Green software and sustainable cloud solutions
As it is, cloud solutions are the most energy-efficient form of data storage out there, no doubt about it. And they’re a welcome addition to the broader movement of investing in climate tech solutions. But who wants to stop at ‘better than the rest’? As the saying goes: Higher, further, faster, baby. For green software solutions and cloud solutions in general, the way to do that is by integrating environmentally sustainable policies and infrastructure at every level of development, design, and operations.
After all, massive amounts of data require massive amounts of energy to power, cool, and maintain data centers and servers, resulting in a significant carbon footprint. When you strategize to make your cloud computing solution even more green than the baseline, then you’re doing what’s best for the environment but also likely what’s best for your company, given the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) to corporate success and reputation these days.
How cloud computing can promote sustainability
According to the International Energy Agency, power for data centers and data transmission networks were responsible for nearly one percent of the world's energy-related emissions in 2020. This number is expected to grow to 3.2 percent by 2025, while to meet goals for a Net Zero Scenario those emissions would need to be cut in half by 2030.
That’s where cloud computing, which does away with (or at least minimizes) private servers, comes in: It reduces energy consumption because it collectivizes commercial data processing into shared data centers. Just by using a public cloud solution like AWS or Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud, you’re netting a win for the environment, but if you dig in deeper, there are ways to build on that approach and make it even more effective.
Specific strategies for sustainable cloud computing
We can all agree that reduced emissions, efficient energy usage, and a sustainable future are good things, but we need practical methods and next steps to make those goals a reality. Between strategic planning and operational implementation, this is where the locally sourced, ethically-harvested rubber meets the resource-saving road.
Renewable energy sources
One of the most effective ways to make cloud computing more sustainable is by using renewable energy sources like solar and wind to power data centers. Renewables emit significantly less carbon than good (relatively speaking) ol’ coal and natural gas. Plus, renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly cost-competitive, making them a viable option for powering data centers.
Several companies have already started using renewable energy sources to power their data centers. A small up-and-comer called Google has committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy for its data centers by 2030, while Amazon Web Services plans to reach fully renewable energy sources by 2025.
Energy-efficient data center designs
Sustainability isn’t just about sourcing energy effectively — it’s also about using that energy as efficiently as possible. In this case, by implementing energy-efficient designs.
Sustainable cooling systems are therefore a hot commodity among climate-conscious companies looking to cut costs, but businesses can also integrate Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) design principles as well as DCIM software for monitoring and managing data center operations, which helps further reduce waste and increase efficiency. On the software side, DCIM monitors a target system in real-time, notifying users of important data as it occurs so that adjustments can be made as quickly and effectively as possible.
As a surefire way to reduce the energy consumption of data centers, virtualizing servers allow companies to reduce the number of physical servers required, which in turn reduces energy consumption and cooling costs. With virtualization, companies use their existing hardware more efficiently and reduce electronic waste since they don’t need to purchase new servers and replace components.
Green software solutions, in the cloud and beyond
In the quest to reach carbon neutrality and long-term sustainability, green software is King Arthur. Or the holy grail. Or the round table? Forget the metaphor: Green software is where we take the sum of all our other contributions (infrastructure, strategy, logistics), identify their strengths, and multiply their effects.
It comes as no surprise that the avenues for applications are limited only by what we can think to apply them to. Companies can use energy management software to monitor and control energy usage and — crucially — use data analytics to identify inefficiencies. Green software can be applied to energy management as much as it can be to acquiring diagnostic data. Examples include protecting infrastructure through cybersecurity solutions, or literal carbon reduction through automated workloads for green energy sources. Effectively, software can be a force multiplier to every element of environmental efforts.
Several companies have already implemented software-based solutions to optimize energy usage and reduce waste. For example, Microsoft's data centers use machine learning algorithms to optimize energy usage in conjunction with specially designed grid-interactive batteries, while Google's DeepMind AI system is used to reduce cooling costs in its data centers.
Sky’s the limit
Cloud computing has been a major win for carbon reduction, but it still has a significant environmental impact. That makes implementing the strategies, software applications, and infrastructure to further improve sustainability all the more important. By using renewable energy sources, implementing energy-efficient data center designs, and using green software to optimize energy usage and reduce waste, companies and individuals can reduce the carbon footprint of cloud computing.
The added bonus? Being able to point to your cloud configuration as an exemplar of sustainability won’t just make the earth happy, it’ll also give your investors something to smile about.