Be More Energy Efficient with Google Apps

There has been a lot written about the benefits of moving to the cloud. In particular, how it can reduce IT and labor costs, while increasing productivity. One benefit not often highlighted is energy efficiency. According to a new Google research report, a typical organization can achieve energy savings between 65-85% by switching from locally hosted services to Google Apps.

While the cloud can support a number of applications, the study focused on the Google Enterprise subset, which includes Google Apps, Vault services, Search, Earth and Maps. According to the report, the cloud is more energy efficient for 2 main reasons:

1) Reduces direct energy for servers by 70-90%

2) Reduces energy for server cooling by 70-90%

As the chart shows, an organization that hosts its own IT services must have a large number of servers and excess server capacity to handle changes in demand. For this reason, it is common for organizations to have very low utilization, sometimes as low as 10%! This results in a large waste of energy because server energy consumption is about the same regardless of how busy they are. Google is able to aggregate the demand across many users to substantially increase utilization. The second reason Google Apps are more energy efficient is because of cooling. According to the report, with many servers, “each watt of direct power consumption necessitates 1.5 additional watts of cooling.” In contrast, Google’s data centers only require 0.13 watts of cooling for each watt of direct power. Overall, this results in a 75-90% improvement. The last part of the chart shows that with increased internet traffic, energy consumption generally increases 2-3% for offices that migrate to the cloud. The net is approximately 65-85% energy savings. In general, organizations with a workload mix that matches well to Google Apps, smaller organizations with typically lower server utilization, and organizations that are already moving to more energy-efficient technologies will see higher savings.

One example of an organization reducing its carbon emissions is GSA. After switching 17,000 employees to Google Apps for Government in 2012, GSA reduced its number of servers from 324 to 61. This resulted in a 90% decrease in server energy consumption and an 85% decrease in carbon emissions. Google estimates GSA will save $285,000 annually in energy costs alone. This migration to the cloud could have a huge impact on energy savings across the country. According to a study by the Carbon Disclosure Project, “by migrating to cloud computing, large U.S. companies could achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and carbon reductions of 85.7 million metric tonnes by 2020.”

I encourage you to read the full report, which includes a deeper analysis of how Google Apps can save more energy and lessen an organization’s carbon footprint.

What is your organization doing to be more energy efficient?

Google is a public and profitable company focused on search services. It’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Check out their Google for Gov group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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