Cloud Computing study for Microsoft shows dramatic reduction in carbon emissions | 5th Nov 2010
A study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by WSP and Accenture reveals that businesses choosing to run their applications through 'cloud computing' can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by a net of 30% or more, compared to using traditional on-site server rooms.
Cloud computing is large-scale, shared IT infrastructure available over the internet and is widely acknowledged as transforming the way corporate IT services are delivered and managed.
The study focused on 3 widely-deployed and commonly-used Microsoft applications for email, content sharing and customer relationship management. It then assessed the carbon footprint of server, networking and storage infrastructure for three different deployment sizes - 100, 1,000 and 10,000 users.
The results of the study revealed that the smaller the organization the larger the benefit of switching to cloud computing solutions. When small organizations (100 users) moved to the cloud instead of using their own servers, carbon emissions are likely to be 90% lower. For larger corporations the savings are typically 30% or more.
"This represents one of the industry's first quantitative studies of the environmental impact of cloud computing" says Andrew Armstrong, Vice President at WSP Environment & Energy. "While the benefits are clear for organizations, at a broader industry level, the systemic impact that cloud computing may have on driving down ICT carbon emissions is significant. It reinforces the opportunity of ICT in our transition to a low carbon economy, and highlights that it can be done in a way that can also enhance business productivity and the services you and I experience" says Andrew.
There are a number of key factors that enable the cloud concept to deliver lower energy use:
- Larger data centers, such as those run by Microsoft, benefit from economies of scale and operational efficiencies beyond what can be achieved by corporate IT departments.
- Large public cloud environments can serve millions of users simultaneously, sharing the infrastructure between all parties.
- Innovation and continuous improvement can drive datacenter efficiency to minimize energy use.
WSP developed a framework methodology aligned to the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) and carried out modeling to compare the energy use and carbon emissions per user for Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint server 2007 and Dynamics CRM with their cloud-based equivalents: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Dynamics CRM Online. The results suggest that for widely deployed and commonly used applications such as email, content sharing and customer relationship management, the cloud can enable significant reduction in carbon emissions.
Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist with Microsoft said: "The benefits of cloud computing are clear: increased productivity, reduced costs, and lower management overhead of products. Now add environmental benefits as Microsoft's cloud can help reduce energy use and carbon emissions by at least 30% per user. The cloud has the ability to deliver business value for customers in an age where corporate responsibility is critical to business success."
"This study provides a hard hitting, quantitative and measurable analysis of the impact that cloud computing can have directly compared to traditional deployment of IT within a company" said Josh Whitney, Corporate Sustainability Lead with WSP Environment & Energy.
"Essentially what you have happening is similar to driving private automobiles versus riding on public transportation," said Josh Whitney. "Everyone driving cars on the highway is similar to the inefficiency of an on-premise environment as opposed to taking mass transit, which is effectively the public cloud. However, unlike mass transit, there aren't any tradeoffs for using the cloud."
A copy of the White Paper can be viewed here.