Cloud Vendors With a Negative Carbon Footprint May Dominate by 2025: Gartner


Cloud vendors will have to act fast to cut emissions if they hope to continue to sign up new businesses. By 2025, cloud sustainability may become crucial in choosing a cloud vendor, with organizations leaning towards those with a negative carbon footprint.

Cloud purchase decisions will be influenced significantly by the carbon emissions of hyperscale cloud services. According to tech research and consultancy firm Gartner, by 2025, one of the top three criteria for companies looking to buy cloud services will be the carbon footprint of vendors in the hotly-contested space.

As businesses race to achieve data center-centricity, an increasing number are investing heavily in sustainability programs in response to consumer demand. Approximately 90% of organizations have upped their investments in environmental, social and governance efforts since early 2020.

Data centers and servers hosted on the cloud have emerged as the cornerstone of the digital economy and the overall world economy. They are also among the most prominent energy-guzzling technologies. The space has grown from companies offering storage solutions a decade ago to now delivering most, if not all, of their core services on the cloud.

In 2021, the cloud computing space could surpass $250 billion in revenue and touch $791 billion by 2028. A 2021 survey by researchers at the International Journal of Engineering Research and Technology (IJERT) determined that “the growth of cloud computing has led to uneconomical energy consumption in data processing, storage and communication.”

How much? According to Bloomberg estimates, as much as 8% of all electricity generated could power cloud computing from 2021 onwards.

“The massive energy consumption is unfriendly to the environment because of the huge carbon footprints of the data centers. Therefore, green cloud computing is required to support the environment. Green computing produces environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient cloud computing by using computing resources more efficiently.”

The energy-guzzling potential of cloud data centers is not in dispute. Gartner says that companies aiming to reduce carbon emissions are moving in the right direction. The biggest cloud companies will lead the charge towards sustainable cloud computing, viz., AWS, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, IBM and others, who wouldn’t want to slip from their industry leadership position as consumers demand greater accountability.

See More: Data Center Industry on the Rise Despite Outages, Sustainability Challenges 

Cloud Sustainability Investment 2017 vs 2020 | Source: Gartner

Here, cloud sustainability refers to reducing the environmental impact of cloud computing by using energy derived from clean, eco-friendly, renewable sources that will have a net positive impact by reducing carbon emission.

“Hyperscalers are aggressively investing in sustainable cloud operations and delivery, aspiring to eventually achieve net zero emissions within the decade, or sooner,” noted Ed Anderson, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “Gartner expects increased availability of tools that help organizations calculate and reduce their carbon emissions through effective use of cloud services, similar to tools that assist in optimizing cloud spending today.”

IJERT researchers expect power-efficient hardware, scheduling algorithms, cluster configuration, energy-aware network protocols, among other things that could help. However, the problem lies elsewhere. Investment in sustainability efforts can be good for PR, but a measurable outcome based on set standards uniformly adopted across the industry is the need of the hour.

Anderson added, “Sustainability metrics and workload placement tools are still immature and not always transparent, making it difficult for organizations to fully and accurately assess true sustainability impacts of their cloud usage today.”

More importantly, cloud vendors “tend to overreport the areas where they think they’re doing good work, and either underreport or ignore entirely areas where they may not be doing so well,” he said.

“As stakeholders continue to push organizations to improve their sustainability posture, the more progressive providers will share their sustainability information publicly. Increasingly, stakeholder pressure will prompt them to include it in company disclosures, compliance and reporting.”

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