Data Storage and the Environmental Benefits of the Cloud

The team at Microsoft has outlined their latest analysis of data center energy usage and opportunities for efficiencies in a recent white paper entitled The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative. We have partnered with Microsoft to run key findings from the white paper as a ten-part series. To read the full series, click here.

Concern about energy consumption and the ever-increasing use of computing power are two major trends that have been bound to collide. Indeed they have collided already.

As a result, nearly all computer and data center equipment manufacturers are developing more energy-efficient hardware. Many manufacturers are stretching to reach increasingly stringent Energy Star standards. At the same time, a growing number of software solutions are available to help organizations measure and manage computer energy use and improve hardware utilization through centralized power management, virtualization, and other capabilities.

Many IT vendors and IT departments are working with industry consortiums such as The Green Grid and Climate Savers Computing to develop and promote guidance and tools that support IT energy efficiency efforts.

Cloud computing also has an important role to play in improving energy efficiency. Migrating on-premise commodity services to a public cloud computing platform can free up valuable server and power capacity in an organization’s data center and reduce the need to invest in IT infrastructure that will be likely be underutilized.

Although energy efficiency gains of public cloud computing can be realized by organizations of all sizes, a move to the cloud is particularly beneficial for smaller organizations that don’t have enough user demand to achieve significant utilization of their IT equipment. A recent study by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy showed that energy use and carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30% per user when organizations use Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (such as Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft SharePoint Online) or Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online instead of on-premises installations of those applications. For small organizations, the study showed up to a 90% reduction in energy use and emissions.

Readers: Does your company use the cloud for data storage?

Many governments and regulatory bodies are taking action to address the environmental impact of growing IT energy use. For instance, the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment initiative requires organizations that consume more than 6,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year, which is the equivalent consumption of a data center with about 2,000 small servers, to report their electricity use and purchase carbon allowances. An estimated 20,000 smaller organizations that consume between 3,000 and 6,000 MWh per year will be required to track and report their electricity usage and carbon emissions.

We’ll be exploring these issues in depth in the coming weeks. Follow along here

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