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The Big Question: Will using the cloud stop us achieving our green targets?

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Matt Harris warns of the potentially disastrous impact of not managing our data
Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Matt Harris warns of the potentially disastrous impact of not managing our data Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Hannah Brown
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‘Cloud computing already has a bigger footprint than the aviation industry,’ warns Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Matt Harris.

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Every day at work we’re sending emails, saving documents, adding numbers to spreadsheets. Outside of work we frivolously snap photos on our phone. In summary, we’re incessant data producers but how much of it do you ever delete?

By 2035 we are predicted to be producing 2,000 zettabytes of data. One zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes.

To put that into context further, to print out one zettabyte of data you’d need around 20 trillion trees worth of paper.

There’s only 3.5 trillion trees on Earth.

In this episode of The Big Question, Matt Harris, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director UK IMEA for Hewlett Packard Enterprise discusses the importance of managing our business data better.

Why is cloud storage so expensive?

Whoever first thought of The Cloud, named it incredibly strategically.

Matt Harris describes our current attitude towards The Cloud as “looking to the sky vapourware” - this concept of it being a non-physical storage, floating around us. In fact, all your data is still on a hard drive, you’re just paying someone else to store it on their really big hard drive for you.

And while being able to access your data from anywhere in the world is incredibly convenient, our attitude towards its seemingly endless abundance is where it gets problematic.

In the past 10 years, companies have moved to a Cloud-first storage system, not necessarily because it was the best option for them but because it’s what everyone else was doing.

But now many businesses have found they are struggling with soaring Cloud costs, so much so that in a survey conducted by a recent documentary, Clouded II, funded by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, 47% of respondents said they were looking to move away from using The Cloud in the next year.

One of the main culprits of these rising costs is simply, paying for more than you actually need.

As a society, we are naturally hoarders.
Matt Harris
SVP & Managing Director UK IMEA, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

“Depending on the reports you look at, per annum, customers and enterprises are spending anywhere between $150 - $200 billion (€140-187M) a year,” explains Matt Harris.

“How much is wastage? Some reports would say we've got customers who say that 30% of their cloud bill is wastage or they don't know what it's used for. And even if we're half right on that, it is a sizable and significant number.”

How much does the cloud cost the planet?

The data centres used to store all of our files require a huge amount of energy to run. And it’s not just electricity, they also need large amounts of water for their cooling systems.

There’s been reports in various drought-vulnerable parts of the world of farmers having to compete with data centres for water for their animals to drink.

It’s hard to quantify exactly the environmental impact of our cloud usage, as data centre emissions vary enormously depending on the location due to temperature and access to clean energy.

Matt Harris, SVP & Managing Director UK IMEA at Hewlett Packard Enterprise sits down on The Big Question with Hannah Brown
Matt Harris, SVP & Managing Director UK IMEA at Hewlett Packard Enterprise sits down on The Big Question with Hannah BrownEuronews

So what’s the solution?

“We think it's a really good time for every organisation to re-evaluate their cloud strategy and start with the end state and goal,” says Matt.

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“As a society, we are naturally hoarders.

“We have comfort in keeping things, it gives us a degree of safety. If you think about data and what as businesses, as consumers, we're storing, do you need 32 copies of something which is not necessarily hugely valuable? How long do you need to store that piece of information for? We have historically kept things for tens of years, decades, 50 years. And the reality is, does that information require us to continue to hold it?”

Matt also stresses that businesses should look at a hybrid strategy to their storage - choosing to host some things on the cloud and others in house.

Thinking through what data you don’t want to be on a shared service and to have more control of its security will dictate what should be stored on public cloud, private cloud or on premises with a ‘Cloud-like experience’,

“Don't end up in a hybrid by accident strategy. Do it by design,” Matt says.

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It’s especially important to adapt our strategy now and put in place better building and management practices before AI becomes a widespread and fully integrated part of our lives.

“The way the AI works is even hungrier than our classic data storage and enterprise workloads that sit on clouds today.

“If you run AI workloads into our classic cloud models we have today, they'd be wildly inefficient.

“So if we're not conscious and conscientious of how we build, how we consume, what we delete, then we are going to get to some astronomical wastage figures, which is really scary for all of us,” Matt adds.

Time for a spring clear out? If you’re not going to do it for the planet, at least save yourself, potentially, billions.

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The Big Question is a series from Euronews Business where we sit down with industry leaders and experts to discuss some of the most important topics on today’s agenda.

Watch the video above for the full conversation with Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Journalist • Hannah Brown

Video editor • Joanna Adhem

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