Sustainability can be a core driver of cloud innovation

More and more enterprises cite better sustainability to justify the use of cloud computing. There's more than good PR behind this trend.

Sustainability can be a core driver of cloud innovation
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I’ve long argued in support of the role that cloud computing can play to reduce power consumption related to compute and storage. The rest of the world is finally coming around. Today, most enterprises want to get close to a net-zero carbon impact. 

The reasons go beyond pure altruism and public relations. As reported by Forbes, the effects of climate change will cost companies up to $1.6 trillion per year by 2025. This is a clear business issue that must be addressed. 

In addition, emerging regulations are targeting the carbon footprints of companies and governments. Compliance reviews will check the efficiency of the company, especially the optimization of compute resources. Depending on which countries your enterprise operates from, the downside of this carbon regulation trend could be millions of dollars in fines and/or negative publicity. 

Problem, meet solution. Cloud computing can provide better resource sharing via its simple multitenant trick that reduces overall carbon footprint. Sustainability began as a natural and very substantial side effect of the shift from onsite data centers to cloud computing. Thus, we have the current push for more cloud innovation from providers, especially in the areas of sustainability. 

A few issues fuel this current drive:

First, cloud providers themselves are becoming better at using renewable energy, and thus providing more carbon-efficient platforms for applications and data. Enterprises might leverage some solar and wind, but they won’t get to the scale of hyperscalers. Therefore, it’s more carbon efficient to offload processing to public cloud providers than it is for an enterprise to stand up its own wind or solar farms.

Second, the cloud model itself is inherently efficient. The cloud is about sharing resources. Enterprises routinely leverage only a portion of the servers they have in their private data centers, with some onsite servers averaging only 10% utilization. This is largely because they need to purchase compute and storage resources well ahead of need, thus their low utilization. 

Public cloud providers are much better at utilizing resources because they can manage the demand from thousands of tenants among available resources using multitenancy. A single set of virtual cloud servers can service workloads that would normally require 100 times more privately owned servers that in turn would pull 100 times more power from the grid.

As we move into 2022, the writing is on the wall about the role cloud computing will play to provide more sustainable computing for enterprises. Aside from multitenancy savings, consider the value gained from enhanced business agility, as well as the ability to scale on demand. Public clouds will continue to go from green to very green. 

Future innovations from cloud providers will enhance power efficiencies, including the use of renewables, custom CPUs, and other hardware that’s better optimized than the equipment currently in the data centers. 

The question is no longer “Should sustainability be a cloud innovation driver?” Now and in the future, sustainability will become a greater factor in a cloud project’s overall ROI. Upcoming innovations from providers and the ongoing movement to the cloud point in the right direction for the health of the planet. The drive to sustainability is upon us.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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