Why transferring to a cloud improves the environment
The rapid development of information technologies increases the demand for electricity. Climate scientists warn that excessive consumption of fossil fuel energy and, as a result, its carbon footprint, will accelerate global warming and climate change. Although the data centres of cloud operators consume a huge amount of electricity, they are more environmentally friendly than any own data centres and server rooms in enterprises. How is that possible.
How IT services affect the environment
Data centres around the world consume more than 205 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. This number exceeds the annual electricity consumption of the entire Ukraine. Currently, data centres account for about 2-4% of global carbon emissions. Approximately as much is for the aviation industry.
Every time Lionel Messi uploads a photo to Instagram for nearly 360 million users to see, it consumes 48 megawatt-hours of electricity. According to the Uptime Institute, all smartphones use that much energy to update data and display photos. 48 MWh is how much energy your laptop would use if it worked continuously for over 100 years.
The more complex the calculations are, the more electricity is consumed. For example, Bitcoin mining, which is based on blockchain technology, consumed 75 terawatt hours in 2019, which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 20 million British households.
Artificial intelligence and the metaverse are also leaving their negative imprint on our planet. AI and the metaverse are expected to serve billions of devices worldwide every day. It is hard to even imagine how much electricity will be needed for this.
What shall we do
Reducing the number of data centres by transferring infrastructure to a cloud helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reduce electricity consumption. According to various calculations, in this way the business will use 77% fewer servers and 84% less electricity, which will reduce carbon emissions by 88%. All this will have a positive effect on the state of the environment.
Environmental benefits of cloud computing
Cloud technologies have improved the way businesses operate. They have helped organizations reduce capital expenditures, provide scalability, and provide better control over data. In addition to improving business operations, cloud computing is also impacting the environment around the world. Here are their main environmental benefits.
More efficient use of equipment
The cloud is a shared environment. If one user needs a large amount of resources for a promotion or sale, and another has a seasonal business and currently does not use all of its resources, then the operator can effectively distribute their consumption among customers.
Concerning the hardware, each company needs to buy servers with reserve, taking into account peak loads on the services that are hosted on them. What is not the best option from an ecological point of view.
Hardware update rate
A traditional server owned by a single company is typically used for a long time before being upgraded or replaced. The hardware on which the cloud is built has much higher usage rates than the hardware. It will have a shorter life cycle, resulting in faster updates. In addition, regular replacement of equipment is more cost-effective, as new technologies provide better energy efficiency.
Reduction of electricity consumption
Traditional data transmission systems require high maintenance costs, need uninterrupted power supply, cooling and large amounts of electricity. Moving your software to the cloud can save you a lot of money using it.
Research conducted by the National Laboratory named after Lawrence Berkeley, showed that moving e-mail, CRM or website to the cloud will reduce the total energy consumption of these services by 87%.
Efficiency through scoping
An infrastructure used by thousands of customers must be quite large. Therefore, it is possible to effectively design the cooling system, which is the key energy element of such solutions. The use of corridors with cold and warm air, precise temperature control or energy recovery are methods not available for small server rooms. Data centres use Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) to determine how much energy is needed to service the server room (power supply, cooling, lighting, etc.) versus what is used just to power the devices.
Virtual services have now replaced bulky equipment and physical devices. Many companies are switching to electronic document management rather than faxing important papers. They use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for conferences, rather than gathering teams in office meeting rooms. The cloud has helped many companies go green while improving energy efficiency.
And it also helps to organize remote work. Employees work from home, which means that businesses would not need to rent or buy an office. The researchers believe that telecommuting will help companies avoid the potential emission of about three million tons of carbon per year just by reducing the number of trips to work.
"Green" data centres
The world's largest IT giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google have begun implementing plans to switch their data centres to carbon-free electricity. Amazon plans to do this by 2025, and to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2040. Microsoft has committed to become carbon-negative by 2030 and to remove from the atmosphere all the carbon that the company has emitted since 1975. And Google has already switched to the use of renewable energy in 2018, albeit partially. It has purchased allowances for those activities that still consume electricity from fossil fuels. However, they promised to use electricity from carbon-free sources by 2030.
Earlier, we explained what a virtual data center is and what are its advantages over a physical one.