Building sustainability in the cloud
By Louis Airiohuodion
In recent years, businesses have migrated to the cloud as an agile and efficient platform for application deployment and data storage. However, concerns about the environmental impact of cloud computing have loomed large, given the substantial energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with data centres. These concerns were further heightened by the airing of the BBC Panorama program in February 2023, which painted cloud computing as antithetical to environmental sustainability.
But the reality is far more nuanced, with far more potential for change. Many cloud providers have recognised the urgency of the environmental crisis and are actively embracing sustainable practices and technologies to minimise their carbon footprint. A ground-breaking study by Masanet et al Science. in 2020 revealed that migrating from on-premises data centres to the cloud can yield an incredible 84% reduction in carbon emissions.
The global shift towards sustainability has seen significant investment. According to PwC's State of Climate Tech 2022 Report, over $50 billion in venture capital funding has been injected into climate tech companies in 2022 alone. This financial backing signifies the growing recognition of the importance of sustainable solutions and paves the way for innovative advancements.
In Europe, organisations are taking concrete steps towards sustainable maturity. The IDC Sustainability and Digital, How to Move Up the Maturity Ladder 2022 report indicates that 42% of European organisations are in the early stages of sustainability maturity. Additionally, 41% have dedicated sustainability budgets, demonstrating a commitment to allocating resources to sustainability initiatives. Moreover, 16% proactively integrate sustainability into their supply chains, creating positive change throughout the business ecosystem.
In this blog post, we will explore key focus areas for sustainability in the cloud, including cost optimisation, automation, green energy, and the future of cloud sustainability.
One of the most significant benefits of cloud computing is its cost-effectiveness. Cloud providers offer scalable and flexible pricing models to help businesses save on infrastructure and maintenance costs. However, cloud users must also consider the environmental costs of running their applications in the cloud. Cloud users must adopt efficient and streamlined practices that reduce energy consumption and waste to optimise costs while promoting sustainability.
For example, by using automation tools to monitor and optimise resource utilisation, businesses can reduce their energy consumption and minimise their carbon footprint. Additionally, by adopting cloud-native technologies designed for efficiency and scalability, companies can further reduce costs while promoting sustainability.
Automation is another critical area of focus for sustainability in the cloud. By automating routine tasks and processes, businesses can reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. For example, by automating server decommissioning and implementing auto-scaling, companies can reduce their energy consumption by only using the resources they need when they need them. Similarly, businesses can reduce their energy consumption by automating resource allocation and load balancing while ensuring optimal performance.
The cloud industry is actively addressing its environmental impact by adopting renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies. One of the most significant environmental impacts of the cloud is its energy consumption. Data centres require substantial amounts of energy to power their servers, cooling systems, and infrastructure. Many providers are now embracing renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power to promote sustainability.
Amazon, which incorporates the leading cloud service provider AWS as a subsidiary of its business, is a strong advocate for sustainability. It has set a goal to power its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. Amazon has made substantial progress in this regard and is the world's largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. By 2021, it had achieved an impressive 85% renewable energy usage across all its operations.
In addition to utilising renewable energy, cloud providers can minimise their environmental impact by investing in energy-efficient technologies. This includes implementing efficient cooling systems and optimising server designs to reduce energy consumption. By adopting these measures, cloud providers can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future.
The future of sustainability in the cloud looks promising as more providers adopt sustainable practices and technologies. In the coming years, we can expect to see a continued focus on cost optimisation, automation, and green energy. Additionally, we may see the emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, which can help businesses optimise their cloud operations and reduce their environmental impact.
Overall, sustainability in the cloud is an essential consideration for businesses and cloud providers alike. By adopting efficient and sustainable practices and technologies, businesses can reduce their environmental impact while saving money and improving overall efficiency. As the cloud continues to evolve, we expect to see continued innovation and progress in sustainability, promoting a more sustainable future for all.