The ongoing IT revolution brought upon by the cloud, and related technologies is a prominent phenomenon. Companies worldwide realize the benefits of cloud computing, such as increased flexibility, cost-cutting, and scalability. But the increased use of cloud computing translates into higher energy consumption (data servers run on energy), which leads to increased carbon emissions in the environment.
Greenpeace estimates that by 2025, the technology sector could consume 20% of the world’s total electricity; this increase from 7% currently is attributed to the expansion of cloud computing and the further development of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, which require a great deal of computing power.
The demand for cloud computing is expected to increase by 2x in the next five years, courtesy of the exponential rise in data storage and transfer transactions. Many companies moving to cloud computing are using a lift and shift strategy, which is not efficient in terms of both costs and software usage. Such organizations think that just moving to the cloud is enough, and the need to optimize their cloud computing costs and footprint is a foreign concept for them.
Organizations urgently need to pay attention to their cloud computing needs and opt for greener technologies, to manage costs effectively, reduce carbon emissions and ensure a sustainable future.
Linking Sustainability with Cloud Computing
A 2013 research paper, funded by Google, revealed that by moving basic software applications to the cloud, energy usage would decrease by 87%.
As sustainability becomes increasingly crucial for businesses’ success, there is a rising demand for cloud computing solutions that can lead the way in attaining an eco-friendly and sustainable development and work environment. Cloud solutions are beneficial not just for the environment but for businesses as well. It can significantly impact the environment if corporations use it in alignment with their sustainable development goals.
The main concept behind cloud computing is shared resources leading to maximum effectiveness and efficiency. It helps in both – environmental and financial sustainability in the long term.
Given below are some ways in which cloud computing proves to be a sustainable development technology solution for businesses –
Public Cloud Data Centers Are Energy Efficient
Migrations to the public cloud result in up to 30-40% total cost of ownership (TCO) savings.
Traditional internet data centers are generally far-off from the facilities that power them, resulting in huge electricity loss over long distances. On top of that, such data centers are high maintenance, requiring uninterruptible power supplies, cooling, and tons of electricity. Cloud data centers use far less wattage for power backup and cooling as they are built and designed at scale for efficient energy utilization and for a sustainable future. In addition to that, public data centers have a higher utilization rate than private data centers resulting in judicial use of resources.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, cloud computing cuts the emission of GHG or greenhouse gases from data centers to almost net-zero. A traditional data center produces an insane amount of GHG throughout its lifecycle, from production and assembling to transportation, use, and ultimately disposal.
A survey conducted by Accenture, Microsoft, and WSP revealed that cloud computing substantially affects carbon emissions. It affirmed that large companies could reduce their per-user carbon footprint by 30% and up to 90% for small enterprises using cloud computing.
Cloud computing contributes to sustainable future by reducing carbon emissions and thus organizations’ carbon footprints can become net-zero in many ways. To elaborate, here are a few examples –
Dematerialization – Refers to the replacement of physical products with virtual equivalents. The elimination of high-carbon products helps with energy conservation as fewer materials are used to manufacture and maintain the machines and hardware. The money saved can be allocated by companies for better purposes. In addition to that, fewer physical resources mean less e-waste and thus reduced river pollution. For instance, video streaming is a cloud service that has to some extent replaced the traditional way of entertainment – the television.
Paperless Operations – Green mobile computing storage options like Google Drive, OneBox, and DropBox allow safe storage of data and files. Not only it allows instantaneous access from anywhere, but it also reduces the chances of data loss to none as hard drives in server rooms are more susceptible to damage than the cloud storage options. Less paper, lesser paper waste, more sustainability.
Remote Working – The flexibility of remote work made possible with cloud solutions has had many benefits in terms of sustainability for businesses. The elimination of work commute reduced fuel consumption worldwide, which led to lesser carbon emissions. Not only that, it eliminated energy needs at the office, and companies did not have to invest in real estate to set up new workspaces.
Efficient Coding and Development – Cloud services offer optimized build pipelines and code, reducing redundant code dependencies that would otherwise cost extra storage and resources. This makes it easier to get rid of overhead costs and energy consumption.
Going green with cloud computing is the need of the hour. Reducing carbon footprint by adopting sustainable technologies and cloud solutions is the best way forward for businesses.
Awareness programs and financial incentives can overcome the challenges and questions faced by the companies beginning their cloud journey. Ultimately, the decisions made by businesses will determine the sustainability curve for the planet and, if they succeed, will lead to a greener balance sheet.