Cloud: Saving money, saving the planet

Published on the 07/10/2020 | Written by Heather Wright

Environmentally friendly cloud_Accenture

The business forecast is for more cloud with a chance of significant savings…

It’s long been hailed as a cost saver for business, but now a new report from Accenture serves up figures not only for how much companies can save by moving to cloud (spoiler alert: It’s up to 40 percent TCO) but also how much greener cloud can make us.

The Green Behind the Cloud says the magnitude of carbon reduction achieved through cloud migrations can go a long way in meeting climate change commitments and driving new levels of innovation.

It says migrating to public cloud services can achieve a 5.9 percent decrease in total IT emissions.

“This magnitude of reduction can go a long way in meeting climate change commitments.”

Scott Hahn, Accenture Australia and New Zealand technology lead says cloud has moved from ‘nice to have’ to a must have for business. But it’s not one size fits all, and while an obvious benefit is cost reduction, Australian and New Zealand businesses approaching cloud from a sustainability perspective can reap the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions.

Hahn told iStart the huge investments by big names over the past Covid-affected months show the value being placed on sustainability.

Last month Google claimed it has offset its carbon footprint, reducing its ‘lifetime net carbon footprint’ to zero, and in what CEO Sundar Pichai calls ‘our biggest moonshot yet’ will have all its data centres and offices running on carbon-free energy by 2030.

This year has also seen Apple and Microsoft (which is in the process of establishing its first New Zealand data centre) renewing their environmental pledges.

Asked about the Google claims, Hahn notes that ‘eliminating overall carbon footprint can be achieved quite quickly by spending big on carbon offsetting’.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s emissions will shrink when/if Tiwai Point smelter turns off its potlines. Of course, that will also come with the loss of some 1000 jobs and the wider economic impact of closure of the aluminium smelter – no small price to pay for a reduction in carbon emissions.

“Australia and New Zealand are looked to as global leaders of the renewables industry and both have an important role to play in driving greener initiatives,” Hahn says.

“By pursuing a green approach, our analysis suggests migrations to the public cloud can reduce global carbon emissions by 59 million tons of CO2 per year. This equates to taking 22 million cars off the road. This magnitude of reduction can go a long way in meeting climate change commitments, particularly for data intensive businesses.”

It’s not just about the feel good factor or even corporate sustainability.

“From our experience supporting cloud migrations for hundreds of clients, establishing sustainable cloud positions can deliver on financial targets,” Hahn says.

“We’ve seen up to 30-40 percent total cost of ownership savings. Drivers like greater workload flexibility, better server utilisation rates, and more energy-efficient infrastructure all make public clouds more cost efficient than enterprise-owned data centres.”

Accenture itself is running 95 percent of its applications on the cloud. The migration led to $14.5 million in benefits after the third year. Another $3 million in annualised costs were saved by right-sizing service consumption.

He says Australian and New Zealand businesses adopting green cloud solutions can also expect to unlock new opportunities like clean energy transitions enabled by cloud-based geographic analyses, material waste reductions from better data insights, and targeted medical R&D as a result of faster analytics platforms.

As to Hahn’s three top tips for Australian and New Zealand businesses, he says:

Select with purpose: Carbon emissions can differ widely across cloud providers even though many providers have focused on driving down energy consumption to standard benchmarks.

Build with ambition: Migration to infrastructure-as-a-service can reduce carbon emissions by more than 84 percent compared with conventional infrastructure. Reductions can be pushed even higher—by up to a whopping 98 percent— by designing applications specifically for the cloud.

Innovate further: Cloud consumers use cloud-based platforms to trace upstream and downstream value chains more rigorously and to recover value from unused materials and industrial waste streams.

“Those who choose wisely will gain unprecedented levels of innovation leading to both a greener planet and a greener balance sheet,” says Hahn.


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