Different week same menu, today I am yet again going to pitch in favor of Cloud Computing. If you've been following this blog you've probably found the words SaaS and Cloud popping out of your mouth in your chats around the watercooler and leaving your colleagues to think you're a loon. Fear not! I am going to approach the subject in a totally different light this time, and I promise to change either in area or depth in the next posts, probably by diving into more technical stuff.
Loving the Planet is the New Blue
Today, ecology is trendy, so trendy in fact that even huge companies previously massacred by activism or simply negative overall public opinion due to their ecological policies or lack thereof, today promote themselves as green, clean, sustainable, low-footprint, yada yada yada... This practice is sometimes refered to as "greenwashing", like the devil was putting an halo on to hide its horns. I personally call it "who the hell cares?". Does it really matter that much, the motivations that made someone perform a good action? Or does it matter more that the action was performed? No matter what your stance torwards the environment is, if you want to save the planet, or just spend less money, Cloud Computing will make you environment-friendly regardless.
Captain Cloud, He's Our Hero, Gonna Take Pollution Down to Zero
If tomorrow, all services were to be moved to the Cloud, the savings we would have energy-wise would be absolutely incredible. My math skills may be rusty, but "less energy being spent = less energy needing to be produced = smiley planet" seems to be at least correct in theory. Going straight to the point, how can Cloud Computing lower our energy spenditure? Just to get people up to speed, let me just redefine Cloud Computing straight out of Wikipedia again:
Cloud Computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like electricity. It is a paradigm shift following the mainframe and client-server shifts that preceded it. Details are abstracted from the users who no longer have need of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.
Or show you this nifty Salesforce video instead:
By embracing the Cloud Computing paradigm, you will be using storage and processing capabilities just as you use electricity in your house. To use electricity, you don't really need to understand where it comes from or how it works. You will fairly pay for what you use, and not for the resources that provide what you use. You will pay for the storage and not for the hard disk, for the processing and not for the processor. This business model paves the way for the centralization and brutal optimization of the resources that provide these utilities, especially regarding how they're being used.
Save the Planet by Being Cheap!
Let's think about it in a very simple way. Let's say you want to create a web site and decide to host it on your own. You buy a server just for that purpose, set it up, get your domain, bind it to the server's address, and you're proudly hosting your website by yourself. In the end, it turns out your website is not as important as you thought it was, its not attracting that much traffic, and as a consequence your server is largely underused. Most likely you also have a huge hard disk that is completely empty, unless you are hosting some kind of media streaming service.
So there you have it, you have an incredibly powerful machine sitting in your house or office, which is basically not being used at all. You have spent your money on something you didn't need, it's turned on and wasting unnecessary energy (power saving methods will probably reduce the impact, but still...), its hard disk is not being fully used, its processor is mostly idle, and the energy and resources necessary for manufacturing and transporting this computer were already wasted and are not coming back.
If you were to use a shared hosting solution, which would probably serve your needs in case the website had low traffic and uptime demands, then you would have opened the way for the service host to cut on their maintenance costs by placing your website in the same server as many others, consequently using it to its full capacity, and lowering the amount of resources and energy used to provide the same services to the world.
It would be cheaper for you, cheaper for them, and cheaper for the planet, it's a win-win deal all the way. And I'm talking about shared hosting, something that already existed in the stone-age, along with spears and clubs. When I talk about services like Amazon's S3 and EC2, where you can pay for the exact storage and processing you end up using, you are in most cases getting the fairest cost for what you are consuming, while being confident that a company that can sell services at this level of granularity, has to have very efficient and scalable infrastructures, and if they can use less resources to provide the same service, and increase their profit margins, they will, and once again, the planet says thanks.