Making the Cloud Work for the Environment

What are the benefits of using Cloud technology and why is it appropriate to use it in the context of environmental issues?

The cloud provides access to on-demand high performance computing resources. This brings improvements by reducing the time required to solve computationally intensive problems, and also opens possibilities for tackling problems that thus far were too complex to undertake. Such elasticity will be used to accommodate flexible user demands, such as a member of the public who wants to learn about the impact of recent rainfall on her local area or a hydrologist who wants to discern if flooding trends exist at the national level.

Another advantage that the cloud brings is the redefinition of responsibilities. Using the cloud, environmental scientists will no longer need to spend time on managing computers to solve demanding scientific questions. Instead, the cloud will take away such concerns and enable the scientists to focus on the solving scientific problems instead of the IT factor of the problem solving process. Much like software tools (such as spreadsheets and statistical analysis suites) reduced the concerns about calculations and analysis of datasets, cloud computing will reduce the concerns of managing computational infrastructure to hold and process datasets.

Moreover, the cloud could be made to work for the environment from another angle. At the scale of the typical cloud provider data centre, the economies of scale work in favour of reducing per unit costs such as electricity and cooling. More could be done, such as ensuring the use of only high efficiency power supply units, recycling defective hardware components, and using renewable energy sources. An argument could be made that it is easier to make cloud computing greener as it is more feasible to make these choices at such scale. However, this all depends on the conscious efforts of the cloud provider.