Microsoft has entered the debate over the green credentials of the cloud, claiming that businesses running applications externally can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 30 percent.
The Microsoft-commissioned report, undertaken by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, showed that large data centres benefit from economies of scale and operational efficiencies over local IT departments.
The research claimed that large companies could reduce their carbon footprint by 30 percent, while small businesses could achieve even greater energy savings – up to 90 percent.
The study focused on Microsoft's applications for email, content sharing and customer relationship management (CRM), and found that savings stemmed from multi-tenancy agreements where thousands of companies used a central data centre, allowing better capacity balancing.
The study offers a very different view to a report published by academics at the University of Melbourne earlier this year, who said that while data centres could improve internal efficiency, data transport energy consumption could cancel out the benefits.
In their report, Jayant Baliga and Australian colleagues claimed that cloud services were not always as efficient as they first appeared because transmitting data to home computers could consume even larger amounts of energy than storing it in the cloud.
Greenpeace also has its doubts about the green credentials of the cloud, saying that the move to cloud services could “contribute to a much larger carbon footprint of the IT sector than previously estimated”.
Earlier this year, the campaign group warned that technology companies such as such as Facebook locating data centres in areas that burn fossil fuels could have a particularly negative impact.