For lower energy bills, change your office light bulbs to compact fluorescents, set the thermostat a notch or two lower, and make the switch to Google Apps. Wait, what?
Hoping to give its suite of word processing apps a boost, Google is highlighting the energy-saving benefits of moving enterprise activity into the cloud. According to a new blog post, Google is estimating that a typical organization "can achieve energy savings of about 65-85 percent by migrating to Google Apps." The theory is that Google can use server capacity more efficiently than an individual company, and that Google's data centers are designed to be greener than the average locally-hosted servers.
Keeping in mind that Google’s analysis is decidedly self-serving, the company does offer support for its conclusions with case study data from the United States General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA switched to Google Apps this year and reports the following results in savings per user:
- 82% in the number of servers used for email and collaboration
- 87% in total server power
- 89% in GSA server energy consumption
- 93% in server energy costs
- 85% in carbon emissions from server energy
The federal agency also notes a two to three percent increase in cloud-based energy consumption, but that number is offset by the overall savings.
I'd add one word of caution in considering the Google data. The GSA doesn't say whether or how much it had already begun server virtualization efforts before switching to Google Apps. Virtualization also reduces the number of servers an organization needs and would presumably cut into the broad energy-saving percentages Google quotes.
Still, with at least measurable reductions in energy consumption and costs on the table, Google does have a viable green card to play in the enterprise software game. The company sums up its report with a citation from another recent study by the Carbon Disclosure Project. According to that organization too, U.S. companies with annual revenues above one billion dollars could save a bundle by migrating to cloud computing - $12.3 billion in energy costs alone by 2020.
Image credit: Google server optimization video