But as businesses have become more aware of the environmental impact of their power usage and operations, there has been a shift towards sustainable or “green” practices.
From an energy efficiency perspective, cloud computing is designed to be energy efficient by using server virtualization to minimize the number of physical servers needed, which conserves electricity.
It also saves resources—equipment traditionally used to host on-premises IT applications is no longer needed, reducing data center space and, in turn, the amount of energy required to power and cool the space.
What Is Green Cloud Computing, Exactly?
In the IT world, “green cloud” is a buzzword used to describe sustainable or eco-friendly cloud computing. It’s a form of sustainability that takes into account the environmental impact of an organization’s IT infrastructure and operations.
The term “green cloud” is used by some to describe the environmental benefits of moving ICT workloads to the cloud. Cloud computing often enables data center consolidation and a remote workforce, leading to improved resource utilization & reduction in emissions from Scope 1 all the way to Scope 3.
That said, it would still be better to classify these characteristics as environmental benefits of cloud computing, rather than defining them as green cloud computing. Data center operators have been largely indifferent to reducing their carbon footprint, but as cloud computing grows and the environmental impact of data centers becomes more apparent, that is likely to change.
The key to sustainability is reducing the overall impact of an organization’s IT operations on the environment. To do this, businesses need to consider both the energy efficiency of their data center and the carbon footprint of their IT infrastructure.
Why Is Green Cloud Computing Important?
Data center energy consumption represents a large portion of an organization’s total carbon footprint. Data centers account for 2% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, about the same amount as the entire airline industry.
As corporate sustainability reporting requirements become more stringent and investors more interested in a company’s carbon footprint, the pressure is on businesses to reduce their emissions across the board, including in their data centers.
In addition, many countries are now implementing carbon taxes and other regulations to discourage GHG emissions. As a result, organizations that operate their own data centers could be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those that use cloud services.
Top 5 Green Cloud Computing Providers Compared
The five biggest cloud data storage vendors are all working hard to green their operations and offset their emissions.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
- IBM Cloud
Here’s how they compare.
1. Amazon Web Services (AWS)
As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing global issue, Amazon Web Services has answered with launching their new Customer Carbon Footprint Tool. This allows customers to see how much carbon emissions result from using AWS services, and supports the company’s Climate Pledge—a commitment to reducing environmental impact.
The company’s easy-to-use system lets customers monitor their carbon footprint by viewing emissions data and accessing monthly reports. By tracking changes over time, they can work to reduce their impact on the environment.
At Amazon, they are dedicated to increasing their platform’s sustainability and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. They want to give customers transparency about their carbon footprint and what action needs to be taken.
AWS is now set to power all its operations using 100 percent renewable energy by 2025—it has become the leading buyer of renewable energy in Europe. Amazon has also invested in solar panels, farms, and windmills that rely on renewable resources to keep their data centers running.
2. Microsoft Azure
Microsoft makes it easy to calculate emissions from its products with the Emissions Impact Dashboard. The company recently improved features that help companies estimate the negative environmental impact of their cloud usage across different areas, including extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transport, usage and disposal of hardware.
Microsoft provides a set of guidelines to aid companies in regulating cloud environmental initiatives and automating insights. This will enable customers to take charge of their carbon footprint, set sustainability objectives, and help with emissions recording, lower rates of emission, as well as replacements where needed.
CIOs and other IT execs who want to make a difference in their company’s sustainable business strategy can turn to Microsoft for help.
- They can easily report emissions from cloud data centers, devices, and applications, visualize the data in one place, and share it with others.
- Customers can use this scorecard to track their metrics and progress in emissions goals, including energy sources and those they’ve purchased, which will help demonstrate their dedication to sustainability.
- They can investigate and find solutions when certain areas are not up to par. For example, if an air conditioning system isn’t living up to emissions targets, determine which operational unit is in charge and make the necessary changes.
In other words: Microsoft is leading the way, empowering companies with green IT initiatives and powerful algorithms.
3. Google Cloud Platform
Google always puts the environment first, and its new innovation in IT services is no different. They’ve created a cloud computing tool that uses icons to show which of their customer’s resources require less carbon output.
By giving customers visible options for power consumption, they can discern which choice is best for them. For example, if they see that one route is represented by a greener icon, they’ll know that the green option is more environmentally friendly.
Google doesn’t just suggest using icons for cleaner options on their commutes, which would make people 50% more likely to choose them—it also provides granular metering across all cloud infrastructure. With this feature, you can get detailed emissions information at the product, project, and location levels.
Recently, Google implemented a machine-learning-based upgrade to an existing tool called the Unattended Project Recommender. By identifying code on Google servers, which may be unused or abandoned, this action would eliminate unnecessary carbon emissions. In reality, the monthly savings amount to 600,000 kilograms of Co2 equivalent (or 1.5 million miles driven).
4. IBM Cloud
IBM is achieving green computing with an open hybrid cloud approach, meaning that data and applications can flow freely between public clouds and private clouds without the need for complex information technology infrastructure.
IBM Turbonomic is a cloud-based resource management platform that helps clients reduce annual infrastructure refresh costs by 33%, avoid future growth spending by 70%, and keep day-to-day business operations unaffected.
Running energy-optimized workloads on a hybrid cloud with software like Red Hat OpenShift can help reduce resources and enable businesses to run a more cost-effective operation. This is especially true when compared to hosting them on a dedicated private cloud or server, especially when an IT organization isn’t utilizing its servers very often.
Salesforce has achieved a lot with its sustainability initiatives—last year, the enterprise software provider achieved Net Zero status across its entire value chain. What’s more, the company’s operations are completely powered by renewable energy.
Using virtual machines, Salesforce’s robust platform enables users to:
- Use data from various sources, update information automatically as new data appears, and be able to show where the data comes from for reports that need to meet investors’ or regulators’ standards.
- Work together with vendors to keep tabs on and take action against greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of the supply chain.
- Track company progress toward net zero emissions targets, get predictions for future emissions and learn how to reduce them.
By combining efficiency with automation, Salesforce not only talks the talk with its sustainable practices but walks the walk by implementing its systems into the way its customers do business.
From an environmental sustainability perspective, Salesforce has not only been able to optimize its computing resources with cloud computing technology but also made it easier for companies of all sizes to manage their energy usage with power and unrivalled scalability.
As you can see, the top providers of cloud computing are also the leaders in corporate sustainability. Green cloud computing is not only possible, but it’s becoming the norm.
What does this mean for businesses?
For one, it means that there’s a growing market for sustainable and environmentally friendly products and services. It also means that companies are under pressure to adopt sustainable resource allocation practices, lest they fall behind their competitors.
Of course, cloud service providers are not a panacea for all of the world’s ills. But they are taking a step in the right direction, and one that businesses should take advantage of.
Power management can be a huge hassle, and constantly monitoring your energy use can quickly become challenging—even when using cloud architecture. To maximize your energy savings, maintain compliance, and stay on-track with green initiatives, get in touch with us to learn more.