As sustainability moves higher up the C-Suite agenda, so too does the environmental impact of IT. This is an increasingly important factor shaping the adoption of cloud services – and the management of the environmental impact of sprawling, energy-intensive warehouses packed with servers, satiating an endless demand for computing and storage power.
For service providers, driving efficiency is a vital part of the business model – more efficient server farms cost less money to run, helping the largest firms in the market to post healthy revenues and profits as enterprise demand increases. And yet even with an ongoing process of embedding efficiency, specifically energy efficiency, into the core of the business – and the tacit understanding that public cloud’s highly efficient centralized infrastructure is a marked improvement of the average consumption of legacy on-premise estates – it's hard for enterprises, regulators, and the public to look away from the impact cloud services has on the environment.
To remedy this, 25 of the largest cloud and data centre firms in Europe have signed a new sustainability pledge – the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact – a Self-Regulatory Initiative to make data centres in Europe climate neutral by 2030. Notable firms include AWS and Google – who represent a significant chunk of the growing hyperscale cloud services market and subsequently hoover up more than their fair share in revenue and energy consumption alike. OVH Cloud, a leading European-based IT services firm, and digital infrastructure firm, Equinix, have also signed up, as have IT Services giants Atos and NTT.
According to a press release announcing the initiative, the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact establishes a Self-Regulatory Initiative developed in co-operation with the European Commission. It supports both the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and the European Data Strategy by making EU data centres climate neutral by 2030.
The initiative sets ambitious goals for signatories with measurable targets for 2025 and 2030, including purchasing 100% carbon-free energy; prioritising water conservations; investigating heat recycling methods, and reusing and repairing servers to minimise waste.
Notably, signatures from several major firms are currently absent from the pact. The most notable one is Microsoft whose hyperscale cloud business, Azure, has a substantial and growing presence in the region. Sustainability and commitment to environmental practices are rapidly becoming essential differentiators for tech firms – with several recent announcements from leaders in the market emphasising their green credentials. For example, sustainability plays a central role in Atos' OneCloud investments. And towards the end of 2020, Infosys announced it was now carbon neutral – 30 years ahead of its 2050 plan.
And with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) scheduled for November of this year in Glasgow, we can expect a ramp-up in commitments from enterprises in the region – as public and government scrutiny into the shape of the post-Covid economy intensifies.