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Green cloud

The practice of making cloud-based workloads as environmentally friendly as possible.

This encompasses a range of activities, including optimizing applications to run efficiently in the cloud and using renewable energy sources. Adopting green cloud measures can feed into sustainability efforts and save money.

What is it?

Activities taken to ensure that cloud workloads are as environmentally friendly as possible.

What’s in it for you?

Consumers and investors appreciate organizations that take sustainability seriously. Green cloud can also save you money and strengthen your brand.

What are the trade-offs?

Like all sustainability efforts, adopting green cloud measures will pose some tough questions: to what extent are you willing to take a performance or cost hit to reduce your carbon footprint?

How is it being used?

Data center energy use is in the spotlight and many organizations are exploring how to improve their sustainability efforts.

What is it?


Green cloud encompasses a range of tactics that can be used to reduce an enterprise’s carbon footprint.


For some, simply moving to the cloud is seen as ‘green’, because the infrastructure is often far more energy efficient than on-premise data centers.


But cloud energy use is growing rapidly. And organizations have many other opportunities to reduce carbon emissions.


For instance, today, many workloads in the cloud haven’t been optimized for energy use. The relative ease with which teams can spin up machine learning applications in the cloud often means little attention is paid to energy use. Enabling your dev teams to use a cost-benefits-accuracy analysis could mean they’re able to choose a machine learning model that gives the good results, without consuming as much power as some of the alternatives.


And it’s not just energy-hungry applications such as machine learning that can be optimized for the green cloud. If you’ve just migrated on-prem workloads to the cloud, without re-architecting them, the chances are you’re using cloud resources unnecessarily. Running in the cloud has different network, storage and compute implications than the same app running on-prem. By optimizing for the cloud, you can minimize cloud utilization, saving you money and reducing emissions.


Finally, you may want to consider how your cloud provider powers its services. Do they simply offer carbon offsets, or run on truly renewable energy?

What’s in for you?


For some enterprises, minimizing environmental impact is reason enough to adopt green cloud practices.


Others might consider the reputational benefits with consumers and investors alike. Sustainability is a hot button issue — to the extent that your customers and partners may truly care whether you’ve embraced sustainable operating practices or are merely paying lip service to the ideas.


Finally, there are clear bottom line benefits to green cloud. By optimizing your workloads to run in the cloud, you will reduce the resources you use and save money. You’ll also be reducing carbon emissions.

What are the trade offs?


Getting insights into your cloud energy usage is fundamental to embracing green clouds. But once you have that information, what you do with it may start some internal debate.


To what extent are you willing to optimize workloads for the cloud? How do you balance the use of renewables and application performance?

How is it being used?


Cloud providers, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft have made big sustainability efforts, including the introduction of renewable energy in some of their data centers. And companies such as Etsy and Spotify have made significant progress in tracking cloud energy use.


Energy source. This means using cloud infrastructure powered by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels — or use Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to “neutralize” fossil fuel emissions by matching out each “dirty” megawatt of electricity a data center uses with a “clean” megawatt represented by an REC. There is also work being done to make data centers run directly off of wind and solar power, as well as progress towards Pausable Data Centers that shift workloads to different times of the day to take advantage of weather patterns.

 

Energy efficiency. Cloud infrastructure that has high energy efficiency when measured through PUE (power usage effectiveness). Typically, that’s achieved through innovative approaches to cooling. 

 

The cloud customer IT organization’s can control how they configure and use the cloud, optimizing the following:

 

Number and size of servers. Servers are what physically consume energy; by reducing the number of servers you use, you reduce your carbon footprint. Organizations can optimize the performance of their applications and reduce unnecessary storage, but it will still have the same cost and energy usage unless they also reduce the number or size of servers on which their tech estate is running. 

 

Number and size of requests. Cloud services generate significant network traffic, thanks to the requests and responses made. To minimize traffic, you can use or optimize caching so there is less distance to transfer the data from a local edge server to the user. Additionally, you can reduce the amount of data being transferred by dynamically reloading only the components that are needed and prioritizing mobile-first user experiences since smaller devices and screen sizes require less data.

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