Missing Link: The dream of the green cloud


How much CO2Emissions are with “Hello Siri!” tied together? How high is the water consumption? What is the raw material cost behind the computing power? And how much energy does the small voice command cost? The answer is short: you don’t know. Not yet. Because Siri is a distributed application. What goes on in the iPhone app and what goes on in the server application is an Apple company secret.

What is missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often the time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the side paths away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

  • More on the “Missing Link” feature section

In order to shed more light on the “black box cloud”, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration and the Berlin Öko-Institut for the Federal Environment Agency examined the project “Green Cloud-Computing” four typical usage scenarios: storage, streaming, video conferencing and virtual desktop. Statements can now be made about these individual cloud services if they relate to the environmental consumption of a specific cloud service in a specific data center. The study was recently published.

The new green cloud computing methodology (GCC methodology) records the environmental expenditure for the production of information technology and for the operation of data centers in four impact categories: raw material expenditure (ADP), greenhouse gas emissions (GWP), cumulative energy expenditure (CED) and water consumption. The environmental expenditure can be named for individual service units. This can be an hour of use, a single customer, or a uniform amount of data. The GCC methodology can be used for an environmental product declaration such as a CO2-Footprint or an energy consumption label can be used for cloud services.

In order to be able to record and evaluate the environmental expenditure of various types of use for a “proof of concept” as an example, the researchers looked for cloud services that offer exactly one type of use as a service in order to be able to derive a statement about the specific cloud uses from their consumption. The water consumption was not taken into account because none of the data centers examined had water-relevant cooling systems and building technology. The key figures for raw material consumption could only be generated for two data centers.

To evaluate online storage, the scientists examined four data centers and found that the range of GCC indicators from 166 to 280 kilograms of CO2– Reached equivalents per terabyte of storage space. The statement says how many CO2Emissions are released annually per terabyte of online storage space used.

For video streaming, a streaming service was investigated that works like a kind of online video recorder: users can record any film online and watch it at a later point in time without license fees. This means that the server and storage infrastructure is used exclusively for streaming. One CO per hour of video stream2-Footprint of 1.46 grams of CO2 equivalents created. Added to this are 0.014 micrograms of antimony equivalents for raw material consumption and 24 kilojoules for primary energy. A full CO2-Balance for video streaming would, however, also have to be made by the CO2– Include emissions in networks and in households.

An online platform was investigated for video conferencing, which offers video conferencing based on the open source software Jitsy. The greenhouse gas emissions for participating in one hour of video conference are 2.27 grams of CO2-Equivalents for the manufacture of the server (15 percent) and for the energy consumption in the data center (85 percent). The choice of end device plays the decisive role for the overall balance: While participating in a video conference with a laptop with 55 grams of CO2Equivalents / hour, with a large video monitor it is already 295 grams of CO2-Equivalents / hour.