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Continued cloud adoption could eliminate 1bn tonnes of CO2 by 2024

Written by Wed 10 Mar 2021

Providing 60 percent of data centres adopt the technology and processes underlying more sustainable “smarter” data centres

The world’s ever-increasing reliance on energy-hungry data centres underpinning the cloud is the subject of much scrutiny and alarm.

But analyst house IDC has checked this concern by quantifying the environmental benefit of workloads moving to hyperscale mega-data centres compared to being kept on-premises in less efficient enterprise facilities.

According to its latest environmental forecast, continued adoption of cloud resources could prevent the emission of over 1 billion metric tonnes of CO2 that would have otherwise been pumped into the atmosphere over the next four years.

The analyst based these projections on data on server distribution and cloud and on-premises software use, together with third-party information on data centre power usage, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per kilowatt-hour, and emission comparisons of cloud and non-cloud data centres.

The projections assume that 60 percent of data centres will adopt the technology and processes underlying more sustainable “smarter” IT infrastructure by 2024. If the number of green cloud data centres doesn’t rise, projected CO2 savings stand at 629 million metric tonnes over the four-year time period.

The findings corroborate an IEA study last year that showed how a 550% increase in data centre compute between 2010 and 2018 only increased facility energy consumption by 6% in the same period, a period in which cloud adoption has skyrocketed.

Aggregation of computing resources into large-scale hyperscale facilities, which leverage the most power-efficient servers, is enabling huge power capacity management efficiencies, cooling optimisation and server utilisation rates, IDC explained.

Breaking down the savings regionally, Asia Pacific can eliminate the most CO2 over the next four years given its current, but rapidly decreasing, reliance on coal for power generation. EMEA will account for 10% of IDC’s projected savings as cloud data centres increasingly pivot to renewable energy sources.

IDC also highlighted reusing and recycling waste energy as a key innovation that will benefit the CO2 footprint of cloud data centres between now and 2024.

“The idea of ‘green IT’ has been around now for years, but the direct impact of hyperscale computing can have on CO2 emissions is getting increased notice from customers, regulators, and investors and it’s starting to factor into buying decisions,” said Cushing Anderson, program vice president at IDC.

“For some, going ‘carbon neutral’ will be achieved using carbon offsets, but designing datacenters from the ground up to be carbon neutral will be the real measure of contribution. And for advanced cloud providers, matching workloads with renewable energy availability will further accelerate their sustainability goals.”

Written by Wed 10 Mar 2021


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