Green Cloud Computing and the Energy Crisis

Green cloud computing

Our friends and family all over the world have suffered in extreme heat this summer. In Finland we’re preparing for potential energy shortages this winter. Electricity prices have skyrocketed in many countries, not to mention the price of petrol. With both human conflict and climate change acutely affecting us, it’s sometimes hard to feel optimistic. How can we reduce costs financially and environmentally? How can we be sure we’re not making the problem worse? One way is to choose cloud providers that strive for green computing.

What is Green Computing?

Green computing is the practice of reducing the environmental harm of technology in all steps of its lifecycle, from raw material harvesting, to daily use, to repair and recycling. Of course, one can (and should!) make more eco-friendly choices individually, but greater scales have even greater impact.

Imagine if every person or business owned a server for hosting their own data and websites. In addition to all of the individual knowledge required, everyone would need to purchase their own hardware and power it, even if some capacity or even entire machines stay idle. In an area where electricity costs are high, heavy usage could get very expensive. If the electricity comes from old coal power plants or other sources of pollution, the impact on the environment would be terrible.

Compare this to cloud computing, where everyone can benefit from a global network and economies of scale. According to Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example:

“Organizations generally use 77% fewer servers, 84% less power, and tap into a 28% cleaner mix of solar and wind power in the AWS Cloud versus their own data centers.”

Sustainability in Cloud Computing

Software developers and customers can make the most of this by choosing cost– and energy-saving options:

  • Elastic computing automatically scales up or down depending on usage, so customers with varying workloads won’t be paying 24/7 for capacity they rarely need. Well-designed custom software can further minimise the resources used.
  • Spot instance or preemptible VMs, which perform tasks only when there’s spare capacity in the cloud, are much cheaper and help average out the load on the system.
  • Serverless functions perform tasks without any extra overhead from running a server. They’re triggered by events and get charged only by how long the task lasts.
  • Regions can be chosen for their environmental advantages. Data centres in cold regions such as the Nordic countries can more efficiently cool their hardware. Google’s Hamina data centre here in Finland uses seawater for cooling. Microsoft’s future data centre in Finland will use its waste heat for warming homes and businesses. In addition to having data centres in Stockholm, Amazon even built its own wind farms in Sweden as well as Finland to contribute to our increasingly green electrical grids.

All three of the biggest cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform) excel at increasing efficiency, which lowers their energy and water consumption. WeAre uses AWS for much of our hosting, storage, and processing, which makes us particularly interested in Amazon’s commitment to green computing. Sustainability is the latest addition to Amazon’s pillars of a Well-Architected Framework, and they’re putting it into action by investing in renewable energy, constructing buildings with greener techniques that use recycled material and reduce carbon emissions, and so much more.

Changes don’t have to happen all at once. Maybe you just want to try using a managed database service, or automated backups with online storage. Many companies start this way with a hybrid cloud approach. Or maybe you’re ready to entirely get rid of the server rack overheating in the hallway closet. Whether you’re taking small steps or going all in, WeAre can help your business migrate to the cloud and take full advantage of its possibilities for green computing.

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