Cloud Computing vs. Green ECM - InformationWeek

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6/3/2008
09:17 AM
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Cloud Computing vs. Green ECM

If there is a buzz around Web 2.0 in the Content Technology community, then there is a roar in the wider IT community around Cloud Computing. It's a great term, "Cloud Computing," as it conjures up visions of an invisible Internet... it sounds fluffy, it sounds cool, it sounds limitless, it sounds like the future.

If there is a buzz around Web 2.0 in the Content Technology community, then there is a roar in the wider IT community around Cloud Computing. It's a great term, "Cloud Computing," as it conjures up visions of an invisible Internet - an ether-like zone in the sky where computing power and storage is unfettered by the petty restrictions of boxes, cables, and technicians. Cloud computing sounds fluffy, it sounds cool, it sounds limitless, it sounds like the future.In fact Cloud Computing simply means moving things to big and bigger Data Centers. Data Centers are anything but fluffy. They are huge, energy-sucking giants - many the size of small towns. They are environmental disasters and the only thing fluffy about them is the C02 emissions they belch out. Data Centers will, in time according to The Uptime Institute, become bigger polluters than the aviation industry.

Data centers require massive amounts of energy to operate - often as much energy is used to cool the centers as to power them. All that heat has to go somewhere. If you think your air conditioning unit is an ecological no-no, then consider the AC demands on a data center the size of five football fields. Now consider that, according to market research firm IDC, there are more than 7,000 major data centers worldwide, and many more in the process of being built. By the way, just because they are big does not make them efficient; it is estimated that around one third of data center servers continually sit idle.

Yet there is very vocal group that thinks the Cloud is the future of ECM and Archiving - so, why bother to dispose of data? Why not just send it to the "Cloud" with its limitless processing and storage capacity? The people who run the data centers, and those that sell equipment to run them such as Sun Microsystems and EMC, would all think that a good idea.

What puzzles me though is the contradiction between good Archiving and ECM practices versus a demand for ever greater processing and storage capacity. Aside from the fact that cloud computing by definition means that your data has to move to and from a distant location, and latency issues (and simple physics) will always dictate that this will be slower than on-site deployments, there are much more important issues to consider.

If you only stop for a moment you will see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Archiving/ECM equation. Take E-mail Archiving for example. Almost all EAM systems promise (and typically deliver) a reduction in storage capacity needs of about 80 percent. Good e-mail management can reduce that still further, untill ultimately your e-mail mountain has dropped to less than 10 percent of its original size.

In other words, the efficient management of content can reduce server farms to single servers, with active archiving and disposal of redundant data keeping the volumes from growing exponentially. Now that is not only green computing, it's smart computing, because in reducing the data volumes, you increase the processing speeds by as much more than an order of magnitude and you leave a tiny carbon footprint. So much better than the SUV - sorry, "Cloud" - approach to computing.If there is a buzz around Web 2.0 in the Content Technology community, then there is a roar in the wider IT community around Cloud Computing. It's a great term, "Cloud Computing," as it conjures up visions of an invisible Internet... it sounds fluffy, it sounds cool, it sounds limitless, it sounds like the future.

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