What Is Green Cloud Computing, and How Can Organizations Use It to Minimize Overall Carbon Footprint?

Cloud computing has become a vital infrastructural demand in modern organizations for many reasons, including cost-effectiveness, scalability, and security. However, cloud computing also addresses two crucial aspects of the green IT approach: energy efficiency and resource efficiency. From an energy efficiency perspective, cloud computing leverages server virtualization to minimize the total physical server footprint, resulting in less electricity consumed.

Cloud computing also saves resources because less equipment is required to run the workloads, and organizations can proactively reduce datacenter space and eventual e-waste footprint. Green cloud computing is simply an approach where companies can use what they already have smartly to minimize energy consumption and overall carbon footprint. This article explores what green cloud computing is, its benefits, and how cloud computing can achieve energy efficiencies and minimize overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Green Cloud Computing Explained

Green cloud computing is a buzzword in the IT industry that refers to the potential environmental benefits cloud-based services can offer society. The term combines two words: green, which means environmentally friendly, and cloud computing, which is the delivery of IT services over the internet.

Green cloud computing has three main goals: to maximize energy efficiencies during the device’s lifecycle, promote the use of recyclable materials, and minimize the use of hazardous IT components. You can observe green cloud computing from two perspectives:

Why Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Sustainable?

A cloud-based service is more efficient than a traditional on-premises IT infrastructure because it provides an efficient resource provisioning mechanism, offers multi-tenancy options, and dematerializes your IT setup.

Optimizes Efficient Resource Provisioning

Traditionally, IT teams deployed more servers, network appliances, and storage devices than needed in an on-premises IT infrastructure. Sometimes organizations had difficulties understanding and predicting peak loads and demand growth, so they simply bought enough IT components to be safe.

With cloud computing, an organization can achieve more efficient server utilization rates, enhanced workload flexibility, and more energy-efficient infrastructures than in on-premises IT environments. According to Accenture, organizations that have transitioned their workloads to efficient cloud solutions can save between 30% and 40% on the total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to those that use on-premises IT infrastructures.

Offers Multi-tenancy Advantages

Shared IT infrastructures—or multi-tenancy environments—are more efficient in their operations than autonomous components. Just as many tenants in an apartment building often utilize less electricity than the same number of people residing in their own homes, multiple tenants in a cloud-based infrastructure minimize the energy consumption and associated carbon footprint.

Cloud computing can also save energy by enhancing server utilization—the percentage of time that applications actively use the server’s capacity. Usually, large-scale cloud service providers (CSPs) run their infrastructures at higher utilization rates than corresponding on-premises IT architectures.

Dematerializes and Decreases Overall Carbon Emissions

When you opt for an on-premises IT setup, the materials you’ll use to build it go a long way in generating GHG emissions in their lifecycles. You also emit gases when you assemble and transport the equipment at the on-premises datacenter. As users utilize the equipment, more energy gets consumed, and the associated carbon emissions increase.

Cloud computing allows companies to decrease their carbon emissions through dematerialization, replacing physical products with virtualized alternatives. Replacing physical IT components with virtual ones can significantly reduce energy consumption levels and associated GHG emissions. The environmental argument for cloud-based services is strong, especially for companies that migrate their services to public clouds such as Azure, Google Cloud Platform, or Amazon Web Services (AWS). According to Accenture, public clouds can help the world reduce total carbon emissions by approximately 5.9%. This is akin to taking 22 million vehicles off the road. These findings echo the metrics that Google has published, showing how clean its cloud regions are worldwide.

How Can You Migrate to Sustainable Green Cloud Computing?

Virtually all CSPs are going green and adopting net-zero practices that have the sole objective of minimizing environmental damage caused by GHG emissions. However, not all cloud practices are energy efficient. You can use these three strategies to migrate to a sustainable green cloud:

Virtualization. Virtualization is the solution that resolves the problem of enormous electricity consumption by on-premises datacenters. For example, an organization can leverage server virtualization to run multiple virtual machines (VMs) on the same physical server. This essentially partitions the physical host into numerous virtual servers, allowing the organization to achieve significant cost savings.

An organization can also use desktop virtualization solutions such as Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) to deliver virtual applications and desktops to employees in remote locations. Employees can, in turn, use low-end devices that don’t consume much power, such as thin clients, to access these resources from any location.

Cloud optimization tools. Many cloud optimizations that reduce server utilization rates also minimize carbon emissions. However, this may not work in some scenarios, especially those agreements where the company pays in bulk or gets discounted services. To reduce energy consumption in such a scenario, you’ll need to have complete visibility of the entire IT infrastructure to optimize the cloud setup.

Carbon-aware CSPs. When selecting a cloud service vendor, it’s always best to go with one that is carbon-aware rather than those that run on nonrenewable energy. The Green Web Foundation (GWF) has a database consisting of all the carbon-aware CSPs that you can select from if you want to transition to the cloud.

Parallels RAS Supports a Carbon-Neutral Future

Enterprises are making environmental sustainability a high priority because it’s good for business and the planet. However, to improve environmental sustainability without compromising other business goals, you need to invest in the right technology.

Such technology should ensure that the core operations of the business run smoothly while enhancing energy efficiencies and extending the lifecycle of the hardware. The technology should also allow employees to work more efficiently and sustainably by utilizing flexible working models that avoid daily commutes while facilitating innovation.

Parallels RAS—a top-notch virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)— is one such solution. Parallels RAS is cloud-ready and integrates seamlessly with leading CSPs such as Azure, GCP, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), so companies can use it to transition to green cloud computing with ease. Organizations can leverage the platform’s flexible cloud deployment models and use a CSP that best suits their carbon reduction targets.

Parallels RAS also supports various remote access technologies, including remote desktop services (RDS), VDI, and Azure Virtual Desktop, that organizations can use to deliver flexible working styles to employees. For example, a single Parallels RAS site can support up to 2,000 virtual desktops and 5,000 remote desktop session hosts (RDSHs). Running fewer physical servers allows organizations to achieve a higher amount of consolidation, resulting in less energy consumption.

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