Protecting the environment and promoting sustainability are major goals for many of today’s organizations. Investors, key stakeholders, the C-suite—and perhaps most importantly, customers—want to see companies put their money and efforts where their PR talking points are.
It’s not enough to donate to environmental causes, buy carbon credits or offsets, or simply greenwash existing offerings. Rather, the change needs to come from within.
As such, more companies are looking for ways to increase their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact. This includes the IT department, and accordingly, ensuring that your company’s technology stack is environmentally friendly or embarking on green IT initiatives is growing in popularity.
In the B2B realm specifically, however 76% of buyers think that organizations are not doing enough to communicate their ESG commitments. In fact, honoring ESG commitments and investing in sustainability may now be necessary for business growth whether your organization is large or small.
This means it’s essential to find ways to make all aspects of your organization more sustainable and eco-friendlier, such as reducing your carbon footprint, which we will cover in this white paper.
A company’s carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the organization (and its services and products), expressed as the carbon dioxide equivalent.
Reducing your organization’s carbon emissions and therefore its carbon footprint means lowering the GHG emissions by using less energy or electricity to power your hardware and offices (including heating and cooling), among other steps you can take to lower your business’s GHG emissions.
Working with your company’s IT department to reduce energy usage and expenditures, migrating to the cloud, enabling remote work, and implementing more efficient user endpoint devices are just a few of the ways organizations can make progress on ESG commitments.
In this report, we will discuss how to reduce your company’s carbon footprint with the help of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and virtualization solutions such as Parallels® RAS.
What Is VDI, and How Can it Help Minimize Your Carbon Output?
VDI is a virtualization technology where a desktop operating system is run and managed in an on-premises or cloud data center. Virtual desktops and apps are delivered over a network to various user endpoint devices, where the end users can access the desktops and applications as if they were running locally.
For companies switching to remote or hybrid work options, VDI is often used for several reasons. These reasons include:
- Enable remote team members to use any device (company-issued or personal) to access on-site desktops and applications.
- Enable IT departments to manage deployments from one central location.
- Maintain data security when team members are accessing company files while on the go.
There are several ways that implementing a VDI solution can result in your company using less energy. We’ll dive deeper into each in the following sections.
VDI Solutions Prolong the Use of Legacy Hardware and Software
With a VDI solution in place, companies can continue the usage of legacy software and applications instead of purchasing replacement solutions, which may be eco-friendlier and more sustainable if those solutions require less computing power to operate (among other factors).
Maintaining the same software may also be carbon neutral, since it doesn’t require significant efforts in the form of installing new programs, training employees, and otherwise making major changes to your organization’s IT stack.
Implementing a VDI solution can reduce the number of servers and other high-powered hardware organizations need. For instance, deploying VDI solutions in a public cloud, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform, eliminates the need for most on-site hardware and reduces the number of servers used. This is an excellent way to reduce your business’s carbon footprint.
If you do require an on-premises VDI implementation, you can potentially deploy your VDI solution on hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which combines computing power, storage, and networking in a single appliance.
Using a VDI solution can also enable the continued use of legacy hardware, which depending on its condition and age, may be a more sustainable choice than purchasing a new fleet of computers and other devices or acquiring new servers.
VDI Solutions Enable the Use of Thin Clients
A VDI solution offers the ability to deliver virtual desktops and applications to more efficient thin clients, or devices that demand less computing power and therefore consume less electricity and produce less heat than their heavier traditional counterparts.
Thin clients are more stripped-down devices, such as some versions of Google Chromebook, that rely on web-based software programs or hosted virtual desktops instead of locally installed software. Not only are they generally less expensive than traditional PCs, but thin clients also tend to use less electricity and produce less heat (reducing the need for air conditioning or cooling systems).
They also tend to be lighter and smaller than traditional desktop PCs, which means they not only require less raw material to construct, but less energy and manufacturing supplies. Their production may also result in less water pollution than larger desktop PCs.
Companies can also repurpose older PCs that may not be able to operate as well as they used to as thin clients, since said PCs do not need the same level of processing power to run a virtualized desktop or applications. This allows companies to reuse machines and components that would otherwise be tossed out, reducing waste and lowering technology spending.
VDI Solutions Facilitate Cloud Computing
While there are many reasons that the cloud is an ideal option for enterprises and to embrace cloud computing in general, the fact that using the cloud can be more environmentally friendly is most definitely a point in its favor. This is because cloud computing enables an organization to be more efficient and therefore “greener” regarding energy consumption, lighting energy, and cooling systems (among other factors).
An International Data Corporation (IDC) study shows that if enough companies transition to cloud computing by 2024, 629 million metric tons of carbon emissions could be avoided. Furthermore, the same study shows that 1.6 million metric tons of emissions could be eliminated if all datacenters in use by 2024 were designed to prioritize sustainability.
What’s more, integrating a VDI solution with popular multi-cloud or public cloud providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) can be relatively simple.
Using these types of cloud services can decrease your organization’s energy consumption and lower carbon emissions, especially since they tend to use modern data centers that utilize more advanced technologies to conserve resources and reduce waste at every level of its operations. This then passes the decreased carbon footprint onto your organization.
On the contrary, traditional data centers—where servers and other IT equipment are often kept—are generally massive contributors to global greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide emissions. They encompass nearly 1% of the world’s total electricity consumption or over 200 tera-watt hours (TWh) of electricity resulting in 0.3% of GHG emissions.
Much of this energy consumption is due to the large amounts of energy needed to operate and cool all the equipment housed within these datacenters.
Cloud computing minimizes energy needs and therefore consumption by aggregating discrete data centers into large-scale facilities that can more efficiently manage energy as well as reduce wasted energy by optimizing the physical environment (e.g., building facilities in colder climates for natural cooling purposes).
