By 2025, the technology sector will consume as much as 20% of the world’s total electricity. This is according to Greenpeace. That represents a 7% rise on the amount it currently accounts for. The same report also states that cloud computing, more specifically, the data centres that the cloud essentially relies on. This is a particularly pertinent issue as businesses and consumers rely more heavily on compute intensive tools that are typically powered by the cloud, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. It was only in 2008 that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison referred to the cloud as complete gibberish, by adding that it is insane, and asked when will this stop.
It underpins the IT infrastructure and software usage of businesses and governments around the world. By 2018, it was estimated that almost nine in ten UK organizations were using the cloud in some capacity. The figure will be higher today. Looking specifically at the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market, the growth has been even more remarkable in recent years. The global IaaS market grew 37.3% in 2019 to total $44.5 billion. And this market growth has been to benefit of just a select group of cloud providers. Amazon Web Services (AWS) currently holds an estimated market share of 45% of the IaaS sector, Gartner says. Microsoft, Google and Alibaba hold a further 32% between them. Choice empowers customers. The removal of choice, then, is a cause for concern, the end user is locked within a small pool of providers and, as such, is at the mercy of potentially a handful of businesses that can set their own prices and terms. Just as important is the way that monopolies hinder innovation. Data centres drain a huge amount of energy, not just in order to run the servers but also to run the air conditioning systems required to keep the servers cool. We must ensure the monopoly that a handful of tech giants currently hold over the IaaS sector is challenged. Doing so will mean cloud users have viable alternatives as they hunt for more progressive solutions. This will become a dominant trend within the cloud industry over the coming 12 months and beyond. However, we cannot easily disentangle the environmental and monopolization issues. The two must be tackled in tandem if meaningful progress is to be made.