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Google: Gmail more energy-efficient than in-house e-mail

Google runs the numbers and finds that e-mail in the cloud uses less power per user than operating dedicated e-mail servers.

Lighting controls company Redwood Systems has done a number of installations in data centers.
Redwood Systems

Google has another reason to lure businesses from running their own e-mail servers: lower energy use.

The Internet giant today released results from a study (PDF) which looked at energy consumption of hosting e-mail servers versus having Google run Gmail.

It found that large businesses do better compared to small businesses when it comes to the power needed to run e-mail servers. But Gmail blows away all types of in-house e-mail on energy-related metrics: it's as much as 80 percent more energy efficient.

"This is because cloud-based services are typically housed in highly efficient data centers that operate at higher server utilization rates and use hardware and software that's built specifically for the services they provide--conditions that small businesses are rarely able to create on their own," wrote David Jacobowitz, program manager of green engineering and operations, on the company blog.

Google calculates that a small business will spend 8 watts per e-mail user, compared to 1.8 watts per user for a medium-size business, and 0.54 watts per user for a large business. By comparison, Google's Gmail consumes 0.22 watts per user, resulting in much lower annual energy use.

Essentially, Google's analysis shows that large data center operators can and do operate their infrastructure more efficiently than an individual company can, something that previous studies have indicated. Google, in particular, runs energy-efficient data centersby using customized servers, power supplies, and software to boast low power usage effectiveness.

Power for computers and cooling is a significant cost for cloud-computing providers, so they have an incentive to keep a lid on costs. Google also has a company goal of being carbon neutral and, in general, being a leading-edge user of green technologies.