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Clouds for the environment

Today, the foundation "Miljøfyrtårn" launched new common criterias and an improved management tool. So far, its looking pretty good and I like that one can add your own criteria as well, although that might make it harder for them to evaluate if you should be certified.

Becoming certified as a "Miljøfyrtårn", or "Beacon of the environment", was Nimtech taking responsibility, joining a common effort, but it was also a way to learn more.

The obligation and the tools one gets with the Miljøfyrtårn certification is something that can either be a chore or a nudge.

I was filling in forms on what we were doing as a company, such as recycling, printers and how we heat our facilities, when thought came to mind that we were not just reducing our own energy expenditure. We were helping clients move to the cloud. This is something that is pretty hard for us as consultants to report on, but at least if we are doing good then I think we and our clients should be aware of this. I doubt most realize that they might be able to report cloud migration as a climate act. But when is this so? I knew very well that internet traffic is an immense CO2 emmitter, but I was curious to learn more about how much better is being cloud native than on premises with regards to climate emissions.

It comes down to a few key points, in my opinion.

  • Energy efficiency and what you do with the heat you generate

  • Do you contribute to further optimization of research and technology?

To really improve the energy efficiency of your datacenter, your hardware should not be out of date and you should use the waste energy for heating.

It is also recommended to have a digital cleaning day.

So much old data is kept for no good reason.

Microsoft is just one example and biased as they may be, they have made studies on which of their services that require most energy. They have compared the energy efficiency of cloud vs on premises datacenters. They display numbers of being 98% more carbon efficient and up to 93% more energy efficient than traditional enterprise datacentres. They can optimize both hardware and cooling mechanisms and set ambitious goals for becoming not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative: aiming to remove the carbon they are held responsible for, dating back to 1975. They are then among the greatest investors in renewable energies and carbon capture. Until they can use only renewables, as they do in some swedish datacentres, they buy CO2 quotas.

Even if your local datacenter is energy efficient, this means that your company will have to also invest in renewables and new research to match that.

More and more demands of climate reporting of companies are to be expected. Such tools already exist as free resources to use, but of course to do it right takes some skill. With such tools, a company may report on their figures, that in the grand scheme of things, can have a greater impact than whether or not they recycle food waste. If you wish to create such detailed reports on your own local datacenter, I suspect you will find that challenging.

Example from the Azure Emissions Impact Dashboard

Having your cloud resources and data within nordic borders has become a topic of growing interest these days. Another benefit of doing so is that you increase the chances of renewables being used and not just compensation quotas. One also limits the traffic across regions. But how does data traffic come into play? How much more energy does it require?

I am eager to see a future with more demand for a CO2 optimized cloud environment and to undertake more missions where I can help clients build their reports and learn how to be more sustainable in the future.

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