How a multi-cloud approach can have a positive environmental impact
With World Earth Day having just taken place, it’s a good time to think about the conscious choices we make at home and at work to keep mother nature healthy. Although the main focus is on plastics, the technology industry has many opportunities to make an impact in a less physically tangible sense: one such area is extending the use of cloud-based services to store, back up, process and analyze corporate data.
A cloud-based IT strategy puts energy and resource efficiency at its core - which is why it can deliver the hardware and running cost savings that make it so desirable to businesses. But the World Earth Day agenda offers a chance to flip the rationale for cloud adoption and highlight environmental benefits that the technology brings precisely because of its reduced energy usage. Since most corporate power supplies come from fossil fuels, cloud adoption is a solid first step to cutting corporate greenhouse gas emissions and support our planet’s environment. This article outlines four key reasons to ‘put your IT head in the clouds’ this World Earth Day if you haven’t already done so – and for those of you with a cloud strategy in place, think of this as a reminder of how financially motivated decisions can also bring about environmental benefits.
More clouds on the horizon
Most of the world’s largest enterprises deploy a cloud-based infrastructure of some kind. Some are even using a multi-cloud strategy – two or more cloud computing services, often a mixture of public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. But, many smaller and mid-sized companies have shied away from cloud adoption, worried they do not have the scale or budget to reap financial benefits. That has changed over the last few years with the advent of cloud services such as Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive – to the extent that many businesses might not even think of these applications as cloud propositions, but they have removed the need for as many physical hard drives and servers in many thousands of businesses across the world.
Wider adoption has also become a reality because many cloud service providers have done an admirable job of creating packages and services for smaller businesses – those with around five on-premises servers – and persuading them it’s still cheaper and more efficient to turn off their on-site hardware and bunk up with cloud providers. As a result, in 2018, cloud technology is truly democratized and even the smallest of companies can reap environmental and financial benefits by shifting their computing resources into the cloud.
Higher utilization, more efficient energy use
Let’s get back to basics on this point: cloud computing pools hardware use and improves server utilization and, if there is less hardware, then less energy is consumed. Less use of energy means reduced need for resources and a smaller carbon footprint. This, of course, is much better for the environment.
On-premises server rooms typically have fairly low utilization rates because companies need to build in redundancy for potential data spikes. They also buy redundant server capacity in advance as they can’t afford to run out as the business grows. A cloud-based strategy, by contrast, removes both these risk factors since companies gain access to additional resources literally at the click of a key – no need to power half empty servers and no need to buy hardware way before you need it. If companies are buying less physical hardware, they’re also cutting their own plastic and mined metals/minerals use.
24/7 climate control and always-on-servers
Traditional IT infrastructure, particularly servers, need to be housed in a perpetually cool, low humidity environment. This means 24/7 climate control. Climate control creates a massive amount of energy consumption and is probably the biggest contributor to a large corporate carbon footprint. As cloud technology works on a much larger scale, cloud service providers can create much more environmentally friendly and efficient layouts in their data centers that keep cooling costs to a minimum. They can also source (and, in some cases even design their own) the most efficient and environmentally sound cooling systems by utilizing budget and spending power that far exceed most corporate spend.
Renewable energy and wider policy influence
Some leading cloud computing companies, like Facebook, Google and Apple, are investing in renewable energy and several more have committed to ultimately powering their data centers with 100 percent renewable energy. These giants can have a huge influence on energy provider policies in their immediate area and have substantial influence in persuading them to go green. The benefit would extend beyond just their own clients, but to all energy users in their vicinities. Switching to the cloud won’t just give you access to a massive pool of resources, it could also, therefore, add strength to the political and environmental pressure that your cloud service provider can exert and bring about wider environmental policy shifts at regional, state and national government levels – pooling your company’s voice, and not just its computing resources.
Moving multiple operations to the cloud is definitely a growing trend. Forrester analysis suggests that more than half of global enterprises will rely on one public cloud platform in 2018. Perhaps with this mainstream uptake of cloud services becoming a reality, it’s not too far-fetched to think that every company in the future will have a good environmental record alongside good profits and high market value.
About the Author: Ziv Kedem is founder and CEO for IT resilience company Zerto, leading its corporate direction and vision. Previously, he co-founded Kashya Inc., now EMC RecoverPoint, where he served as chief technology officer and developed the industry’s most widely-used storage replication solution for disaster recovery. Prior to founding Kashya, Ziv co-founded a successful outsourcing business and served as a research scientist in an elite research unit of the Intelligence Corps for the IDF.
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