The adoption of cloud computing has grown significantly in recent years due to its capability of providing flexible, scalable and cost-effective computing resources. The technology enables enterprises to access and use services such as storage, processing, networking and analytics on demand without purchasing, installing, or maintaining hardware or software, yielding considerable cost savings. Cloud computing also enables companies to scale up or down their resources as and when needed, making it ideal for industries that experience fluctuating demand. Moreover, cloud providers frequently release new features and updates, allowing users to take advantage of the latest technologies without incurring additional investment.
Cloud computing, however, has the potential to be energy-intensive because it involves large data centres that require significant amounts of electricity to process and store data and cool off the server racks housing the computing equipment. Servers and cooling systems account for the largest share of direct electricity use (86 per cent) in a data centre, followed by storage drives (11 per cent) and network devices (3 per cent). According to industry analysis, some of the world’s largest data centres require more than 100 MW of power, enough to supply electricity to around 80,000 US households. Globally, data centres use an estimated 200 TWh of power each year, which is more than the national energy consumption of some countries. Some estimates also suggest that data centres currently contribute around 0.3 per cent to overall carbon emissions, which is at par with the aviation industry’s emissions. The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2025, data centres will consume one-fifth of the world’s power supply. The power consumed by the cloud network infrastructure, such as routers and switches that connect the data centres to end-users, also contributes to the carbon and energy footprint.
Since cloud computing will continue to remain the mainstay of the digital transformation of enterprises, several enterprises have now started looking at green cloud technologies to make their cloud infrastructure sustainable and energy efficient. Green cloud computing involves using renewable energy sources, energy efficient data centres, and other eco-friendly technologies to reduce the cloud’s carbon footprint and make it more environmentally friendly. Besides reducing their carbon footprint and improving overall environmental sustainability, green cloud computing can help enterprises lower energy consumption and costs. This is because the use of energy efficient data centres and technologies can significantly reduce the energy required to power and cool the servers and other hardware used in the cloud.
Another benefit of green cloud computing is the increased efficiency of computing systems. Traditional computing systems often waste energy by running at full capacity even when not needed. In contrast, green cloud computing systems can be designed to scale up or down as needed, allowing them to use only the amount of energy required at any given time. This can lead to significant energy savings and reduced operating costs.
In addition, green cloud computing can help organisations improve their reputation and brand image. With increasing concerns regarding climate change and environmental sustainability, consumers and stakeholders are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of the products and services they use. By adopting green cloud computing, enterprises can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract and retain customers and investors who value environmental responsibility.
There are several different approaches to implementing green cloud computing. One option is to use data centres that are powered by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. This can help organisations reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions. Another approach is to use energy efficient technologies and practices in the design and operation of data centres. This can include measures such as installation of more efficient servers and cooling systems. Given that around 40 per cent of the total energy consumed by a data centre goes towards maintaining a temperature-controlled environment, installing energy efficient cooling equipment can help reduce power consumption significantly. There are now several advanced chillers available in the market that use low-global warming potential refrigerant and can reduce the average annual electricity consumption of a data centre by up to 35 per cent. Moreover, data centre operators can deploy free-cooling chiller solutions, which include evaporative cooling technologies and offer even better energy efficiency.
Enterprises can also deploy virtualisation technologies to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical server, reducing the number of physical servers and the associated energy consumption. In addition, virtualisation technologies can be used to automate the scale-up of computing resources, allowing organisations to adjust their capacity as needed to meet the changing demands.
Enterprises can also adopt cloud services that offer carbon offsetting programs, which allow them to offset the carbon emissions associated with the use of cloud by supporting projects that reduce carbon emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere. In addition to these technical approaches, organisations can adopt policies and practices that promote sustainability in the way they use and consume cloud services. This can include reducing the amount of data they store in the cloud, optimising their workloads to minimise energy consumption, and using cloud-based services to replace on-premises infrastructure.
Meanwhile, several third-party organisations today provide certification and ratings for green cloud computing. Companies can therefore opt for cloud providers that strongly commit to sustainability and environmental responsibility.
The adoption of green cloud computing is gaining momentum globally as businesses and organisations recognise the benefits of reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more environmentally sustainable. Major cloud players, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, have implemented several green computing solutions in their operations. All these players have committed to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy usage for their global data centre operations. They have also undertaken measures to increase the energy efficiency of their data centres by adopting energy efficient servers and cooling systems, and deploying advanced monitoring and control systems. According to industry estimates, the green data centre market will be worth $175 billion by 2030.
Meanwhile, many Indian companies are taking steps to adopt green cloud computing practices. For example, some organisations have started using renewable energy sources to power their cloud computing infrastructure, while others are implementing energy efficient technologies and practices such as virtualisation and load balancing to reduce their energy consumption. The Indian government has also passed the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, which aims to promote the use of open data and encourage the adoption of green technologies in the country’s information technology sector.
One of the main challenges of implementing green cloud computing is the cost involved. Many companies may be reluctant to invest in green technologies due to the high upfront costs, which can be higher than that of traditional solutions. Moreover, given that cloud providers often have a complex and decentralised infrastructure, with data centres located in different parts of the world, it can be difficult to accurately measure the carbon emissions and energy consumption of cloud services and hence justify the investment. In addition, implementing green cloud computing solutions can be complex, requiring significant changes to a company’s infrastructure and processes. This can be a challenge for companies with limited resources or expertise in this area.
Another challenge is that some green technologies, such as energy efficient servers, can be expensive to implement and maintain and may not be compatible with the existing infrastructure. Further, the power supply from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, is often intermittent and requires backup power sources.
There are currently limited options available for green cloud computing. Most cloud providers only offer a few green computing options, which can limit the ability of companies to fully transition towards green computing. There is a lack of standardisation in the industry regarding green cloud computing, which can make it difficult for companies to compare and choose the best solutions. There is also a dearth of financial incentives for organisations to adopt green technologies, such as carbon credits or other forms of compensation.
Green cloud computing is an important part of the broader movement towards sustainable development and the transition to a low-carbon economy. Traditional computing systems rely on non-renewable energy sources to power data centres and other associated network infrastructure and have a high energy and carbon footprint. In contrast, green cloud computing systems use renewable energy sources and energy efficient data centres, making the computing operations environmentally sustainable. While the initial cost of deploying green cloud computing systems may be high, they can be more cost effective in the long term, as renewable energy sources are less subject to price fluctuations than fossil fuels. With an increasing number of enterprises prioritising energy efficiency and sustainability, the adoption of green cloud computing will increase exponentially in the next few years.