CloudSustainability In Cloud Computing: The Environmental Benefits Of Moving To The Cloud

Sustainability In Cloud Computing: The Environmental Benefits Of Moving To The Cloud

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, cloud computing is one of the primary drivers of modern technological advancements.

However, as the adoption of cloud services continues to soar, so does the concern for their environmental impact.

With the further expansion of cloud infrastructure demanding more energy, the need to find sustainable solutions within the sector has never been more acute. 

Due to their scale, cloud vendors operating large data centers have a greater impact on minimizing the IT’s industry overall carbon footprint compared to smaller on-premises deployments.

In this article, Itransition’s cloud consultants highlight the main benefits of migrating business operations to large-scale cloud providers known for their established sustainable practices.

How Moving To The Cloud Helps Organizations Achieve Their Sustainability Goals

Major cloud platforms such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in their data centers by 2030.

Cloud Helps Organizations Achieve Their Sustainability Goals

Due to their reputation among public cloud service providers and global reach, these platforms are well-positioned to lead the adoption of sustainability principles in cloud engineering. 

Microsoft’s study on the carbon benefits of cloud computing showed that an enterprise could reduce its carbon footprint by up to 98% by migrating to Microsoft Cloud, compared to running its IT operations in the on-premises data center.

As for Google Cloud, all of its cloud products are carbon-neutral. Google achieves this by purchasing renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint from operations performed on its infrastructure, as well as using high-quality carbon credits to compensate for its remaining carbon emissions.

By moving your operations to the cloud and focusing on developing cloud-based applications, you contribute to sustainable business practices and overall carbon footprint reduction. 

Increased Energy Efficiency

Public cloud platforms rely on large-scale data centers that utilize advanced infrastructure technologies, which allows them to reduce electricity consumption for overhead tasks like lighting, cooling, or power conditioning. 

For example, Google’s environmental report showed that its data centers consume half the energy needed to power an average on-site data center.

Energy efficiency is also driven by higher server utilization rates and the ability to manage workloads more flexibly.

These are the main factors that allowed AWS to make its data centers 3.6 times more energy efficient compared to a median data center run by a US company. 

Additionally, the innovative approach applied to server architecture design in large data centers enables cloud service providers to develop custom hardware optimized for their customers’ workloads.

Promotion Of Sustainable Software Development Practices

Another environmental benefit of running IT operations in the cloud is that public cloud platforms are committed to sustainable software engineering.

Green, or sustainable, software is designed to create a minimum amount of carbon emissions associated with software development and operation.

Green Software Foundation defines sustainable software applications as carbon efficient (i.e., can run on fewer machines and resources), energy efficient (i.e., require less energy to perform same tasks), carbon aware (prioritizes using renewable energy sources as a power source at times when they are available), and hardware efficient (use less hardware).   

IT operational efficiency is one of the fundamentals of sustainable software engineering.

Since cloud service providers already apply advanced technology to improve the energy and hardware efficiency of their infrastructure, cloud migration is a good start for supporting green coding.

Microsoft has developed eight principles of sustainable software development for engineers to follow when they build, design, and deploy applications.

These principles can be applied to all types of applications, whether deployed on-premise or in the cloud, to design products with a reduced carbon footprint.

Amazon released a sustainable architecture guide, providing its customers with strategies for applying sustainability practices to optimize the compute, storage, and network layers of their AWS infrastructure.

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AWS also added a Sustainability Pillar to its Well-Architected Framework, which provides guidance on applying environmental best practices for designing and operating workloads in the cloud.

Tools For Measuring And Reporting Carbon Emissions

Tools For Measuring And Reporting Carbon Emissions

In addition to implementing sustainability practices in their business operations, cloud platforms offer clients tools to monitor and measure carbon emissions linked to cloud service usage and report their overall carbon footprint following Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol standards.

Google Cloud provides its users with an emissions calculator — Carbon Footprint —  that enables them to track emissions from running their applications.

Companies can employ this tool to view and analyze data related to their gross carbon emissions and use derived insights in their emissions reports. 

AWS also offers an emissions tracking solution — Customer Carbon Footprint Tool. This tool allows organizations to calculate their carbon emissions associated with using AWS services, track emissions after migrating to the cloud, and use the data for sustainability reporting purposes.

Microsoft customers can access the Emissions Impact Dashboard to estimate their carbon footprint related to Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 cloud services.

Another Microsoft  solution used for tracking and managing carbon emissions is Cloud for Sustainability — it provides organizations with visibility into their environmental impact, aggregating data from various sources, and gives practical recommendations for reducing their carbon footprint.

Final Thoughts

Achieving net zero is not solely the responsibility of large-scale cloud providers — businesses must also contribute.

If more companies move their IT operations from on-premises servers to the public cloud, overall energy consumption and related carbon footprint will decrease.

By leveraging renewable energy sources, optimizing infrastructure for energy efficiency, and employing innovative technologies, leading cloud platforms can attract a cohort of environmentally conscious clients that consider switching to the cloud not only for direct business benefits but also to make their operations more sustainable. 

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