Apple, Amazon clouds have been dirty, Greenpeace reports

April 18, 2012

Apple and Amazon, you’ve been dirty. Environmental activist group Greenpeace released a report Tuesday examining how energy efficient and clean cloud computing really is. The group called out Apple and Amazon as having some of the dirtiest clouds in the industry.

The report title “How Clean is Your Cloud?” gave each company a score based on the energy efficiency of its data centers and the type of energy used to power them. Apple received low marks, getting a D in energy transparency and an F in “infrastructure sitting.” Amazon got nearly straight Fs across the board. Google had the highest scores, with an A in renewables and advocacy, and a B in energy efficiency.

Greenpeace’s report noted that understand the true efficiency of so-called green data center is quite hard and that metrics that many companies rely, such as Power Usage Effectiveness, are ineffective.

Once interesting tidbit from the report, Greenpeace says that “If the cloud were a country, it would have the fifth largest electricity demand in the world,” based on the fact that in 2007, the combined electricity demand of the cloud was approximately 623bn kWh. The cloud apparently beats out India, Germany, and Canada as far as energy demand goes.

The report accompanies a new ad campaigned aimed at cleaning up the cloud, naming Apple, Microsoft and Amazon as offenders.

After the report was released, Apple countered back saying that Greenpeace’s numbers were flawed, All Things D reported. A footnote in the Greenpeace report says that Apple and Amazon were given the data for review, both companies told Greenpeace they were incorrect, but neither offered Greenpeace alternative numbers.

Interestingly, Apple reported today that its its Maiden, North Carolina data center operates with much less electricity than Greenpeace reported. Greenpeace said that the facility had an estimated energy demand of 100 megawatts. Apple countered back saying it only needed 20 megawatts when running at full power.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact efficiency of a data center because the utilities its connected to can vast impact how much clean energy it uses. Apple has prided itself on its green North Carolina data center and is building the largest privately owned solar array to power the facility.

Smoke stack image via Shutterstock

Copyright 2012, VentureBeat

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Amazon.com signage is displayed on a computer monitor April 1, 2011.

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