In recent years, businesses throughout the world have begun to shift to cloud-based technology for more cost-efficient and resource-efficient IT solutions. At the same time, many businesses have begun developing a greater consciousness of the environmental impact of their operations, leading them to focus more and more on sustainability. This focus is as important in the IT community as elsewhere in the business world, where sustainability is becoming a key performance indicator for many departments. As a result, regulators and corporate sustainability officers are now working on strategies to decrease IT departments’ carbon footprints. Might cloud technology offer some of the sustainable solutions that a modern business world needs?

A 2010 study commissioned by Microsoft, in cooperation with Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, found that Microsoft’s use of cloud solutions led to reductions of over 30 percent in both carbon emissions and energy use when compared with corresponding on premise applications. Deployment size is a key factor in determining how dramatic these reductions can be. Microsoft’s analysis shows that on average, across three different business applications, carbon emissions could be reduced by over 90 percent for small deployments of 100 users; by 60 to 90 percent for medium-sized deployments of about 1,000 users; and by 30 to 60 percent for large deployments of about 10,000 users.

How are such impressive reductions possible? There are a number of factors to consider. One important aspect of cloud technology is Dynamic Provisioning: reducing computing resource waste by more accurately matching server capacity with demand. Faced with difficulties in accurately predicting demand, IT managers often over-allocate server, storage, and networking infrastructure. Cloud providers have more accurate and dedicated means for monitoring and predicting demand, allowing them to avoid unnecessary over-allocation of infrastructure for greater efficiency and sustainability.Efficient provisioning occurs on the client end as well: the pay-as-you-go nature of cloud computing, together with self-service, encourages clients to consume only what they need, with consumption turned off at expiration times.

Another aspect of cloud computing which contributes to its sustainability is Multi-Tenancy: the ability to share application instances between numerous client companies. In other words, cloud providers can serve multiple organizations on the same server infrastructure at the same time. This has the effect of flattening demand peaks, reducing the need for extra infrastructure, and reducing overall energy use and carbon emissions. Multi-Tenancy is connected to Virtualization, an infrastructure technology allowing a single server to run multiple operating system images simultaneously, decreasing the physical server footprint—including equipment, data center space, e-waste, and electricity.

Another factor in the sustainability of cloud architecture is improved Server Utilization. This refers to the portion of a server’s capacity actively used by a given application. Large-scale cloud providers utilize their servers at higher, more stable levels than analogous on-premise operations. Meanwhile, improved Data Center Efficiency is made possible through effective data center designs that optimize power efficiency by reducing power spent on cooling, conditioning, and other processes.

As cloud infrastructure and the demand for cloud computing increase in future years, the Cloud will likely become more and more efficient. Providers will be better able to predict capacity for demand, and the shift to cloud technology will result in greater economies of scale, enabling greater efficiency.  The end result? More sustainable solutions to IT infrastructure, made possible by a big green Cloud. If you would like more information  in regards to the cloud, please contact Biel’s today.