With highly efficient data centers from big industry players, such as Microsoft and Facebook, the cloud hardware market has seen significant improvements in recent years. While it is true that old infrastructure is likely to cost more to run than newer technologies, it turns out that the data center is not the primary source of energy consumption for cloud computing. According to a recent report by the Centre For Energy-Efficient Telecommunications, wireless access technology is the major culprit.
"Data centers are only part of a much larger cloud-computing ecosystem," the report stated. "In fact, as this white paper puts forward, the network itself, and specifically the final link between telecommunications infrastructure and user device is by far the dominant and most concerning drain on energy in the entire cloud system."
This is good news for facility operators as it means they have been successful in curbing the energy footprint of their infrastructure. However, the power usage of wireless technology is likely to increase. Researchers estimated that WiFi and 4G LTE will become the primary way to access cloud services in coming years. Analysts predicted that the wireless cloud will likely consume 43 TWh by 2015, compared with 9.2 TWh in 2012.
The report did point out that this does not take away from the importance of data center efficiency, but it warned that focusing solely on this area fails to address other opportunities for reducing power consumption and reducing the overall footprint of cloud environments. Principal research fellow Dr. Kerry Hinton warned that the real bottleneck for the sustainability of cloud services will be energy. Hinton predicted that energy requirements to access the cloud via wireless technology will increase 460 percent between 2012 and 2015.