Greenpeace has published an updated report that attempts to evaluate the environmental "cred" of cloud service providers, and has certainly generated lots of press coverage (there was a fifteen second bit on the local news here in the Bay Area last night).
The report attempts to estimate the power footprint for the data centers of fifteen cloud service companies, and coupled with an evaluation of the power content provided by local utilities and whether they publicize and share energy efficiency practices, comes up with a letter grade for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation. Letter grades are also on offer for "energy transparency", infrastructure siting, and renewables and advocacy.
Both Data Center Dynamics and the New York Times have issued stories on the report, including reactions from some of the leading companies that were evaluated. DCD commentary runs to the defense of the operators; the NYT is straight up reporting so far.
I think I've got shots all around: for the report and for the cloud service companies, and even for DCD.
Let's start with the report. Greenpeace acknowledges that in quite a few cases it had to estimate the data center loads for the cloud providers, and in the case of Apple, they seem to be in a tit-for-tat about whether the estimates are reasonable. (Greenpeace says that Apple's data center in Maiden NC has a load of 100 MW; Apple says it is more like 20 MW but won't say exactly. I suspect Apple may be at 20 MW now, but is rapidly fitting out the DC to its eventual full-load capacity that has been widely assumed to be 100 MW.)
Instead of the arguments, I would urge the companies to divulge their data center loads or annual energy use, which in turn would earn them higher marks in the "energy transparency" category.
My serious quibble with the report is that it rates coal-fired and nuclear generation in the so-called "dirty category", which is indefensible in my view. You may not like nuclear for other reasons, but it doesn't emit greenhouse gases, so shouldn't be part of the evaluation. And natural-gas fired generation, while producing half the GHG emissions of coal, should certainly be a included.
As to the cloud providers, it's past time to "come clean" about what they're up to. Searching for cheap power rates means you're going to get fossil-generated power - you make the decision, live with it. And while I applaud the (very) modest moves by some of the companies to explore on-site renewable generation like photovoltaics and biogas-fuelled fuel cells, we can all agree that these are rather more in the category of demonstration projects rather than meaningful mitigation programs.
Look, eBay and Google come out well in the report, in part because they acknowledge the impacts of their operations, and primarily because they're willing to pay more than lip service to real initiatives to reduce those impacts.
As to Data Center Dynamics, or for that matter any data center industry group or analyst, state your criticisms of the report and your sugestions of how to analyse these issues more fairly. You have to give Greenpeace all due credit as one of the only organizations that is trying to do that.