Environmental Benefits of Cloud Computing

Many of the conversations around the benefits of cloud computing are related to reducing hardware and energy costs, gaining operational efficiencies, or reducing time to deployment/market for applications.  There are other benefits however that are often overlooked related to the environmental impact of cloud computing.

A study (located here) commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, demonstrates cloud computing’s potential to operate business applications more efficiently, resulting in a potentially lower environmental impact.  The key drivers of emission reductions include:

- Dynamic Provisioning – Over-provisioning of servers at the cloud's operational scale can be very expensive. Cloud operators can quickly match server capacity to demand shifts.

- Multi-Tenancy – Major cloud providers have the ability to serve millions of users at thousands of companies simultaneously on one massive shared infrastructure.

- Server Utilization – Cloud computing can help drive energy savings by improving server utilization, which is the measurement of the portion of a server's capacity that an application actively uses.

- Datacenter Efficiency - The way facilities are physically constructed, equipped with IT and supporting infrastructure, and managed has a major impact on the energy use for a given amount of computing power.

There were three applications included in the study: Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Sharepoint, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the average across these applications for typical carbon reductions by deployment size are impressive, as shown in the below graphs: 

Carbon Footprint by Deployment

Often times we have a tendency to put our heads down and just focus on the ‘business’ aspects of what new technologies can deliver.  It can be refreshing to think about the broader implications of cloud computing and the related technologies, including how they benefit the environment or society.

I urge you to check out the lifecycle analysis study to consider some of these broader benefits.  If you’d like more information on what Microsoft has to offer in cloud computing, be sure to investigate the Cloud Power site as a starting point.  If you have questions or comments, please post them and I’ll work to respond as quickly as possible.

Thanks - larry

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