazon, Microsoft low on Greenpeace clean-energy ‘cloud’ index

(This story is running online now at seattletimes.com. – Janet I. Tu)

Greenpeace is releasing today its ratings on how clean or dirty tech companies’ clouds are, and among those it dings are two local giants: Amazon.com and Microsoft.

“Cloud” refers to storing data and applications on remote servers and data centers, which users can access through the Internet. That’s in contrast with the more traditional method of storage in a company’s own servers or mainframes.

Greenpeace’s report looks at 14 big tech companies’ data centers and estimates how much power they need, as well as what type of energy — “clean” or “dirty” — is used to supply that power.

The two main sources of dirty energy Greenpeace listed are coal and nuclear.

Among the clean/renewable energy sources: solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal.

Based on those criteria, Yahoo, Dell, Google and Facebook rank highest in Greenpeace’s “clean energy index.”

Companies ranking the lowest: Salesforce.com, Oracle and IBM. Amazon, Microsoft and Apple are in the next-lowest group, according to Greenpeace’s clean-energy index.

Growing cloud

The report comes at a time when more and more people are turning to the cloud to store everything from photos to video to music, and to provide instant on-the-go access from our mobile devices.

“Only in the last few years have we started using more energy in the cloud than we are on the devices we have,” said Adrian Sampson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington who specializes in energy-efficient computing.

Energy-conscious consumers should be aware that when they operate, say, a smartphone or a tablet, the battery is not the only energy they’re using, Sampson said. “Especially for things like iPhones and iPads, which are extremely energy-efficient, and they’re only able to be that efficient because they use so much energy in the cloud, in data centers,” he said.

Greenpeace’s report puts it this way: If the cloud were a country, its electricity demand would currently rank fifth in the world.

While many IT companies have made strides in energy efficiency, Greenpeace says that’s only half the picture, with its report geared largely toward spurring companies to get their energy from clean sources.

(Continue reading the story here)

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