Is cloud computing also “greener” computing?

Cloud computing—large-scale, shared IT systems infrastructure available over the internet—is […]

November 10, 2010

Cloud computing—large-scale, shared IT systems infrastructure available over the internet—is transforming the way corporate IT services are delivered and managed. The cloud’s unprecedented economies of scale reduce overall cost and increase efficiencies, especially when replacing an organization’s locally operated on-premise servers. But do these advantages also translate to environmental benefits?
Download the Study here: Cloud Computing and Sustainability – Whitepaper – Nov 2010.pdf

Microsoft has commissioned a lifecycle analysis (a study that calculates the environmental impacts of a product or service across its entire lifecycle), conducted by Accenture and WSP, that shows cloud computing has the potential to reduce a company’s energy use and carbon emissions. This study shows that organizations choosing to run Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services, such as Exchange Online and SharePoint Online, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can reduce energy use and their carbon emissions by at least 30% per user compared to an average on-premise installation of those applications.

Microsoft’s Efficient Datacenter Design: Driving savings for customers:
Cloud computing’s lower carbon emissions are driven by the efficiency of large scale datacenters operated by cloud service providers such as Microsoft. The key drivers for emissions reductions include:
• Dynamic Provisioning – over-provisioning of servers at the cloud’s operational scale can be very expensive. Cloud operators can quickly matching server capacity to demand shifts.
• Multi-Tenancy – Major cloud providers are able to serve millions of users at thousands of companies simultaneously on one massive shared infrastructure.
• Server Utilization – Cloud computing can drive energy savings by improving server utilization, which is the measurement of the portion of a server’s capacity that an application actively uses.
• Datacenter Efficiency: the way facilities are physically constructed, equipped with IT and supporting infrastructure, and managed has a major impact on the energy use for a given amount of computing power.

Summary Findings

The results of the analysis clearly show significant decreases in CO2 emissions per user across the board for cloud-based versus on-premise delivery of the three applications studied

The analysis suggests that, on average across the different applications, typical carbon emission reductions by deployment size are:
• More than 90 percent for small deployments of about 100 users
• 60 to 90 percent for medium-sized deployments of about 1,000 users
• 30 to 60 percent for large deployments of about 10,000 users
As the data shows, the per-user carbon footprint is heavily dependent on the size of the deployment. The cloud advantage is particularly compelling for small deployments, because a dedicated infrastructure for small user counts—as in a small business running its own servers—– typically operates at a very low utilization level and may be idle for a large part of the day. However, even large companies serving thousands of users can drive efficiencies from the cloud beyond those typically found in on-premise IT operations.

Expanding the cloud?

Cloud computing has enormous potential to transform the world of IT—reducing costs, improving efficiency and business agility, and contributing to a more sustainable world. Cloud computing can reduce energy use by 30 to 90 percent for major business applications. These numbers are merely the start of the possible efficiency gains enabled by cloud computing. Companies who adopt cloud computing will realize benefits in energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and will play a crucial role in the sustainability of IT.

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