Microsoft and Google's Green Leaders on the Power of the Cloud

Everyone is talking about cloud computing; it's become the latest hype in IT circles. A smaller number of people are talking about the cloud's potential benefits to the environment, but most important of all just about everyone is using the cloud for a little or a lot of their computing needs.

Whether we're talking about webmail like Gmail or Hotmail or entire cloudsourced corporate infrastructures, Individuals and companies alike are getting more and more of their computing needs from remote systems.

Last week, I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the greenness of cloud computing. First, I was invited to a dinner sponsored by Microsoft where myself and a half-dozen or so other reporters got to talk with Rob Bernard, Christian Belady and Jonathan Koomey about the cloud, data centers, and anything else in the world of green IT.

The next day, I attended an event put on by Climate One at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that featured Bernard, who is Microsoft's Chief Environmental Strategist, and Google's Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, talking about Cloud Power.

Although both events covered a lot of turf, and although I didn't take particularly rigorous notes at dinner with the good folks from Microsoft, there was a fair amount of overlap over the course of the two days.

Green Benefits of the Cloud

Surprisingly, neither of these events were predominantly cloud-focused. I believe that is in large part due to two facts:

1) The shift toward cloud computing is well underway and to some extent inevitable; 2) Cloud computing is almost by definition green computing.

The first fact is pretty much self-explanatory, and the second is nearly self-evident.

Cloud computing is based on cramming as much compute power into one data center as possible; whether you're a company like Microsoft that provides cloud services to internal divisions (think Bing, Hotmail, Azure, etc.), or whether you're a service provider to a separate company, you are financially incentivized to get as many flops per watt as possible.

And as in any element of green business, when the economic benefits run parallel to environmental benefits, it's a sure-fire success.