How Eco-Friendly is Cloud Computing?

Tom Keane
4 min readSep 11, 2022

In today’s world, there is a huge emphasis on saving the environment. We often think of virtual technologies as being eco-friendly. Digital processes help us save money on natural resources making them an earth-positive choice.

But virtual isn’t always as eco-friendly as one might think. Certain technologies may produce waste in ways that are not so obvious. This article will look at cloud computing and how it is measured in terms of being green and clean.

Is Cloud Computing Eco-Friendly?

Let’s start by looking at the ways in which cloud computing is an eco-friendly choice.

Infrastructure

Cloud computing data centers are usually close to the facilities that power them. This prevents large losses of electricity that occur when power it transmitted over long distances. The centers also feature a hardware set up that backs up power and cools efficiently making for less energy use.

High Utilization Rate

Many companies use their own data centers. This makes for low utilization rates. When the hardware sits idle, it produces poor efficiency that has negative environmental effects.

The cloud provides data centers that serve various companies. This makes for a high utilization rate and better energy efficiency.

Hardware Refresh Speed

The hardware in traditional data centers tend to be used for a long time before an upgrade or replacement is made due to high costs. Hardware in the public crowd has higher utilization rates so it will have a shorter lifecycle, and is replaced sooner. This leads to faster refresh times.

The new technology is also more efficient leading to less energy usage.

Reduced Electricity Use

Traditional hardware systems require a lot of maintenance including the upkeep and replacement of uninterruptible power supplies and allowing for cooling. They also use a lot of electricity.

A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that moving software items such as email and CRM to the cloud could save enough electricity to power a major city for 12 months. It would lower the energy consumption of these applications by 87%

Less Climate Impact

The cloud produces fewer carbon emissions than traditional data centers. It has been shown to create a power mix with 28% less carbon than its traditional counterpart.

The energy efficient equipment the cloud uses also lowers climate control costs. It is less expensive to run than the traditional machines that require ideal temperatures to provide optimal performance.

How Green is Cloud Computing?

While cloud computing offers eco-friendly benefits over traditional data centers it comes with its share of concerns.

Cloud computing requires various technologies and deployments. Each is different in terms of its carbon footprint based on how much power is needed.

In general, cloud computing is moving towards a zero-emissions environment. It presents a greener option than traditional computing approaches. But its ‘greenness’ depends on the way it’s being used.

Here are some factors that affect cloud computing’s eco-friendliness.

The Efficiency of the Architecture

A system with well-designed architecture will run with fewer technologies making it a ‘green option’. But if the architecture is not well designed, it can generate more carbon. An optimized structure will make for an earth-friendly choice.

Where Cloud Users are Located

Some cloud providers have data centers that run on wind or solar energy. And that’s great for the environment. However, your cloud services may not be tied to those data centers.

The data center your company uses may be in an area that uses a coal-fired plant. So, you will still be using a green provider, but the method you are using to deploy your cloud solutions may not necessarily be green.

Power Optimized Application Development

Most dev-op teams continuously test applications to ensure they are performing at their best and providing a high level of security. But how much power consumption do these tests require?

Developers don’t often focus on coming up with a system that uses a specific amount of power. Nor do they consider the power they use to code and deploy apps and perform computational and storage operations on an ongoing basis.

With developers concentrating on providing optimal performance to users, the issue of power usage often falls to the wayside. However, many don’t realize that with just a bit of effort, they could be taking large leaps in power optimization which could be a win-win for everyone involved.

If developers focus on optimizing power, it will result in lower customer bills. It would especially pay off for traditional owned hardware deployed in traditional centers. The power optimization would lead to the use of fewer resources, and it may reduce the need for new hardware that requires electricity to run.

Conclusion

Cloud computing is an eco-friendly option as compared to traditional data centers. But it can be even more efficient with the right architecture, power optimization, and location. While it’s a positive step forward, we still have a long way to go.

--

--

Tom Keane

21-year Microsoft Developer and Manager | Seattle, Washington