European Cloud Summit

Sustainability: How cloud computing helps fight the climate crisis

by Adis Jugo

ecs blog

Thursday, May 05 2022

The vast majority of enterprises state today that sustainability is one of the key factors of how they will be running their business in the future, which is a significant and positive change compared to only a few years ago. And there is much more than just PR to that: Forbes, for example, has predicted that the climate crisis will cost the industry 1.3 trillion US$/year by 2026. Keeping our planet inhabitable should be in our common interest, and this is one area where everyone will agree that quick progress is needed. When we speak about the transformation of IT, it is also easily doable and affordable, and sometimes even cheaper than “doing business the old way”.

This is why we have promoted Sustainability to one of the main topics of the European Cloud Summit 2022, where panels and sessions delivered by the world’s best experts and cloud executives will discuss various aspects of what can be done, and how.

In essence, cloud computing technologies have three ways to help fight the climate crisis: Green IT, Green by IT, and Green Innovation.

Green IT

When you ask any traditional CIO/CTO/IT manager to quantify the IT costs in their company, energy costs are usually positioned very high on that list, very often immediately after the employee costs, and before hardware and software costs. Traditional server rooms are spending a lot of energy, and when you add all the office equipment to it, it becomes even more apparent.

Cloud computing is a game changer in this field, and energy costs and efficiency are stated as one of the main reasons for moving to cloud, not only by various cloud promotional brochures, but also by most of IT managers involved in cloud migrations.

The thing is: an enterprise can invest in solar and wind and cover that way some of the energy costs caused by internal IT, but it doesn’t hyperscale. Using public cloud providers, on another hand, very much does. All three major cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft and Google, have pledged to be carbon negative within the next few years. There are different ways how they are doing that, saving, and even producing energy – let’s just mention Microsoft’s innovative attempts with under-water data centers, where enormous cooling costs are saved. By offloading their data centers to public cloud providers, enterprises are also offloading efforts to run those data centers in a sustainable way, and that can and will hyperscale.

Second, cloud is all about resource pools and resource sharing: most of the local IT infrastructure sits unused most of the time, wasting energy and resources for nothing. Not so in the cloud (if done properly): resources are reserved and used on per-need basis, and the energy consumption overhead is minimal, if not completely reduced to zero.

The last point, but not least important, are client devices: through the app modernization (another key-topic of the European Cloud Summit 2022), which has been accelerated by cloud, the requirements for laptops and computers used by employees in offices and home offices have significantly decreased. Most of the laptops purchased today are spending way less energy than laptops from 5 or 10 years ago (heck, the laptop that I am typing this article on does not even have a ventilator). Furthermore, those laptops have much longer lifespan than before since the requirements for the client-side computing and processing have decreased with the modern apps. We still have a 9-year-old Surface Pro 2 commissioned in the company, and we are not going to decommission it until it does not fulfill its function anymore (which could take another few years). Only 10 or 15 years ago, this would be completely unimaginable. That has been made possible by the use of cloud-native apps, where the majority of computing power is needed in an energy efficient data center, and not on the client devices. In addition to the energy aspects of client devices the waste reduction is also a significant factor.

Green by IT

In his keynote at the European Cloud Summit 2022, Bernd Wagner, Managing Director of Google Cloud Germany, talked about a joint project that Google Cloud is doing with a few German regional governments, optimizing positioning of the solar panels and solar roofs, to get as much solar energy as possible from those panels.

In essence, it is simple: Google has historical data on weather, as well as the Google Earth satellite images of, well, the whole world. Local governments know where the solar panels are, and where even more could be financed. Google has provided the technology and computing power.

When you connect these dots, great results can be achieved in energy efficiency, the costs for the families living there can be significantly decreased, and we have made another major step towards sustainability, and towards fighting climate crisis.

Cloud as driver of innovation

The example from above is just one of the many ways how cloud computing can be used. It doesn’t even have to be one of the big cloud providers involved, there are numerous IT startups which have pledged to develop technologies to combat climate crisis. And cloud makes it all possible.

At the European Cloud Summit 2022, we will be giving space to the stories like this. We will discuss the chances, efforts and possibilities of how cloud computing can be used for supporting our fight for sustainability and combating climate change.

If you are passionate about this topic the same way we are, then join us in Rheingoldhalle Mainz, Germany (very close to the Frankfurt airport), on 26-28 September 2022.