Reeling in the renewable energy potential of the cloud

April 3, 2024

Trimming idle time with the power of cloud technology has sparked an efficiency revolution for heavy materials operations — igniting sharper business strategies from better truck routes to smarter material resourcing.

And while this efficiency prompts material suppliers and producers to soak up cost-savings, switching from on-premises infrastructure to public cloud services can simultaneously save energy.

Reporting conducted by 451 Research can tell us a lot about the energy initiatives of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud platform Command Alkon builds on. Data compiled from IT professionals including CIOs, CTOs, IT directors, and data center managers shares that on top of utilizing servers at a higher rate than those of private enterprises, AWS servers are designed for maximum efficiency. Businesses with their own infrastructure might consider weighing other features, like hardware redundancy and expandability.

And, when we factor in grid carbon intensity and renewable energy to calculate relative carbon efficiency, survey research reports the carbon footprint for the same server performance on the AWS cloud is 88% lower than the median of surveyed enterprises.

Data centers: made for tomorrow

What are data centers? They’re like the HQ for cloud computing — the physical location managed by cloud service providers where infrastructure, including servers, data storage drives, and network equipment are all housed.

While cloud data centers are relatively less energy-consumptive than their on-prem counterparts, cloud service providers are powering them with renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower in an effort to achieve their goal of operating with 100% renewable energy.

Cloud service providers, like AWS, have invested heavily in equipping data centers with energy-efficient hardware, cooling systems, and power management solutions. By design, data centers consolidate computing resources to maximize utilization, too. In the cloud, resources are scaled by demand, reducing wasted energy. Applying different techniques to maximize resource utilization, including virtualization and containerization, results in fewer servers and reduced energy consumption. AWS data centers in particular are also increasingly built with low-carbon concrete.

Sustainable potential shines in the cloud

There are many avenues cloud service providers are taking to lower their carbon emissions. IT service provider and consultant Accenture estimates that compute utilization alone has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 35%-45%.

Many enterprises with in-house data centers overprovision computing resources to leave headspace in case of a spike in demand. But doing so leaves a good amount of server hardware sitting idle.

It goes beyond better compute utilization, though. Stacking the potential of more efficient system-cooling strategies, enhanced hardware, and sustainable software engineering positions the carbon footprint of the cloud as more manageable than that of any on-prem infrastructure.

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