One of the most informed and engaging writers around sustainability and business is Andrew Winston, who writes a blog called Finding the Gold in Green and writes for the Harvard Business Review as well. (The Harvard Business Review blogs, by the way, are well worth a read)
Across business, executives are looking for ways in which they can operate more sustainably and thereby increase their competitive edge. Information Communications Technology (ICT) is seen as a key area of focus for achieving sustainability goals. This report shows that business use of cloud computing can play an important role in an organisation’s sustainability and IT strategies: improving business process efficiency and flexibility whilst decreasing the emissions of IT operations.
This study used detailed case study evidence from 11 global firms and assessed the financial benefits and potential carbon reductions for a firm opting for a particular cloud computing service. It also demonstrates how projected cloud computing adoption could drive economy-wide business benefits from a financial and carbon reduction perspective in the US.
The results show that by 2020, large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil – enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year.
The report also delves into the advantages and potential barriers to cloud computing adoption and gives insights from the multi-national firms that were interviewed.
In addition to a predicted aggregate, annual carbon reduction of 85.7 million metric tons by large U.S. companies, cloud computing can:
- Help users avoid costly up-front capital investments in infrastructure
- Improve time-to-market as a new server can be created or brought online in minutes
- Provide greater flexibility as clouds allow firms to pay for excess capacity only when they need it
- Avoid the continual maintenance of excess capacity needed to handle spikes
- Improve automation that helps drive process efficiencies
“The study results make a powerful case for businesses to continue to explore and adopt secure and flexible cloud computing solutions,” said John Potter, Vice President, As-a-Service Solutions, AT&T.
Winston added: “Finding providers and partners that can take some of your energy-using operations to scale, and manage them in a shared capacity, is good for both business’ carbon footprint and its bottom line.”
I suspect the report’s conclusions on cloud computing may be a case of preaching to the converted here, but the insight of some of those interviewed for the study may be useful.