Cloud storage can be a green solution

10 Juni 2022

Photo: Pixabay/stevepb

The cloud has emerged as the go-to data storage solution for businesses that want to cut costs while improving scalability and flexibility.

In addition to these benefits, cloud storage can also help make businesses greener. A company can reduce the overall amount of energy needed for data storage by switching from on-premise to the cloud. This helps slash its carbon footprint and become more sustainable.

There’s also evidence that the cloud is likely to become even greener over the next few years, which is important because data storage isn’t usually thought of as requiring large amounts of energy, but data centers can be extremely power-hungry.

On-premise storage is often less efficient than cloud storage. Business-owned data centers often have much lower utilization than public cloud options because equipment is purchased and provisioned in anticipation of usage spikes. Storage and computing capacity must exceed typical usage needs when on-site.

By contrast, cloud data centers can consolidate equipment and operate servers at high utilization rates, reducing inefficiencies and boosting productivity.

Data centers are becoming much more power-efficient industrywide. However, traditional data centers lag behind public options in utilization and power efficiency improvements. These larger cloud data centers are more efficient and can improve faster than their traditional counterparts.

Standard data centers average just 2.4 workloads per server disk, which measures how much processing a server performs in a certain period. Their efficiency growth rate is currently around 6.9%. By contrast, cloud data centers average 8.8 workloads per server disk and an efficiency growth rate of 8.5%.

Public cloud data centers are also typically located closer to essential power facilities. Energy is lost as it travels along lines, so data centers that are located nearby can reduce transmission losses.

Data center growth may drive sustainability

The need for data storage is likely to grow quickly in the near future — and potentially well beyond industry experts’ expectations. Today, half of all corporate data throughout the world is stored via cloud storage.

As the demand for data storage grows, so will associated energy costs. Pivoting to the cloud could help businesses ensure storage is as energy-efficient as possible, reducing the company’s overall carbon footprint and making sustainability goals more attainable.

Cloud storage providers may soon take steps to make cloud storage even more sustainable. Each of the Big Three cloud providers — Google, Microsoft and Amazon — have pledged to fully decarbonize their data centers.

So far, none have made the leap entirely to renewable energy, but all three have made major strides in improving power usage effectiveness and limiting data center emissions. The three companies invest in renewable energy credits (RECs). These RECs are tokens produced when a green power source like wind or solar generates one megawatt-hour of electricity and sends it to the grid.

These companies are also increasing their direct utilization of renewable energy. Amazon recently became the world’s largest corporate green power buyer, displacing Google from the top spot. All three of these businesses are making major investments in eco-friendly sources worldwide, helping to make their cloud data centers more sustainable.

In addition to renewable energy and REC investments, these cloud providers are also innovating in data center efficiency.

Google recently used Deepmind AI technology to reduce its data center cooling bill by 40%. This is often difficult to operate at optimum efficiency, as data center equipment, cooling machinery and the environment can interact with each other in a difficult-to-predict manner. AI-powered management allows Google to manage its cooling equipment more effectively.

Cooling is one of the primary sources of energy use in a data center, so applying artificial intelligence to improve efficiency could significantly improve overall energy efficiency.

Google shares data center performance information with the rest of the industry. The company’s cooling successes could translate to major efficiency gains for the entire sector.

How using the cloud can make storage more sustainable

Cloud storage may help businesses achieve sustainability goals in addition to providing greater flexibility and scalability. It takes commitment, but several major companies are seeking ways to reduce their power consumption and invest in green energy. They are proving it can be done.

Cloud data centers are often more efficient than traditional options in terms of utilization and energy use. Major cloud providers like Google, Microsoft and Amazon are also making significant strides in adopting renewable energy and efficiency innovations.

Pivoting to the cloud could help businesses ensure storage availability and become more sustainable. Hopefully, more companies will follow suit and make cloud storage a viable green option.

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