In celebration of Earth Day, I wanted to highlight some of the recent research underway at Forrester on sustainability. Sustainability is no longer an “add-on” for corporate strategy — it is a corporate value. Companies with sustainability as a value are focused, planned, and assert a bold core mission. This not only affects corporate identity, but it also has direct implications on the type of talent it attracts and the long-term relationships it builds with partners and clients. Forrester surveyed over 2,000 global purchase influencers on the key actions they undertake on sustainability in the Forrester Analytics Business Technographics® Priorities And Journey Survey, 2020. One particular objective stood out: transparency. In fact, 31% of purchase influencers told us that increasing the transparency of sustainability efforts is key, and over a quarter of the purchase influencers surveyed told us that creating a dedicated sustainability function within the organization is a key action they are undertaking.
Within the sustainability research stream, I am focused on one of the biggest hot spots: the cloud computing industry. In my research, I came across some powerful statistics. According to the US Department of Energy, data centers account for about 2% of all electricity use. But despite the ongoing growth in digital use and in cloud usage, the total amount of electricity consumed by US data centers has remained constant. The annual electricity consumption increased by 90% from 2000 to 2005 but only by 4% from 2010 to 2014, largely due to data centers’ ability to improve their efficiency as they scale.
How? Major cloud providers achieve better sustainability goals due primarily to their scale. They can integrate better technology innovation such as energy monitoring tools, server optimization techniques, virtualization, multitenancy, and machine learning and fund low-cost green energy procurement wherever available. For example, Energy Star estimates that data centers can save 4% to 5% in energy costs for every 1°F increase in server inlet temperature. OVH, a French cloud provider, uses in-server liquid cooling to create highly efficient cooling. Cloud vendors are leading the way in transparency. Here’s some ways cloud players have done this for almost a decade:
- In 2011, the Forrester report on “Cloud Computing Helps Accelerate Green IT” outlined seven practices to maximize your green benefits in the cloud that included maximizing consolidation and utilization ratios through virtualization and automation. By 2020, some of the shortcomings we pointed out in 2011 have now been addressed in various stages: We pointed out how the use of renewable sources of energy is not fully explored as an option by cloud players. Nearly a decade later, leaders of adoption at the time — Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — still lead the way. This is aided by the advancements in AI-powered energy monitoring tools, most notably used by Google.
- In 2018, Google announced that its wind and solar deals produced enough renewable energy to match 100% of the electricity consumption of our data centers and offices for the second consecutive year. Google claims that all data processed by Google Cloud has “zero net carbon emissions” and in 2019 said that the average PUE is an efficient 1.11, compared to the industry average of 1.67.
- In 2019, Amazon Web Services announced that it exceeded 50% renewable energy usage for 2018 and outlined its strategy to achieve a 100% goal by 2030. As part of its strategy, Amazon announced multiple green energy projects, including wind farms across Europe and the US as well as its seventh such project in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2019.
- In 2020, Microsoft made the bold statement that “by 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.” Microsoft outlined a list of actions along the route to achieve this goal, among them to ensure “effective transparency.”
These actions and more from various other players across the cloud ecosystem, such as from data center players, content delivery networks, and communication services players, all talk about how the new advancements made in the past decade have added to an older story — toward a sustainable planet. On Earth Day 2020, amid all the chaos the world is currently in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a good reminder that data is expensive to create, maintain, and peruse. Transparency and collaborative efforts are thus critical as we proceed with technological innovation.
Want To Learn More Or Participate In The Research? Contact Us
If you’re interested in gaining more insights on sustainability as it relates to the major cloud providers, Forrester clients can always submit an inquiry request to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also currently looking to interview organizations that are investing in sustainability, so if you’d like to tell me your sustainability story, send me an email at email@example.com.
Thank you — and I hope you’re all staying safe, healthy, and sane at home.