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Cloud Computing Can Cut Carbon Emissions by 30% to 90%

By moving business applications to cloud computing, large organizations can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions 30 percent or more compared to running those apps on their own infrastructure, according to a study released by Microsoft, Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy. The study also finds that small businesses can garner substantially higher savings.

The study, ” Cloud Computing and Sustainability: The Environmental Benefits of Moving to the Cloud,” finds that both large datacenters, such as those run by Microsoft, and small businesses can benefit by moving their applications to the cloud. Larger datacenters largely benefit from economies of scale and operational efficiencies beyond what is typically found in on-premise IT infrastructures, according to the report.

The study results focused on three commonly used Microsoft applications for e-mail, content sharing and customer relationship management: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM with their cloud-based equivalents — Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

The study evaluated the carbon footprint of server, networking and storage infrastructure for three different deployment sizes (100, 1,000 and 10,000 users), finding that the smaller the organization, the larger the benefit of moving their business applications to a cloud environment, according to researchers.

When small organizations (100 users) move to the cloud from their own local servers, the study finds that they can reduce their carbon emissions by up to 90 percent. Medium-sized companies (1000 users) can save up to 30 to 60 percent, while larger corporations still see significant savings, cutting energy consumption and carbon emissions 30 percent or more.

A case study with a large consumer-goods company indicates that 32 percent of emissions could be saved by moving 50,000 e-mail users in North America and Europe to Microsoft’s cloud.

The study finds that there are four key factors for the savings: dynamic provisioning (better matching of server capacity to ongoing demand), multi-tenancy (massive shared infrastructure), server utilization (performing higher workloads with a smaller infrastructure footprint), and datacenter efficiency (designs minimize energy use per given amount of computing power).

While many organizations could address some of these factors in their own datacenters to decrease energy use and emissions, the study suggests that large, public cloud infrastructures are better positioned to help reduce the environmental impact of IT through efficiency and economies of scale.

The study was commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy.

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3 thoughts on “Cloud Computing Can Cut Carbon Emissions by 30% to 90%

  1. While the study results in predictable lines, as a consumer centric society we got to keep in mind that the usage of technology devices and equipments will experience manifold growth. The consumption (and cuts in carbon emission) might decrease significantly in percentage terms, the overall growth of consumption will see exponential proportions. For example, usage of smart phones and tablets will demand a great amount of resources in terms of data centers, computing equipment and energy. Hence there will not be any net reduction of carbon emissions, unless innovations catch up further to beat the growing demand. We already know that the internet band width as well as wireless bandwidth are falling short in developed countries (such as US and Canada). Streaming services such as Netflix and Online videos are pushing the bandwidth requirements to peak levels. Hence environmental and technology innovators have to keep working hard to reduce carbon emissions in a significant volume.

  2. Paddu makes some very good points. Services such as Netflix require significant bandwidth which requires infrastructure upgrades from telecom companies. However, the alternative is consumers driving more to do things such as rent videos. The internet simplified delivering relevant content for consumers reducing the need to drive. People are using the internet to do research before they get in the car.

    From a business perspective, cloud computing delivers significant environmental benefits. Consider the average utilization for an on-site server is less than 10% according to HP. Over 90% of the time, the server is doing nothing. Cloud computing solutions significantly increase utilization reducing the number of servers. The resources required to build a single computer are staggering. They include: 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and one and a half tons of water. The volume of raw materials it takes to make a computer is 630 times greater than the end product it will produce. To put that in perspective, the materials needed to build a car are only two times as great as the end product.

  3. I believe Paddu missed the point here. Yes, there is an ever increasing desire for more and more technical devices, services and platforms. But , those desires/needs will continue to grow regardless of the fact that there is or is not this thing called cloud computing. The point of the article is that by moving all of this “stuff” to the cloud (or data centers) there is a significant redcution in energy consumption and materials usage. Just as John has pointed out as well.

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