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How Green is the Cloud?

In today’s world, the demand to “go green” is greater than ever. In the early days of cloud computing, there were legitimate concerns that its implementation with the internet would have big implications on the world’s carbon emissions. There has been a lot of noise about the cloud and its numerous “as a service” offerings for at least 10 years now, Cloud computing is not just a ‘technological’ or ‘financial thing’, there are often environmental benefits that are omitted. It decreases energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions.

As an Atlassian Partner, we strongly believe in the Cloud and its multiple benefits. We offer Cloud through licensing and migration to the Atlassian Cloud (Atlassian Software in SaaS mode) or our Cloud Hosting offering of On-Premise versions of Atlassian software (such as Jira or Confluence to name a few), an alternative hybrid solution. In this article, you will learn how the cloud reduces the carbon footprint of IT in your company and how the cloud is “greener” than hosting your IT solutions on your private servers.

1- Let’s begin with Data center efficiency

The energy consumption of all global data centers is estimated today at 416 terawatts (416,000,000,000 kWh), the equivalent of three percent of the world’s electricity generation. Now, more than ever, sustainability is central to business success and survival. Sustainability is guiding the way to succeed as an eco-friendly and low carbon society.

Cloud computing works with greater efficiency than on-premises data centers. This results in the efficient use of IT resources that have a positive outcome for the environment. Cloud computing is based on the idea of sharing services and consequently maximizing the effectiveness of resources. Cloud computing centers use high-level technologies that are energy efficient. They use less energy for lighting, cooling, and power conditioning resulting in energy savings.

2 – Optimizing IT equipment to reduce energy use

Few people know how much energy a private server uses over its lifetime. And yet, it needs a constant supply of electricity, a cooling system to prevent overheating and when the equipment is at the end of its life, it becomes waste that must be disposed of – but will never disappear.

The U.S. Renewable Energy Laboratory says that energy consumption for servers is about 1.8 percent of annual U.S. consumption. That’s about 70 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year. That figure is expected to rise to 73 billion kilowatt hours by the end of 2020.

The Cloud diminishes these figures significantly. Research financed by Google and managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in connection with Northwestern University showed that transitioning commonly used software applications to the cloud would cut energy use by 87%. The saved energy could be used to power Los Angeles for a year. Additionally, the study insisted that data center energy consumption would fall by 31% between 2010 and 2020 as more and more organizations shift to cloud computing. Notably, by reducing energy use, businesses can save 60-85% in energy costs.

In addition, the utilization rates of servers managed by the companies themselves are significantly lower than those of cloud operators. On average, according to an NRDC report, these servers are only operated at 18% of their capacity, while those in shared Cloud data centres are operated at an average of 65%. This low exploitation rate is surely explained by the willingness of companies to anticipate the risks linked to a potential overload. This overload is nevertheless exceptional, or even only potential in most cases.

The Cloud is better suited to the needs of companies and a source of economies of scale, and therefore represents a much more energy-efficient solution. Based on this observation, migrating data to an outsourced Cloud would allow the use of only a quarter of a Cloud server compared to a private server on site.

3 – Dematerialization

The cloud contributes even more to sustainable development because it promotes dematerialization. We are talking here about the replacement of polluting physical products by their virtual equivalents. Cloud services, for example, allow people to use virtual services such as video streaming, as opposed to physical video products that require many more resources to produce and transport.

Migrating to the cloud means that you use fewer machines and hardware that use less energy and have a lower impact on the environment. Consequently, companies have lower energy bills and free up extra funds to designate to other projects.

A company like Valiantys who offer Cloud services help businesses focus their time and energy on other tasks instead of daily IT duties and issues.

Remarkably, by reducing physical products – equipment and hardware, the Cloud decreases the amount of waste originating from the disposal of these products. More so, cloud computing helps organizations go paperless with the help of cloud storage options like DropBox, SharePoint and Google Drive. By going paperless, you reduce the need to dispose of documents that harm the environment. From this perspective, the Cloud helps to reduce the global environmental footprint.

4 – Decreases the impact on the climate

Cloud computing lowers the amount of Green House Gases released from data centers. A conventional on-site data center generates GHG throughout its life cycle including:

  • Manufacturing raw materials for the equipment
  • Constructing the equipment
  • Transporting the equipment to the on-site data center
  • Using and managing the equipment
  • Disposing of the equipment when its lifecycle ends

A survey carried out by Accenture, Microsoft and WSP reported that cloud computing has a substantial effect on carbon emissions. It insisted that by using the Cloud, large companies can lessen per-user carbon footprint by 30% and up to 90% for small enterprises. A CDP report also said that offsite services can reduce annual carbon emissions by 85.7 million metric tons.

In 2010, Salesforce, an American Cloud company, reduced its carbon footprint by 170,900 tons. That’s the equivalent of taking 37,000 cars off the road! According to AWS (Amazon Web Services), private enterprise data centers use a much “dirtier” energy mix than a large-scale Cloud provider. AWS, like other major Cloud operators on the market, uses an energy mix that emits 28% less carbon. These operators have a vested interest in doing so because when the climate changes and temperatures rise, it becomes even more expensive to run servers at maximum performance levels.

The Cloud is therefore a source of savings thanks to the use of energy-efficient equipment and the reduction in carbon emissions that it allows.

The Cloud according to Valiantys

For Valiantys, the Cloud has two facets. The first one is the migration to Atlassian Cloud (Saas) solutions. The second solution is the Cloud hosting of the Atlassian On-Premise platforms, for companies that are not ready or cannot switch to Jira or Confluence Cloud for functional reasons for example. We help you get the most value for your business by implementing the Cloud solution that suits you best. In both cases, AWS is the Cloud provider behind both alternatives and AWS is committed to sustainability.

AWS aims to run its business in the most environmentally friendly way possible and aims to have its global infrastructure 100% renewable within a few years. Today it is 50%. It is thanks to commitments such as this one and the latest creation of four new wind farms and a new solar farm (in Ireland, Sweden, and the USA) that total renewable energy production will reach 297 megawatts (MW), or a projected annual output of more than 830,000-megawatt hours (MWh). When completed, these wind and solar farms, combined with AWS’s nine previous renewable energy projects, are expected to produce more than 2,900,000 MWh of renewable energy per year.

This is one of the reasons why we chose to partner with AWS for our Cloud, as does Atlassian. At Valiantys, we have created our own environmental committee to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. In particular, we strive to host most of our customers’ instances in AWS’s “green” Data Centers, i.e. 100% supplied with renewable energy and therefore zero emissions in use.

Conclusion

The Cloud has taken up the challenge of streamlining and simplifying the management of IT platforms and energy consumption to move towards sustainable development. More and more companies are taking up the challenge. If you want your IT to go green too, contact one of our Cloud consultants now who can manage your migration from your servers or from another Cloud operator that does not meet your expectations. As an Atlassian Solution Platinum Partner and AWS Partner we have the expertise to help you.

 

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