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The cloud and good climate – How cloud computing can help protect our climate

We can assume that global warming caused by humans will reach 1.5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial age by about the year 2040 [1]. This forecast assumes, however, that drastic measures in terms of reducing CO2 emissions are taken immediately, and that emissions fall to zero by 2055. Political declarations of intent abound. But deeds rarely follow words. If anything, reactions are hesitant. Therefore, one can assume that global warming will reach a higher level in the next decades, and that the consequences will be correspondingly serious. These are far from rosy prospects for the medium- to long-term future. As a software developer, I wonder how I can exploit my area of expertise to help improve the situation. One motivation to specialize in cloud computing has been to increase the environmental sustainability of IT from the outset by making more efficient use of data center resources. Today, in the face of the climate crisis, this issue is more relevant than ever. So, today I want to dedicate my SaaS column to this issue. This article contains many references to Microsoft’s Azure data centers. This is not to say that the other, large cloud providers such as Amazon or Google are worse than Microsoft in terms of sustainable cloud computing; sometimes the opposite is the case. But I work primarily with Microsoft and therefore know this company much better than its market rivals. That’s the reason for the many examples from the Microsoft environment that follow. Efficiency as the key to climate protection The big cloud providers like Microsoft run data centers on a scale that hardly any other organization can reach. Gains in efficiency are therefore reflected significantly in the results of the respective cloud companies. A few percent savings in the area of server energy efficiency are of little significance for medium-sized companies that have their own computer room. That’s not really of any concern. But if you operate servers in numbers of many powers of ten, even small improvements leave a clear mark. Corporations like Microsoft are investing huge sums of money and effort in improving the efficiency of their cloud data centers. Specifically, these are the following points: Operational efficiency Hardware efficiency Infrastructure efficiency Exploiting renewable energies Operational efficiency In the cloud, resources can be allocated and released again relatively quickly. The entire operational model is designed for elastically scaling systems. As a result, overprovisioning can be avoided. A server that is – at least temporarily – not needed and therefore shut down contributes more to energy savings than the most energy-efficient server running without performing any meaningful task, producing only hot air. In addition, server farms in the cloud are designed from the ground up for multi-tenancy. As a result, multiple cloud applications can be operated cleanly in a common server infrastructure. This is in stark contrast to what I repeatedly see in medium-sized data centers. There, each application, no matter how small, is assigned its own VM, if not its own server, in […]

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