Thursday, 16 July 2009

Cloud wars

The last week has seen some significant announcements from the two software heavyweights fighting for dominance on the desktop. It's worth reviewing where we are and what it means for Green IT.

Well, Google has been steadily expanding its online offerings over a number of years and now has fingers in many pies. Apart from the ubiquitous search engine it has a hand in online offerings such as Blogger, Feedburner, YouTube, Google Earth and Google Docs, its free online word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programmes.

However, the recent launch of Google Chrome browser has really brought it into direct competition with Microsoft on the desktop and the company also announced last week that it's developing a Google Chrome operating system which will go head-to-head with Windows. And Google's offering will apparently be free.

In response, at the announcement on Monday that Office 2010 is entering testing, Microsoft also announced that it will offer cut-down, web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint through Windows Live, making it available to 400 million Windows Live users.

Not only that, but according to Information Week yesterday, Microsoft will also give corporate customers the option of hosting the Web-based Office 2010 offering on their own servers, which opens up even greater opportunities for client-server platforms.

So where does it leave green IT? Well in an ideal world it would all be good news, for two main reasons:

* Moving applications online (or into a client-server environment) should allow them to be supplied a lot more efficiently, given the economies of scale that can be achieved, which means less carbon emissions. Google, in particular, has talked a lot about how efficient it's data centres are and also has some innovative ideas for reducing data centre power.

* On the desktop itself there will be less need to have such power-hungry machines to run online applications, so they should require less energy and emissions to manufacture and run. Netbooks, ideal for online applications, are a lot more efficient than traditional laptops, for example.

So it's clearly a movement in the right direction, although there are other issues to consider which could limit the benefit. In particular the reliability of using cloud applications, given the fairly regular news of failures of service. The danger is that users will want a belt-and-braces approach for when things go wrong, so are likely to buy more featured machines than they need by way of backup, which rather defeats the object.

That consideration aside, it's likely to take some education of the market to get purchasers to go for less featured machines, particularly given the increasing use of video and other resource hungry applications. Some of the steam already seems to be going out of the netbook market, despite the marketing clamour.

© The Green IT Review

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