Inderscience Publishers

Green clouds

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Courtesy of Inderscience Publishers

Cloud computing has been on the up since the days when it was just blue sky thinking. Today, however, many challenges remain including perceptions of security and energy consumption. However, a study by researchers in India published in the appropriately named International Journal of Cloud Computing, suggests that with the right moves, cloud computing could become the truly green way forward.

The concept of cloud computing dates back to the 1960s before the personal computer and before the internet when John McCarthy suggested that computing might one day become a public utility, although the term didn’t achieve widespread adoption in the world of computing until 2007. Today, we are many of us familiar with cloud computing in the form of web applications in which the processing is taken off one’s desktop, laptop or mobile device and carried out by remote and distributed servers instead: online file storage such as Wuala, DropBox, Google Docs etc, webmail, online office applications, remote-hosted media files for web sites etc all fall under the umbrella of cloud computing.

“Cloud computing users avoid capital expenditure on hardware, software, and services when they pay a provider only for what they use. The major cloud service providers include Salesforce, Amazon and Google and those actively involved in cloud computing are Fujitsu, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM and VMware,” explains P. Sasikala of Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University in Bhopal. He adds that, “Industry has been pushing the cloud research aspects at a high pace, but the academic world has only recently started working deeply in it.” This is evident from the sharp rise in workshops, seminars and conferences focusing on cloud computing…and indeed the launch of aptly named journals.

There are Sasikala suggests 5 main characteristics that define cloud computing:

  • On-demand self-service: Computing resources can be acquired and used at anytime without the need for human interaction with cloud service providers. Computing resources include processing power, storage, virtual machines, etc.
  • Broad network access: The previously mentioned resources can be accessed over a network using heterogeneous devices such as laptops or mobiles phones.
  • Resource pooling: Cloud service providers pool their resources that are then shared by multiple users. This is referred to as multi-tenancy where for example a physical server may host several virtual machines belonging to different users.
  • Rapid elasticity: A user can quickly acquire more resources from the cloud by scaling out. They can scale back in by releasing those resources once they are no longer required.
  • Measured service: Resource usage is metered using appropriate metrics such monitoring storage usage, CPU hours, bandwidth usage, etc.

The impetus for computer advances has usually focused on increasing speed and lowering costs, cramming in more processor power into smaller and smaller chips and getting the costs down. The notion is encapsulated in the industry roadmap rule known as Moore’s Law, which was posited by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore in 1965 who said that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit could double every two years (the 18-month rule was due to enthusiastic Intel executive David House). Transistor density is a good proxy for computer power. Added to speed and cost is energy consumption today. Indeed, since 1992 and the introduction of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Energy Star” labeling scheme, a computer’s green credentials have become increasingly important to manufacturers, marketers and users.

“Data centers hosting cloud applications consume huge amounts of energy, contributing to high operational costs and carbon footprints,” says Sasikala. “We need to work green cloud computing solutions that can not only save energy for the environment but also reduce operational costs. We must have better vision, design, model of architectural elements for energy-efficient management of cloud computing environments.”

Research Blogging IconSasikala S. (2012). Research challenges and potential green technological applications in cloud computing, International Journal of Cloud Computing, 2 (1) 1-19. DOI:

 

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