A year or two ago a minor storm circled around the cloud community after a report was published questioning the environmental impacts of cloud computing. The report was pretty flawed – it omitted to take into account the generally lower per-unit impact of cloud as opposed to traditional IT, but that didn’t stop some hand wringing about the issue. Of course the noise all died down pretty quickly but what didn’t die down was the focus from within the industry on creating data centers with ever-increasing efficiencies and, by extension, reducing the per unit environmental impact of computing.

Earlier this month, GreenQloud created a bit of noise by launching what it claimed to be the worlds first “Truly Green” cloud service (heck, they even trademarked the term “Truly Green” for good measure!). The company launched a storage and a compute product (imaginatively called Compute Qloud and Storage Qloud – both also trademarked). Beyond the marginal trademarking however, the company has some worthy goals – it aims to make the IT industry generally more sustainable – part of its approach is to be 100% powered by renewable energy. In an interesting twist to ram home the authenticity of their Green claim-to-fame, GreenQloud’s dashboard in the management console allows customers to monitor energy metrics and carbon emissions savings, which can be used to augment a company’s existing sustainability program (or, as cynics would suggest, to tick the sustainability box that IT has had thrust upon itself from up high).

I sounds a bit skeptical but I’m not – all things being equal I’d always chose a vendor with sustainability credentials and I applaud what GreenQloud is doing on that front – since being founded in Iceland in 2010, GreenQloud has branched out a little, they now have facilities at both Verne Global and Thor DC – of course their focus on 100% renewable energy limits their scalability and geographical options somewhat – although, I’d be remiss not to point out that New Zealand, with it very high proportion of sustainable energy, might be a good next stop for the company! A really interesting aspect of what GreenQloud does is that they claim their service is 20-40% cheaper on a like-for-like basis than their bigger competitors – proof that you can do well by doing good (for the environment).

As an aside, GreenQloud is adamant that it can serve customers worldwide from its Icelandic operation – they consider latency isn’t a major issue – at least for the appropriate workloads.

All in all I like GreenQloud’s positioning – they’ve done the smart thing by building their product as AWS API compatible and are differentiating on the environmental angle – should stand them in good stead in the European market and hopefully, as they achieve success in that market, the environmental differentiators will become common elsewhere as well.

Anyway – GreenQloud is today announcing a partnership with Xeround (more on them here) to run their cloud database solution for MYSQL applications on GreenQloud’s IaaS. Customers setting up a Xeround cloud database will have the option to select GreenQloud as their infrastructure of choice. It’s a smart way to get people to chose the right environmental choice – most people faced with the option of a 100% renewable choice and a fossil fuelled one will chose the green option (so long as operating requirements are all met obviously). By giving users this options, Xeround is clearly looking for an opportunity to turn the wheel on the PR machine but, more importantly, they give their customers the opportunity to make a choice for the betterment of the planet – that’s a nice option to have.

GreenQLoud may be a flash in the pan – but I’m hoping that the trend they’re part of will be the norm in the future – that way we won’t need to wring our hands about the choice between the environment and our technology – the two can sit together comfortably.

It’s well worth watching this panel about green clouds that was recorded at GigaOm’s Structure event in Amsterdam this month – my friend Paul Miller moderated a session with Tate Cantrell, CTO of Verne Global, and Eirikur Hrafnsson, founder of GreenQloud, it’s an interesting take on the sustainability opportunitites for cloud computing.




Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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