Microsoft Sustainability: How Green is YOUR Cloud?
Many CloudStrategies clients are concerned about minimizing their carbon footprint and making all of their IT investments as green as possible. We thought it would be interesting for you to hear how Microsoft is doing it. The following is their strategy.
Microsoft’s environmental strategy is based on three themes: Using information technology to improve energy efficiency, accelerating research breakthroughs, and demonstrating responsible environmental leadership.
Using Information Technology to Improve Energy Efficiency
Today society has the opportunity to use software to help eliminate more greenhouse gas emissions annually than are currently released by all sources combined in the United States. At Microsoft, we are working to accelerate technology breakthroughs that enable the transition to a cleaner, more energy-efficient economy. Our investments will focus on:
- Reducing energy use from information technology: With energy efficiency gains, the IT industry can dramatically increase computing productivity without increasing the amount of energy consumed by computers.
- Enabling an ecosystem that uses IT to improve energy efficiency: Microsoft will work with other leading companies to use software to drive significant energy efficiency gains in everything from buildings and transportation to manufacturing and energy grids.
- Building applications and services to track carbon emissions: To effectively reduce greenhouse gasses we need the ability to measure them accurately. Microsoft is developing solutions that will help businesses and governments more easily track carbon emissions.
Accelerating Research Breakthroughs
Scientific research into the impact that humankind has on complex environmental and biological systems will help provide the insights needed for effective policy change in government, and increased environmental awareness among the population. It will also provide the foundation for technological advancements in energy usage, resource management, and environmental planning.
Microsoft Research is working with leading scientists to expand the boundaries of our knowledge of the planet. We’re also working to create the tools, technologies, and models to help accelerate scientific understanding on a global scale. Our efforts include:
- Enabling fundamental advances in science: Microsoft is working with the scientific community to monitor environmental conditions and develop computational methods and tools to help scientists correlate and analyze data across research efforts.
- Modeling the impact of climate change: Microsoft is helping to create advanced modeling technologies that will improve our understanding of global and local climate changes and the environmental consequences of human activity on species and ecosystems.
- Providing access to computing power for the scientific community: Microsoft will work with leading scientists around the world to provide access to our facilities, research, collaboration tools, and computing power to help them advance scientific research.
Responsible Environmental Leadership
Microsoft has an estimated carbon footprint of 1,502,736 MT CO2, and is working to cut our carbon emissions and reduce our use of natural resources. The steps we’re taking include:
- Reducing Microsoft’s carbon output: Our goal is to reduce our carbon emissions per unit of revenue by at least 30 percent compared with 2007 levels by the end of 2012. Steps we’ll take to achieve this include improving energy efficiency in our buildings and operations, reducing air travel, and increasing our use of renewable energy.
- Optimizing our supply chain: We’ll focus on reducing the environmental impact of our supply chain-from how we deliver software to customers, to environmental practices in factories building our devices, to the food we serve.
- Reducing our impact on the environment: We’ll continue to invest in programs and search for opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, including our waste stream, our water use, and our use of materials.
Cloud Computing offers many advantages, including enhanced business agility, increased resilience and sustainability, robust collaboration and communication capabilities and more, but the one benefit most frequently cited is substantial cost savings.
Cloud Computing Cuts Costs Short & Long Term
There are several key areas in which savings will be created as you move to a cloud computing environment.
Computer equipment, such as servers and storage devices, become old and outdated in just a few years, so many companies purchase or lease new equipment periodically. Moving to a cloud computing environment eliminates the need to make many of these investments.
Depending upon the size of your company and your current computer network you may only be consuming a moderate amount of electricity to power your servers and your storage. The larger your company is, and the more hardware you house on your own premises, the more this is costing and so the more you will save.
High Volume Air Conditioning
Desktop computers are designed to be comfortable where people are comfortable, but the same is not true of servers and large storage devices. They require a cool climate that demands high-volume air conditioning (HVAC) which can be a very expensive proposition.
Another cost that is directly proportionate to the size of your network is the size of the space required to house it all. Your company may only require a closet, or perhaps a small room. But when you begin to grow and need your network to scale with you, expect space to become the final frustrating frontier.
For a company like yours that isn’t in the IT business it’s seldom easy or inexpensive to recruit, qualify, and hire talented technical support. Since technical people by nature tend to want to keep growing their knowledge they can quickly become restless and move on, incurring even more cost to replace them.
This is the one cost most people try very hard not to think of. What happens when your inhouse computer network crashes and you don’t have a recent backup? Statistics vary, but they all cite that a major proportion of companies that suffer such an incident end up going out of business. That’s the ultimate cost, and it often happens simply because nobody changed a backup tape or checked the backup log to see if it was working. That simply doesn’t happen in a cloud-based data center. In fact, many cloud providers offer a guarantee of penalty compensation in the event of data loss because they are confident they’ll never have to pay off on it.
How many times has someone warned: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later?”
Cloud computing offers you the opportunity to turn that phrase around to “You can save money now AND you can save money later” and it’s important to take a good hard look at both when determining how much you can save by making the transition.
OpEx and CapEx
Every day your business incurs OpEx, operating expenses necessary to operate the business. You pay rent on your office space, electrical power, telephone service, so even when you don’t think you’re spending you are.
Periodically you make capital expenditures, or CapEx, to make large purchases of equipment and other assets your business requires to operate. You generally amortize the cost of these over the useful life of what you purchase.
Cloud computing creates opportunities to significantly reduce many operating expenses, and to eliminate the need for many capital expenditures as well!
Immediate Savings From Operating Your Network
Each of these expenses may be somewhat difficult to isolate, but it’s definitely worth the time to do so or to have a quality consultant (like, perhaps, CloudStrategies) come in to identify and quantify them for you:
How much of your physical plant do your network servers actually occupy as a percentage of your total space? Multiply your rent by that percentage to arrive at the cost of real estate.
How much electrical power do your servers, backup drives, and other related peripherals actually consume? Multiply that by your cost per megawatt. Remember that this also contributes to your environmental sustainability. Green computing saves you green, too!
The larger your server farm, the more air conditioning required to keep your servers at a proper operating temperature to avoid potential damage.
There are several hidden costs to having personnel on your payroll to support your servers. Not only do you have to include their salary, benefits, overhead costs, and other related direct costs, you also have to estimate the cost of selecting, hiring, administering and managing them. Especially in companies that are not directly in the Information Technology business you may often incur additional recruiting costs to replace less-than-ideal hires.
Now add all of those costs and compare against what it would cost to house all of your server requirements at your cloud provider’s data center. Don’t be surprised to find significant savings in the cloud!
But you’re not finished saving!
Every unit of computer-related hardware has an anticipated useful life, and constant innovation only serves to shorten that. Sometime within the next few years it will be time to replace all your servers. Take a look at the invoices for your last round of server acquisitions. Anticipating that innovation will increase costs add at least your last cost of acquisition to the savings you’ve already calculated.
Again, all of these costs are somewhat difficult to extract and compute, but with the right tools and processes CloudStrategies can help you to calculate a very close approximation, and then help you get started realizing those savings. Ask us. We’d be glad to help.