Cloud Environmentalism: What Makes the Cloud Green and How Can It Go Even Greener?

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

“Green cloud computing” refers to the ways in which cloud computing lessens the environmental impact imposed by traditional computing in the areas of energy consumption and carbon emissions, as well as with manufacturing and distribution of goods.

IT professionals already know about the direct benefits that the cloud provides to enterprises (reduced cost, scalability, and more) – but not everyone is aware of the following indirect benefits to the environment, which are a unique subset of the overall green IT movement:

Cuts down on energy consumption by sharing resources

A study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has predicted that, by the year 2020, cloud computing will have enabled large US companies to save approximately 200 million barrels of oil. Because of cloud computing, more enterprises are opting to use shared data centers, reducing the cost and energy that goes into building and maintaining countless private data centers. Private data centers also tend to consume more power than they actually use because they don’t take advantage of the most energy-efficient, up-to-date hardware available to large scale data centers.

Eliminates the need to manufacture goods that can be delivered as a service

The cloud’s service models have transformed services that were once administered through products into services that are now stand-alone. These stand-alone services include Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Network as a Service (NaaS). Thanks to these innovations, service providers no longer need to manufacture products, such as discs for downloading software or hard drives for backing up data. By completely eliminating the need to manufacture these goods, their associated strains on the environment (energy used for manufacturing, packaging materials, and fuel for shipping) are also eliminated.

Increases supply chain efficiency by reducing excess inventory

Thanks to the cloud, enterprises have a better handle on inventory, allowing links in a supply chain to simultaneously update inventory data from anywhere there is an internet connection. This helps manufacturers regulate supply and demand. This ensures that they don’t produce more inventory than necessary, which would lead to a surplus of goods and, ultimately, excessive waste.

Lowers carbon emissions by facilitating telecommuting

While the basic elements of the internet have already greatly enabled telecommuting (email, search engines), the cloud facilitates telecommuting even more by allowing real-time data management from anywhere and on any device. Once upon a time, enterprise data would have been only accessible onsite from an office location. Now, brand new telecommuting occupations, such as virtual assistants who can access and update the calendars, correspondence, and documents of the individuals they work for, all from a remote location, have been made possible thanks to the cloud. The more people are able to work from home, the less they need to rely on commuting, thus reducing the amount of carbon emissions from vehicles.

How can the cloud go even greener?

While the cloud is already greener than traditional computing, it hasn’t yet harnessed its full environmental potential. In a study by Forrester Research, Cloud Computing Helps Accelerate Green IT argues that the onus is on IT professionals to make the cloud even greener by vetting the providers they choose according to an environmental responsibility quotient. Some of the suggestions include ensuring: that the data center you choose takes advantage of natural sources for free cooling (solar or wind); that it has a green certification such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation; and that it opts for blade architectures that combine server, storage, and network architectures all into one rack.


Green Cloud computing
Green Cloud computing

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