Cloud Computing Goes Green

Iceland appeared on our Green ICT radar last year when Verne Global cited the "Icelandic Advantage" for its its data center there. Another local company, GreenQloud, is now promoting Iceland's advantages as the basis for a more sustainable cloud computing service.

Describing itself as "the world's first truly green™ public compute cloud", Founder and CEO Eirikur Hrafnsson sent me this description:

Every Internet users' tweet and google search and viral video played indirectly emits co2 into the atmosphere because of the cloud services dirty energy usage…now companies face strict new taxes on their carbon emissions and IT is a becoming big contributor…Greenqloud…only uses clean and renewable geothermal and hydro energy sources to power its infrastructure…Being in Iceland there is obviously an abundance of geothermal energy and free cooling but Iceland is also a network hub with redundant low latency multi-terabit fiber connections to N-America and Europe making it much cheaper to serve both markets at once. 

GreenQloud is one of 11 winners of GigaOM's Structure 2010 LaunchPad! and will present at the Structure 2010 conference.

Cloud computing has significant CO2e challenges, so I took a look a the site of one of the best known public clouds, the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). I could find no mention of sustainability features or options for Amazon EC2.

"Green cloud" can mean different things to different people. An Israeli start-up called GreenCloud is developing software to create a cloud out of the unused processing power in organizations' desktops. GreenCloud appears to be trying to create a market in which users pay the company for cloud services and the company pays organizations for the use of their machines.

Switzerland's average CO2e/kWh is greater than that of Iceland, but is still one of the lowest among developed countries. Cloud computing service CloudSigma says,

The founders of CloudSigma chose Switzerland as a location due to the following key advantages:
- Excellent networking connectivity to all of Europe and the rest of the world
- One of the world’s most reliable and clean electricity girds (95% green electrical generation)
- A highly developed and respected legal framework for privacy and data protection
- A multi-lingual local environment
- Zurich as a vibrant and rapidly growing technology hub
From its first inception CloudSigma has aimed to minimise its environmental impact. Cloud computing offers the world a more efficient computing model. We compliment this by choosing locations with efficient green electricity grids; we also use modern data centres and new efficient power saving servers. Finally we offset all emissions resulting from our cloud. All our computing resources are carbon neutral. Our mantra is Eliminate, Minimise and Offset.

Greenqloud is planning a beta launch at the end of 2010; it appears that SigmaCloud's IaaS is already available.

These companies' position on their energy sources should be evaluated against the broader discussion of what constitutes clean/green energy for ICT.