Cloud Computing Energy Usage: don’t forget the Last Mile.

Access networks, not data centres, are the biggest threat to the sustainability of cloud services. This is the conclusion of a research conducted by the University of Melbourne.

The datacenter industry is very much focussed on the energy efficiency inside theMobility datacenter and the benefits of economy of scale by centralizing computer power and data storage.

But datacenters are part of a much larger supply chain were up streams a lot of things are happening with the power supply (renewables, CO2 emission, smart grids) and down streams a lot of things are happening with the networks and the end-users.

The datacenter industry doesnt pay much attention yet to the big transformation that is taking place on the end-user side (any time, anywhere connected to communicate and to exchange data) and the energy consumption of (access) networks.

What is happening in ‘the last mile’, end-user behaviour and access networks, will have a big impact on datacenters. Energy calculations in the report show that by 2015, wireless cloud (WiFi and cellular technology) will consume between the 32 TWh (low scenario) and  43 TWh (high scenario), compared to only 9.2 TWh in 2012, an increase of 460%. The take-up of wireless devices is shown by the fact that global mobile data traffic overall is currently increasing at 78% per annum and mobile cloud traffic specifically is increasing at 95% per annum. Wireless cloud traffic is about 20% of mobile traffic and approximately 35% of data center traffic (Cisco).

One of they key findings of the research is that wireless access network technologies account for 90% of total wireless cloud energy consumption. Data centres account for only about 9%. The energy consumption of wireless user devices is negligible.

Wireless Cloud Energy Usage (c) CEET

Wireless Cloud Energy Usage (c) CEET

To ensure the sustainability of cloud services, there needs to be a more stronger focus on the whole supply chain and especially ‘the last mile‘, the wireless access networks, the part of the supply chain that consumes the most energy.

The report  “The Power Of Wireless Cloud” is available over here.

See also the blogs on changing end-users behaviour and energy consumption of networks.

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