VDI Solutions Enable Hybrid Cloud and On-Premises Data Storage
The cloud offers many advantages and benefits, but it is not always an ideal solution for industries that necessitate a high degree of security.
If your company needs the privacy and security of on-premises data storage because you must solve operational challenges like security concerns or compliance with industry regulations (e.g., your company handles sensitive data, such as those in healthcare, finance, and government), then there is the option of private clouds or hybrid clouds.
By running certain workloads that require the heightened levels of security in private clouds but using public clouds for data that does not require as rigorous protection, your organization can leverage the agility and scalability of public clouds while still maintaining strict security standards when necessary.
Regardless of the type of cloud(s) needed, VDI solutions can be flexible and multi-cloud ready, allowing businesses to customize their cloud deployments based on their needs.
A VDI solution that offers a flexible cloud deployment model will enable your company to migrate to a greener cloud computing solution composed of both public and private cloud storage—e.g., a hybrid cloud. This can still involve building out an elastic infrastructure with hypervisors, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems, and a VDI solution that’s customized to meet your business’s exact needs and goals, including reducing carbon emissions.
VDI Facilitates Remote Work, Reducing Physical Energy Costs
Building and equipping an office (or virtual office) with a VDI solution can be less expensive than a traditional set-up, especially if you choose cost-effective solutions.
This is especially true if your team is remote or hybrid, since you will need less hardware and associated supplies and equipment in your office itself. Having remote work solutions in place is now a necessity, with 25% of all office jobs in North America becoming fully remote by the end of 2022, according to research from Ladders.com (via Forbes).
What’s more, depending on the VDI solution that you choose, the total cost of ownership (TCO) can be quite budget friendly, and operating a virtual office in general might be less expensive than maintaining a more typical office environment.
For instance, the budget for a traditional on-premises office set-up likely includes the cost of desktop computers (which can be in the several thousand-dollar range) or business laptops and all the peripherals like monitors, printers, audio devices, and more that are required, along with office furniture and supplies. Plus, there is the cost of renting or buying the space itself.
Virtual offices generally do not require the same amount of pricey equipment, not to mention the lack of rental space or real estate necessary; in fact, with virtual solutions a company may need minimal or no office space at all.
Regarding energy costs and the associated carbon emissions, VDI solutions allow for multiple desktops to be deployed from a single server, requiring much less electricity to keep things humming along.
On the other hand, the average office desktop computer uses approximately 600 kilowatt hours (kWH) annually, assuming its running for about eight hours per day and connected to the internet, a printer, and has speakers or audio components. Note that a computer with a high-end video card or similar graphics capabilities will require more electricity to operate than a more basic machine.
Because they require less hardware, a VDI solution can reduce your organization’s carbon footprint and allow your company to save on power costs. Laptops also only require around 50 to 100 watts per hour to operate, versus the 200 WH-plus rates of a desktop, and mobile devices or tablets require even less energy to run.
Of course, there is the cost of the virtual desktop infrastructure itself. While VDI solution costs vary based on the software you choose, the size of your company, and your needs and preferences, there are affordable options on the market. In addition, you can often scale VDI set-ups up or down much more easily and quickly than more traditional computing options.
Case Study: How One Government Organization Used VDI to Become Greener
Virtualization or virtual desktop infrastructure is potentially valuable for nearly any type of enterprise or organization, but there are some organizations that have specifically implemented it to help extend the lifecycle of older hardware, facilitate remote working, and similar objectives that can decrease an organization’s carbon footprint.
For instance, Parallels RAS client Berzirk Mittelfranken, a government district located in northern Bavaria, wanted to extend the lifecycle of their older hardware, streamline IT management, and simplify application delivery. Parallels RAS also worked smoothly with their older software, eliminating the need for purchasing new solutions and training employees to use new programs.
How Parallels RAS Can Help Companies Reduce Their Carbon Footprint
While there are a variety of VDI solutions available, Parallels RAS is one specific, cost-effective option that can help organizations shrink their carbon footprint. There are three key ways that Parallels RAS can help your organization become eco-friendlier and more sustainable:
1. Provide centralized deployment and management of IT resources. Users can access the same desktops, applications, data, and other company resources from any device, including thin clients and mobile devices that may use less power and require fewer raw materials to produce.
2. Enable multi-cloud ready environments. By enabling organizations to utilize the private, public, or hybrid clouds of their choice, Parallels RAS allows for more eco-friendly and flexible IT environments. This allows companies to significantly lower their energy costs, reduce waste caused by purchasing resource-heavy hardware, and generally ensure more efficient deployment of their budget and resources.
3. Decrease the need for on-premises work and reduce commutes. Even in today’s remote-first and hybrid office world, some offices still require on-premises work due to various applications, programs, and data only being accessible for users who are on site.
However, with a VDI solution in place, virtualized instances of these applications are accessible from anywhere and from any endpoint (including employees’ own laptops, tablets, and smartphones), which reduces the need for workers to commute and therefore minimizes carbon emissions from their cars or other methods of transportation they might use.
Taking steps to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint—regardless of what those steps may be—is an important part of being a solid global citizen. While there are plenty of things your organization can do to lower its carbon footprint, choosing to implement VDI can make a major difference and be beneficial to your company for a variety of additional reasons.
VDI setups can save your company money, make the IT department more efficient, and enable your business to fully take advantage of the power of cloud computing in more effective ways.
Anyone who is responsible for making or influencing technology solution decisions at their organization has the power to impact the company’s carbon footprint.
Moreover, every piece of technology put into place and every step taken matters, so if you can influence change that means your organization has a smaller carbon footprint, then why not do so? Even changes that might not seem to have a direct impact—such as switching to a VDI solution from more traditional data centers and hardware—can make a major difference.