Transparency of carbon footprint cloud computing

ODCA IT services are delivered as a black box from the cloud making carbon footprint assessment difficult.

Now the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) is coming with a usage model that is designed to ensure organizations can predict CO2 emissions and track actual emissions through technical capabilities instituted by providers of cloud services.

This model must be a open standard approach for measuring the Carbon Footprint of services provided from the cloud. Along with the Standard Units of Measure (SUoM3) already defined by the Open Data Center Alliance, the amount of carbon created should be provided within a Service Catalog and its measure based on recognized standard approaches that are sufficiently auditable.

It is also expected that a multi-vendor and consistent approach across data center providers be available for subscriber consumption. It is expected that providers of cloud services offer access to the carbon measure in two ways:

  1. Within the Service Catalog, attached to price lists, so as to allow prediction and comparison of CO2 emissions
  2. Actual amounts summarized to customers via a portal and/or with their monthly bill

The measure will allow the organization subscribing to the cloud services to:

  • Consider shifting the workload to other suppliers with a lower footprint, or to low-carbon countries (where acceptable), or applying “follow-the-moon” techniques
  • Analyze carbon production over time to aid in planning and implementation of green IT policies
  • Provide audits and reports to corporate and regulatory bodies on their green and carbon profile

The carbon footprint is not expected to be a 100 percent accurate or deterministic figure nevertheless a assurance of a correct carbon footprint calculation is wanted. Therefore an accredited entity that is responsible for ensuring the compliance to cloud security standards. A Cloud-Compliance-Agency may also be a third party trusted by the Cloud-Subscriber. They could then determine and monitor the security state of the provider and respond to the Cloud-Subscriber when requested.

There is, as yet, no one globally accepted and universally applicable methodology. According to the ODCA the amount of carbon produced can be derived from the following formula:

In the interest of giving guidance on how to create and deploy solutions that are open, multi-vendor and interoperable, the ODCA have identified specific areas where the Alliance believes there should be open specifications, formal or de facto standards or common intellectual property-free (IP-free) implementations.

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