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Amazon Receives Failing Grade in Greenpeace “How Green is Your Cloud” Report

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Environmental organization Greenpeace announced on Tuesday it has published its “How green is your cloud” report, which gave Amazon a failing grade for its lack of clean energy and not being transparent enough about the details of its cloud infrastructure.

The report gives an interesting insight into the use of green technologies and resources among some of the largest hosting companies, or in Amazon’s case, a lack there of.

For the report, Greenpeace assessed 14 of the largest IT companies in the world in the categories of energy transparency, infrastructure siting, energy efficiency and greenhouse-gas mitigation, and renewables and advocacy.

It also gave a detailed look at each company’s use of coal, nuclear and clean energy, a category in which Apple and Amazon received the worst rankings.

Greenpeace estimated the power usage of Apple and Amazon’s consumption, providing these figures for the companies to review. Both companies said the numbers were incorrect, but declined to publicize the actual figures.

Amazon had the worst report card overall with an F for transparency, an F for infrastructure siting, a D for efficiency and an F for renewables and advocacy.

Greenpeace said that despite Amazon’s “significant size and resources”, the cloud infrastructure provider had not purchased or invested in renewable energy for its data centers.

“AWS has seen tremendous growth over the past year, but fails to disclose information on its environmental footprint at either a company-wide or facility level,” Greenpeace wrote. “AWS is tight-lipped when it comes to the details of the energy sourcing for its data centers, [though] a recent analysis indicates that the vast majority – over two thirds – of the servers powering the AWS E2 Elastic Computing cloud computing platform are based in datacentres in northern Virginia, an area where the grid is particularly coal-heavy.”

Amazon defended these criticisms by arguing the overall environmental benefits of cloud computing, which enables hundreds of thousands of companies to consolidate their data center use into just a few data centers in the cloud.

On the other end of the spectrum, Google received the most favorable rating and was the only company to be given an A grade in the category of renewable energy and advocacy of green technologies.

“Three of the largest IT companies building their business around the cloud — Amazon, Apple and Microsoft — are all rapidly expanding without adequate regard to source of electricity, and rely heavily on dirty energy to power their clouds,” Greenpeace said in its report. “Yahoo and Google both continue to lead the sector in prioritizing access to renewable energy in their cloud expansion, and both have become more active in supporting policies to drive greater renewable energy investment.”

Apple also received a poor grade with its data center receiving an F and its use of clean energy standing at 15.3 percent.

Greenpeace praised Yahoo, Facebook and Google for constructing highly efficient data centers, as well as their use of renewable sources.

Greenpeace had previously slammed Facebook for its coal-powered data centers, and released a high-profile ad campaign to convince the social media giant to “unfriend coal” power in its data centers by Earth Day.

More recently, the two organizations made amends by participating in a joint campaign which promoted renewable energy, and developing programs that will enable Facebook users to save energy and engage their communities.

Other companies assessed in the report were Rackspace, Akamai, Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Twitter and Yahoo.

Talk Back: Are you currently using a data center powered by renewable energy? What other kinds of green technologies are you using to support your hosting service? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author

Justin Lee has been a staff analyst with theWHIR since 2004. He writes about a range of web hosting and IT-related issues facing the industry on the WHIR website, as well the print version of the WHIR magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Justin_theWHIR.

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