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[ Study Says: Hey, You, Get Onto the Cloud (It Saves Energy) ]

Information technology managers take note: The cloud can be your friend.

U.S. government researchers built a model to test the energy cost of running common business applications using centralized data centers instead of local systems. Turned out the cloud’s energy efficiency advantages on a nationwide basis were huge – up to 87 percent, or around 23 billion kilowatt-hours.

“This is roughly the amount of electricity used each year by all the homes, businesses and industry in Los Angeles,” the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers said in a press release that accompanied the study [here.

Plenty of case studies on the cloud vs. local question have been done by consultants, but the Berkeley Lab team said that this open nature of their model – which takes into account factors such as data centers, transmission systems, client devices, transportation systems, and more – offers a power new tool for analysis.

“We can’t fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to assessing sustainability. We need numbers – hard data — to properly analyze how cloud computing compares to how computing is done now,” Northwestern University’s Eric Masanet, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Well-thought-out analysis is especially important with new technology, which can have unforeseen effects. Our public model allows us to look forward and make informed decisions.”

Breaking down the savings themselves, the researchers said that “most of our estimated energy savings were associated with email and productivity software, owing to their widespread use  in U.S. businesses.”

The researchers admitted that “like all modeling efforts, our estimates are not without uncertainties.” They said a key to arriving at more solid numbers is access to more comprehensive and credible public use data on all components of digital services systems – including data centers, network transmission systems, client devices, user behavior and present day energy efficiency practices.

—Pete Danko

This post originally appeared at EarthTechling and was republished with permission.

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