Is cloud native the real deal on net zero emissions?

by Ned Hallett
Published on August 2021

What’s this about?

Cloud computing in general has been hailed as a way for companies to shrink their carbon footprint and earn green bona fides.

Across the business world, and particularly in the public sector, it’s been assumed that cloud is always more efficient, and thus greener.

But new research suggests that cloud – much like the proverbial grass – is not all it’s cracked up to be.

And although public cloud often is greener than a traditional data centre, the real benefit may lie in the legal finagling allowing companies using public cloud to underreport their emissions, or keep them entirely secret.

That sounds like a depressing read?

But there’s a green/silver lining!

We’ll also explain how true cloud-native computing really can make a radical change to emissions.

And really is the future of net zero.

But first…

Under UK law, carbon emissions fall into one of three categories known within the legislation as Scopes.

Scope 1 covers resources the company directly owns, while Scope 2 covers emissions generated by the production of purchased energy.

And both these scopes must be reported.

However, since neither of these definitions comfortably fit the emissions and energy associated with public cloud resources, these emissions move to Scope 3, the somewhat fuzzily defined ‘all other emissions.’

Which – you guessed it – is a voluntarily reported category.

The irony is those public cloud providers are by and large greener than self-maintained data centres.

But the obscuring of reliable data on emissions means setting targets becomes close to impossible.

And it’s much easier for companies who want to appear green to pass themselves off as such.

So what’s to be done?

This era of cloud-smuggled CO2 is likely to come to an end soon.

Many predict new laws and regulations aimed at tackling emissions in a post-cloud world.

And according to some, this legislation may even impose a proportional cost upon firms’ carbon footprints, taking net-zero from a marker of corporate social responsibility to a bottom-line consideration.

This means cloud will cease to be a way for companies to hide their emission levels and will finally become what it should have been from the beginning – a means of reducing emissions.

And when that happens…

Cloud native will be the way to go…

To recap, cloud native refers to a set of development and infrastructure practices that leverage cloud computing at every level of design.

Technologies like serverless computing, microservices and containers are all cloud-native mainstays.

But when it comes to what unites them as green technologies, it comes down to virtualisation ratio.

It’s more complicated than that in the specific, but in the general, what this means is that these newer virtual machines are much smaller than previous iterations, and so take up less room – and demand less resources – of the carbon-emitting hardware.

The results:

  • Experiments run by Microsoft found that a cloud-native version of it’s popular Exchange Platform cut carbon emissions by 93% compared to traditional deployment.
  • Elsewhere, sustainable software tool AWS CodeGuru – which scans code for inefficiencies – was able to triple compute utilisation in just a year.
  • More broadly, experts predict that mass optimization for cloud could have as big an impact as 98% carbon reduction vs traditional deployment.

So what’s next?

For companies wanting to make good on corporate social responsibility, or just get ahead of future legislation, this is just one more reason to adopt cloud-native tech.

However, this is always an involved decision, and likely won’t come down to any one factor – environmental or otherwise.

But for those interested…

We can help 

As next-gen managed service providers, we’re equipped to guide you through any digital transformation, whether migrating a legacy app or supplying the infra for a brand new application.

We’ve helped many companies embrace cloud native, from fitness icon Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach to national green initiative Containers for Change.

So if you want to get started on the way to net zero, or for anything else, just get in touch.

SHARE