Sunday, April 21, 2024

Does Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Help the Environment?

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A new study funded by Microsoft found that cloud computing uses less energy and releases significantly less carbon than running the same business applications on their own infrastructure.

According to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) statements, the study results show that cloud services can potentially save 30 percent or more between energy savings and carbon emissions reductions.

The study was conducted by global consultancy Accenture (NYSE: ACN) in conjunction with WSP Environment & Energy, and focused on a “life-cycle” approach.

Microsoft released the study’s results Thursday.

“Using a methodology aligned to the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI) standards, Accenture and WSP compared the energy use and carbon emissions per user for Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM with their cloud-based equivalents: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online,” the statement said.

Based on example deployment sizes of 100, 1,000, and 10,000 users, the study examined the carbon footprint of servers, network, and storage technologies.

Among the results — smaller businesses may have the most to gain — cloud computing offers up to 90 percent savings of carbon emissions over running them on their own internal infrastructure.

Microsoft said that calculations from a case study of a large international consumer goods company showed that switching over 50,000 e-mail users to Microsoft’s cloud would save 32 percent of carbon emissions.

As part of its ongoing cloud computing initiative, the company is building several giant data centers around the world to support such services.

Microsoft has also gone so far as to develop its own modular data center design aimed at using the least amount of energy and other resources, which can be preassembled and basically dropped into place, saving on construction costs as well.

Of course, Microsoft is not the only company in the cloud computing business — for instance, and Google are as well.

However, Microsoft officials said in June that they had already accumulated 40 million paying customers for Microsoft’s cloud computing business services.

That would make it one of the largest, if not the largest, cloud services vendors in the world.

Additionally, though, while Microsoft didn’t mention it, many of the same advantages that accrue to Microsoft’s cloud also accrue to competitors offerings. For instance, economies of scale and operational efficiencies are core concepts for any cloud computing deployment.

Among the factors that the report said work in cloud computing’s favor are the ability to provision and deprovision servers dynamically as needed, as well as the ability to serve millions of users on the same shared infrastructure (called “multitenancy”).

Microsoft’s white paper regarding energy efficiencies due to cloud computing is available online.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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