The IT of modern companies – from end devices to data centers to networks – already has a significant carbon footprint. In addition, the energy consumption of these technologies is expected to triple between 2010 and 2025.
The associated CO2 footprint would be comparable to that of half a billion cars! With the global, unmistakable need to mitigate climate change in all areas of business and society, IT leaders need to reduce their department’s carbon footprint, thereby helping to mitigate climate change across their organization.
IT that lives up to its responsibilities can make a significant contribution to a net-zero world. Sustainable IT focuses on the growing energy consumption of the entire IT value chain in an environmentally-oriented approach. In addition to building management, this includes in particular application landscapes in which business applications run. A recent study by Capgemini shows that companies with a high level of ESG maturity (environmental, social, governance) perform well in terms of their overall corporate performance, but only 6% of the companies surveyed also have a high level of ESG maturity in terms of their IT.
Half of the companies surveyed have some strategy for sustainable IT, but less than 20% have a comprehensive one. About half of the study participants have difficulties in recording the CO2 footprint of their IT. In addition, more than every second company does not see itself in a position to implement green IT because it lacks specialist knowledge, standards and tools.
Various studies meanwhile indicate that cloud-based solutions can lead to significant CO2 savings. All leading hyperscalers (providers of cloud platforms such as Amazon/AWS, Microsoft/Azure, Google/GCP) are constantly working on energy-efficient data centers and on the most efficient possible distribution of resources in order to reduce their energy consumption. With a well thought-out cloud transformation, companies can leverage these advantages.
Sustainable IT goes beyond the operation of energy-efficient data centers
The evolution towards a zero-emissions IT application landscape is a challenging task that requires expertise, leadership commitment and investment. Leveraging economies of scale, cloud providers are constantly improving their hardware components and workload deployment patterns to ensure they make efficient use of available power, optimize cooling, deploy more energy-efficient servers, and increase server utilization. In a pure lift-and-shift approach, moving IT resources to the cloud does not result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions; in addition, too many other variables influence the total emissions of IT systems. A greater impact can be achieved through a holistic strategy that realizes sustainable IT within the framework of cloud transformation and IT modernization. We recommend a six-step approach:
1. Analyze and evaluate your IT application landscape with proven cloud assessments and subsequent transformation planning, e.g. B. through the eAPM tool (Economic Application Portfolio Management) used by Capgemini.
2. Build a sustainable IT platform:
- Use the cloud transformation including modernization measures as one of the key factors for reducing the carbon footprint.
- You can gain significant efficiencies by moving workloads to a cloud that uses less energy. When setting up or converting the IT platforms, you should use newer architectures such as microservices or containers for dynamic resource allocation.
- Pay attention to the energy efficiency of your data center, represented by the so-called PUE value (Power Usage Effectiveness). To calculate the PUE value, the total energy supplied to a data center is divided by the energy consumed by the IT equipment. The closer the value approaches 1.0, the better the energy balance of your data center.
- Also consider where the data center is located and what energy sources are used to power it. This has a direct impact on CO2 emissions.
3. Sustainable Application Delivery: Transform your applications or develop them “cloud-native” to enable faster development and update cycles. In addition, pay particular attention to the following points:
- Automatic scaling of applications and containers, especially with changing workloads.
- Selection of efficient deployment frameworks such as Quarkus
- Adoption of a “serverless” or event-driven architecture where appropriate
- Monitor IT resource utilization with tools such as Cloud Watch
4. DevOps methodologies: Continuously streamline your software development cycles using DevOps processes. In this way you reduce the amount of work end to end and use energy more efficiently.
5. Calculation and visualization of the carbon footprint: Use on-premise or cloud-based calculators to determine the carbon footprint for an existing IT landscape. On this basis, the values before the modernization of an application landscape can be compared with those afterwards or weak points with high CO2 emissions can be identified during operation.
6. Foster a culture of sustainability: Support your teams and develop the company culture to achieve sustainability goals faster.
In connection with application modernization as part of a cloud transformation, there are different migration or modernization approaches that can be considered after a cloud assessment (“6Rs”):
As can be seen in the graphic, greater savings in terms of the CO2 footprint and ongoing operating costs are possible through higher modernization efforts.
Marius Vöhringer, Leader for Cloud Transformation & Sustainable IT, Capgemini