Cloud Computing - Taking Us Green

    Rahul Desai

    ‘Go Green’ seems to be the Mantra of the moment. Not sure if it’s an outcome of the recession, every organization is talking about it – big time. I recently happened to attend one of Microsoft’s technology conferences - Tech.Ed 2009 (SHOW TIME!! :D), which had lots to say in this regard. (I'm curious on learning more about Symantec's role in this line. Anyway.)

    And while I thought it was just big enterprises’ business, I recently came across a very nice ‘Special Report’ in The Economic Times, all about ‘going green’ using technology. While their purpose was to elaborate the potential of a concept called ‘cloud computing’ as an eco-friendly option reducing some direct expenditure for SMEs; my interest is to highlight the understanding of the three keywords:

    • SME
    • Cloud computing
    • And, Go Green.

    Although the article talks all technical stuff, they’ve neatly explained the concept. Go ahead – it’s not so bad. 

    The dramatic economic meltdown over the past few months has proved to be a veritable tsunami for the Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs). However, the turn of events has induced the SMEs to revisit their existing business models that had helped them to survive and grow in the past. 

    In the process of achieving this objective, Information Technology (IT) has emerged as one of the most critical elements of growth. The era of ‘making-do’ with an accounting package, a payroll application, and a bunch of spreadsheets populated with unreliable and irrelevant data, from a management perspective, has now ended. In today’s scenario, real-time information based on transactional data being captured at an operational level across functions and locations, triggers and alerts from the management’s dashboard, and re-designed business processes and workflows that are enabled electronically are all becoming essential in order to survive and grow.

    The IT budgets for SMEs have been increasing significantly over the past few years. However, large portions of these budgets have been earmarked to procure ‘tangible’ products like PCs, servers and networking hardware. SME offices and factories have undergone tremendous change from their previously traditional ‘paper-and-files’ formats to an upgraded ‘Monitor-Keyboard-Mouse’ environment. Furthermore, open offices have now transformed into an air-conditioned maze of cubicles.  

    Impact of IT usage on environment

    India’s increasing expenditure on IT and its resulting influence on the environment needs no further emphasis. The software hubs in India have been experiencing firsthand, year-on-year increase in ambient temperature. The impact due to the increasingly unmanageable traffic caused by the commuting of IT/ ITeS workers is also extremely tangible, and needs no further elucidation.

    However, what needs elaboration is the fact that the overall environment change we have witnessed of late is primarily due to the increase in IT usage by relatively few large business enterprises-primarily in urban areas. The potential carbon footprint of the coming wave of increasing IT usage by literally millions of SMEs across the country is definitely an environmentalist’s nightmare.

    Cloud computing

    The challenge lies in providing a solution that addresses the SME’s need for IT-based solutions at extremely affordable prices, while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact dramatically. Cloud computing is increasingly becoming accepted as the only way to address this dual challenge. Cloud computing is an offering that involves a ‘disruption’ in the way IT is delivered to customers and consumers. Cloud computing envisages huge data centers hosting software that end-users can access through the worldwide web in a safe and reliable manner. However, the SME would need to invest in providing simple, low-cost, low carbon footprint internet access devices (also called thin-clients, netbooks, etc.).

    Affordable options for SMEs

    Instead of incurring capital expenditure for procuring servers and software, and then incurring additional revenue expenditure for managing these on-premise installations, customers would now be required to pay only for accessing this software as a subscription on a pay-per-use basis. The offering would not only obviate the need for an SME to incur any capital expenditure, but also eliminate the need for recruiting, training, and retaining expensive IT professionals. This “sachetisation” of access to IT with the resultant ‘pay-per-use’ affordable pricing-is expected to enhance IT penetration in the SME segment positioned at the bottom-of-the-pyramid.

    Environment-friendly for the SMEs

    From an environmental perspective, the low-cost devices that the SME would need to procure would each need only 10 to 50 W of power as compared to 150W+ required for a typical PC. As these devices would have no moving parts and would not become obsolete in a couple of years, the resultant increased lifetime would mean phenomenal reductions in potential e-waste generation. In addition, as end-users could access their data from anywhere and at anytime, the amount of commuting and travelling that information workers are required to do could reduce dramatically.

    Environment-friendly at the data centre

    The preclusion of millions of power-hungry servers, and the resulting reduction in additional air-conditioners and UPS/Battery combinations will significantly reduce the impact on the environment. Significant R&D in server technology-blade servers, multi-core processors, developments in basic semi-conductor design that
    reduce the need for heating and cooling-is also driving data centers to become more environment-friendly.

    Cloud computing effectively addresses the needs of SME customers and enables them to manage their businesses more efficiently, and in an affordable manner. Not only does it offer SMEs the option of pay-per-use without upfront capital expenditure and high-cost IT professionals, but it also enables the SME to access the latest technology while ensuring that the carbon footprint generated is minimal.

    Cloud computing is in – how about you?

    This article is about Technology and written by Rahul Desai. An irregular blogger, slow-paced reader and an optimistic pro-government Indian, Rahul is an information security professional with an undying urge to write reading-worthy articles. Read all their articles.

    Read other readers' 0 comment or write your own.