Is the cloud sustainable?

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4 min read

Sustainability and energy-efficiency are some of the key topics of our time which also heavily affect the economy. Cloud-based solutions can support these goals with the right providers and setup.

Sustainability should be a main foundation of any company's strategy, both from an economic as well as an ethical standpoint. If everything grows and develops, then we need to make sure that it does so without additional harm to the environment. Almost always, sustainability also provides efficiency when it comes to energy consumption and other resources which in turn can reduce overall costs and increase productivity.

For many digital experts, cloud-based solutions could and should be a solution for more sustainable digital services. There's no way around the digitalization of processes and systems but there are different ways to do it. Under the moniker "green cloud", cloud providers aim to:

"Reduce energy consumption and environmental impact when deploying digital devices and systems" (Open Access Government).

According to Accenture, migration to public cloud services can:

  • reduce CO2 emissions by 59 million tons per year,
  • decrease total cost of ownership by up to 40%,
  • reduce energy usage by 65% and carbon emission by 84%.

How does the cloud reduce energy waste & emissions?

Smart utilization

On premise systems are not always fully utilized, so the systems are running but they are not being used to their full potential. It's basically like heating a room with no one in it.

Most cloud-based services allocate resources where they are needed. Thus, companies only use what they need (and often also only have to pay for what they use). The providers can do this easily, because their servers cater to different customers and can therefore be better utilized than a single server for a single company.

Sustainable cooling systems

One of the biggest energy wasters is the cooling of servers to prevent overheating. In the past, many companies and cloud vendors used gas motors which obviously cost a lot of energy and also emit a lot of exhaust gasses.

However, in the last decade, the majority of the biggest cloud server providers have committed themselves to replace old-fashioned cooling systems with ones that are powered by sustainable energy.

Additionally, the location of a server can also decrease heating requirements, if it's in a cold enough place. For example, Microsoft is experimenting with underwater data centers for quite a while now.


Higher hardware quality & life expectancy

A cloud server provider always wants to decrease unnecessary costs and increase efficiency. That's why their hardware will be up to date to provide the biggest bang for your bucks.

As such, hardware needs to have a long lifespan, contain few to no toxic materials and have a high recyclability.

This is and will be one of the biggest topics in future tech, since our gadgets, servers and computers are all future waste which needs to be developed with its disposal in mind to result in fewer waste that is environmentally friendly. Engineering with sustainability in mind is therefore key.

Smart software

Especially software supported by artificial intelligence can get more out of a system by documenting, analyzing and optimizing energy usage and identify maintenance issues. With measures like PUE (power usage effectiveness), DCiE (Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency) and others, the energy efficiency of a data center can be determined and optimized if necessary.

Innovative energy systems

Self-sufficiency is the goal of any healthy system. That's why cloud server providers are at the forefront of innovative developments to replace energy waste with energy movement. Many companies use the heat which is generated by the servers to literally heat buildings.

This way, the "byproduct" of cloud servers (heat) can be actually leveraged to provide cheap and sustainable heating for entire neighborhoods.

How do you pick the right vendor?

The big cloud companies all have their own sustainability goals and programs, so it's fairly standard to easily find information on server emissions and energy efficiency online. Many of them offer software and services to help companies decrease their emissions even further via supply chain transparency, smart reporting, etc.





The location of the cloud server plays another role which also is important for data security as well as performance reasons. While colder locations can save heating resources, closer data resources can also mean faster data speed, so there are different ways to determine which location might be the best for a more sustainable approach.

It also helps to include your company's ESG/sustainability goals and requirements into your requirements catalog when looking for vendors and cloud providers. That way, they can prepare necessary information about their measures, certificates, and solutions.

The Green Grid organization is a great source for tools and information on data center sustainability in case you want to educate yourself further.

At DIGITALL, we are happy to support your sustainability goals with the right technology, AI & Data approach as well as smart strategies. Ask about our solutions and we gladly set up a meeting to discuss your plans for a digital & sustainable future.

Contact us

by Simeon Nachev

Simeon Nachev is SVP Global Microsoft BizApps & Global ESG Lead at DIGITALL. He has more than ten years of international experience in large companies and extensive industry expertise gained in various leadership positions such as Head of Digital Value Chain and Global Key Account Manager at Lenzing AG and Business Support Manager at Allergan.

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