While cloud computing has certainly changed the way organizations view their technology infrastructure and processes, there is one drawback that has come center stage in recent years: environmental impact. Companies everywhere are viewing sustainable business practices as a key corporate imperative, and cloud providers are now leading the charge to go green. In a recent survey, more than half of IT leaders say the sustainability commitments of top cloud providers AWS, Azure and Google Cloud are real and growing, and almost 80 percent said they would pay more to do business with a vendor that is incorporating green cloud computing into their business model. 

Cloud computing has already been a boon for sustainability. By consolidating technology operations in shared facilities, companies can reduce their own carbon footprint. IDC reports that growing adoption of cloud computing environments can prevent more than one billion metric tons of carbon emissions between 2021 and 2024. And now, cloud providers are going the extra mile to make their own cloud platforms more environmentally friendly.  

AWS Plays Catch Up Going Green

How are cloud vendors making their sustainable business initiatives a reality? In an attempt to catch key competitors in the cloud market, Amazon Web Service (AWS), recently announced the Customer Carbon Footprint Tool for its cloud customers. The launch supports AWS’ Climate Pledge and is designed to help corporate customers track, measure, review, and even forecast the carbon emissions generated from their use of AWS cloud services. Customers will be able to view geographic emissions data and access monthly reports to measure changes in their carbon footprint over time. 

Amazon goes on to say it is dedicated to increasing sustainability for its platform and is committed to reaching net-zero carbon emission by 2040. Like its competitors, their goal is to provide a greater degree of transparency so customers can understand their carbon footprint and take action. In addition, AWS is now on track to power all of its operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. It has become the largest buyer of renewable energy in Europe and has invested heavily in on-site solar, solar farms and wind farms to charge their massive data centers. 

Microsoft Azure and Cloud for Green Cloud Computing

Tracking and monitoring emissions is something Microsoft has also productized with its Emissions Impact Dashboard. The company recently strengthened features that help companies calculate the material impact of their cloud usage across the value chain, including extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transport, usage and disposal of hardware. Microsoft offers a set of rules to control cloud environmental initiatives and provide automated insights to help customers with their journey to going green. The company is empowering companies to take control of their carbon footprint, set sustainability and green cloud computing objectives, and help record, report on, lower, and replace emissions as needed. 

Microsoft is empowering CIOs and other IT execs who wish to make an impact on their company’s sustainabile business strategy, helping them: 

  • Easily report on their IT organization’s cloud-related emissions, including devices and applications, and connect the data into a single visualization for easy reporting. 
  • Provide customers with a scorecard to track progress against emissions goals, including energy sources and those they’ve purchased, in order to help prove their sustainability commitment. 
  • Zero in on particular areas that may not be meeting objectives and find solutions, such as an air conditioning system that is not meeting emissions targets that can be assigned to the right operational unit and be updated.  

Google Cloud Goes the Extra Yard to Go Green

Google, too, is embracing green cloud computing by educating its customers on their cloud usage and emissions. The company has created an innovative new tool that uses icons to represent on a map which of their customer’s resources have the lowest carbon impact. It says when icons are available, customers are 50 percent more likely to choose the cleaner choice (picture green icons on a Google Map to help make the choices more apparent). Google provides granular metering across all cloud infrastructure (data centers, servers, and networking) to provide detailed emissions information at the product, project, and location level. 

Google also introduced a sustainability-minded upgrade to an existing tool call the Unattended Project Recommender, which uses machine learning to identify code running on a Google server that might be unused or abandoned. Unused code and applications account for significant extra carbon emissions that can be eliminated if customers just knew they existed. Google estimates the monthly savings recently reached 600,000 kilograms of Co2 equivalent (or the same as driving 1.5 million miles). 

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Conclusion: A Green Cloud is a Good Cloud

Just ask any company that uses a cloud infrastructure and they’ll tell you the emissions (and costs) can really add up. With the efforts AWS, Microsoft, and Google are taking to help their customers become greener, they are helping a new generation of Cloud Architects to build better IT solutions and help reach sustainability and green cloud computing objectives for their organizations faster than ever before.

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