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The Green Lining in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing

In the current times of the pandemic, the mantra for success includes a healthy mix of innovation with thoughtfulness and corporate social responsibility. As efforts for digital transformation are accelerating, so are the pressures to operate as responsible businesses. More and more CXOs are working on striking the right balance between accelerating digital transformation and sustainability strategies, in addition to adopting a more digitized stand with a ‘cloud-first’ approach.

Companies have historically driven financial, security, and agility benefits through the cloud, but sustainability is now imperative. According to the latest UNGC-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, more than 99% CEOs from large companies agree “sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses.” Fifty-nine per cent CEOs say they are deploying low-carbon and renewable energy across operations. By embracing the power of a sustainable cloud, CXOs can alleviate the pressures and discover new sources of innovation and growth. Over the next five years, every enterprise will have to respond to pressures around improved environmental, social and governance efforts. This pressure will come from diverse stakeholders, notably investors, regulators, the supply chain partners. Consumers too are increasingly expecting brands to act.

According to the Study, it is evident that 44% CEOs see a net-zero future for their company in the next 10 years. While ‘sustainability’ is the keyword of the season, leadership is moving away from a ‘nice-to-think-about’ approach, beyond buying carbon offset credits, when it comes to sustainability and trying to invest in a technological infrastructure that drives innovation as well as thoughtfulness.

Is it possible that migrating to cloud computing helps your business achieve its sustainability goals and positively affect its bottom line? The answer is Yes!

Cloud migration can deliver reduced costs and carbon emissions if migration is approached correctly from a sustainability perspective. A study conducted by Microsoft, Accenture, and WSP Environment & Energy Study show that organisations can achieve an energy and carbon (CO2) emissions reduction of 30-90% by switching to cloud computing. Small businesses benefit the most by making the move, but even large companies can see substantial net energy and carbon savings.

While the public cloud can help with an organisation’s sustainability goals, one needs to have a focused approach on cloud migration. This can help reduce global carbon emissions, drive circularity and result in more sustainable products and services.

Here are five considerations for a sustainable cloud-first journey

  1. Define your Sustainability goal and strategy

 The sustainable cloud journey involves different levels of ambition – the greater the ambition, the greater the benefits. To harness the benefits, establish a shared definition for sustainability goals, and ambitions because without a shared definition and perspective, the enterprise reduces the likelihood of a strategic and coherent approach, resulting in wasted time and money. Develop a shared and clear understanding of concepts and approaches that enable sustainability, including corporate social responsibility, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon neutrality and the circular economy. Establish governance and management processes. Have a dedicated team driving the sustainability agenda across corporate functions. While defining your strategy, take advantage of current heightened focus on environmental sustainability to push disruptive approaches.

  1. Select the right cloud provider

The second step in the journey begins with selecting the right carbon-thoughtful provider. Cloud providers set different corporate commitments towards sustainability, which in turn determine how they plan, build, power, operate and retire their datacenter. Carbon emissions can differ widely across providers even though all providers focus on driving down energy consumption to standard benchmarks.

It is important to choose the right cloud partner who has corporate commitments towards sustainability that is compatible with your enterprise. All major hyperscalers have published their sustainability goals and CO3 emissions facts – Microsoft, AWS and Google.

In most cases, cloud providers also have greater renewable energy mixes than cloud users and minimise datacenter carbon footprints through renewable energy. For a typical organisation, public cloud migrations can lead to an impressive 60%+ energy reduction and 80%+ carbon reduction.

While selecting your cloud partner, look for openness, transparency and level of support provided for sustainability goals.

  1. Plan your cloud migration with the right capabilities

To achieve your sustainability goals, you need to plan your sustainable cloud migration carefully. For an enterprise that is new to this journey of digital transformation, it is important to get a consultant or an expert on board.

You also need to ensure that your solution is capable of dynamic provisioning, choosing multi-tenancy, selective server utilisation, selecting the right partner and ISV ecosystem, developing your Cloud Operating Model and optimising your cloud usage. The cloud operating model is your organization’s blueprint for delivering on its cloud strategy.

  1. Develop your Cloud Operating Model and optimize your cloud usage

Cloud operating model is your organization’s blueprint for delivering on its cloud strategy. It needs to deliver value through cloud services by effectively organizing the required capabilities and outcomes. I would suggest, redefine your Cloud operating model and add Sustainability as a principle in your Cloud Operating model. The three principles of your cloud operating model – People, Technology, Processes, should co-exist with green initiatives.

 Develop your own well-architected framework

Most of the hyperscalers have developed the Well-Architected Framework (WAF) that helps their enterprise stay abreast with the best practices in architecture for designing and operating efficient cloud systems. A typical WAF consists of 5 pillars

  • Cost Optimization – The ability to deliver value at the lowest price point.
  • Security – The ability to protect data, systems, and assets to improve the security of the enterprise.
  • Reliability – The ability to perform the assigned functions correctly and consistently
  • Operational Excellence – The ability to support the operations of the enterprise, learn from the experiences and to improve the processes based on past learnings.
  • Performance Efficiency – The ability of technological resources to efficiently meet the system requirements and to maintain the efficiency according to the trend of technological evolution.

I would suggest adding two additional pillars to the WAF framework to include the “green agenda” and achieve our sustainability goals:

  1. Sustainability as a pillar for a solutions in public cloud
  2. Cloud migration and managed service providers 

It’s time for enterprises to ensure sustainability goals are an integral part of corporate strategy and its purpose. Cloud is critical to unlocking greater financial, social, and environmental benefits through cloud-based circular operations and sustainable products and services.

By combining cloud with the 4th industrial revolution technologies, companies can drive better customer outcomes. Careful association of sustainability perspective to cloud computing and accelerated Cloud adoption can help an organization reduce energy use and the carbon footprint associated with running business applications. This feat is achievable by collaborating with Cloud Service providers who are dedicated to constant improvement and innovation and development of efficient data centers.

(The author Gaurav Aggrawal, Global Lead – Everything on Azure Solution Strategy & GTM at Avanade and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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