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Erik Lundevall Zara
Erik Lundevall Zara

Posted on • Originally published at

Sustainability in the cloud

To what extent does running your IT solutions in the cloud affect the environment and climate change?

More businesses move IT solutions to the cloud or increase usage of cloud solutions. Thus the impact that a handful of cloud provider has in terms of their energy consumption and handling of resources will become more significant.

Paul D Johnston wrote some informative blog posts on the topic. I recommend his blog post What do Climate Change, Data Centres and Cloud have to do with each other?, as well as listen to the Screaming In the Cloud podcast episode where Corey Quinn interviews him.

Paul Johnston refers to a report in both his blog post and the podcast episode about the carbon footprint reduction efforts of the cloud providers. The winner among the big cloud providers in this regard is GCP, followed by Azure and a bit further behind Amazon Web Services.

Only GCP and Azure reports being pretty much carbon-neutral, while AWS has reached that for five regions (4 excluding GovCloud). Datacenter carbon footprint in general and in particular Cloud provider carbon footprint is not a topic that is discussed publically in the general population. Maybe because it is a rather abstract area for many people?
However, many energy companies allow people to buy "green energy". Also, if you book a flight ticket, you are likely to get information about the carbon footprint of the flight you are booking.

The same should apply and be under consideration for IT strategies in general and cloud services in particular. In the same way, as you can set up billing alerts when cloud resource spending reaches a threshold, perhaps there should also be carbon footprint alerts?
Would carbon footprint and resource consumption of a solution be a factor to consider in an architecture? I think it will be and I believe some reporting from the cloud providers will become more important for customers.

Also, being open about progress in a provider's sustainability is vital, at least at a high level. I do wish that companies also report results in absolute numbers, rather than percentages concerning a budget, revenue or similar metric. It is the absolute numbers are those that need to go down.

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