screen-image-low-batteryIn a six-year span, one major laboratory has been the principal source of two contradictory reports on the power consumption of cloud data centers. The most recent report concludes that moving to the cloud saves energy, yet close inspection of the data reveals that virtualization — not the use of the technology in the cloud — is behind power reduction.

In 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned Congress that the power draw from cloud data centers appeared to be doubling every five years. At that rate, cloud data centers would be adding more stress to the nation’s power grid than new citizens being added to the population.

Then last June, a study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory proclaimed that businesses moving their e-mail, productivity, and CRM applications to SaaS providers could reduce their power consumption by as much as 87%.

The Cloud Energy and Emissions Research (CLEER) Model, funded in part by Google and introduced by LBNL in its June report, used survey data submitted by U.S. businesses to estimate significant power savings achievable through SaaS. Using this model, researchers extrapolated the following: If all U.S. businesses were to shift their critical business applications to cloud service providers, enough energy savings would be attained each year to power the entire city of Los Angeles.

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