If you’re looking for something to celebrate this Earth Day, consider this: despite steady increases in Internet-connected devices and data consumption, green computing initiatives across the technology sector have managed to prevent a corresponding rise in energy consumption. But that doesn’t mean companies should stop doing their part to reduce their CO2 footprint. On the contrary, as new technologies continue to enable more connectivity than ever, it’s increasingly important for businesses to offset and drastically reduce their resource use through green computing initiatives.
This post will examine green computing and sustainable information communication technologies (ICT) by discussing the rise of green computing, measures that reduce resource consumption, and explain how Azion is taking progressive steps to minimize its energy consumption and use through its architecture and products like edge computing, serverless computing, and other advanced technologies.
What is Green Computing?
Technopedia defines green computing as measures that improve IT through “environmentally sustainable production practices, energy-efficient computers and improved disposal and recycling procedures.” The article breaks down this wide array of practices into four categories:
- Green use: minimizing the electricity consumption of computers and IT equipment
- Green disposal: recycling, repurposing, or appropriately disposing of unwanted equipment
- Green design: Improving the design of devices to make them more energy efficient
- Green manufacturing: minimizing manufacturing waste to reduce its environmental impact
Green computing is one way companies can meet their Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) targets. Investopedia defines ESG as “a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments.” The three areas of interest include environmental impact, commitment to social values, and ethical governance. As Investopedia notes, “Environmental criteria may include a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, natural resource conservation, and treatment of animals.”
Another related term, sustainable ICT, looks at ways that IT itself can be used to advance environmental initiatives. An example of this is how edge computing and 5G are being used to create smart meters that measure the use of resources like water and electricity in order to minimize usage and maximize resource efficiency.
What Are the Benefits of Green Computing?
As we move toward a more global and connected world, the benefits of protecting the planet and pursuing environmental sustainability cannot be overstated. Improving connectivity is an amazing tool for change, but the more connected we become, the more resources we produce and consume. In fact, a study from Nature magazine predicted that with current usage trends, information and communications technology could increase from producing 2% of all global emissions in 2018 to producing anywhere from 8% and 21% by 2030.
In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, green computing also has a number of advantages for businesses themselves, particularly as environmentally responsible business practices are rewarded by consumers, investors, and governments alike. A recent Thoughtworks article noted that 50% of growth of consumer goods in the last five years has come from green products, 70% of employees said they are more likely to work at a company with an environmentally friendly agenda, and companies with sustainability initiatives have superior long-term stock performance compared to those that don’t. Furthermore, the same measures that improve resource efficiency, such as reducing large files and caching, improve application performance. The article’s list of benefits for green computing includes:
- Meeting sustainability goals
- Reducing infrastructure costs
- Optimizing application performance
- Speeding development cycles with efficient code
- Satisfying eco-conscious investors
- Attracting and retaining eco-conscious talent
How Can Digital Businesses Go Green?
While the decision to go green may be an obvious one for many companies, the path toward sustainability may be less clear. Ultimately, businesses and providers have a shared responsibility to improve sustainability by reducing the sources of usage, which can be broken down into four areas:
- Power and cooling
- Storage drives
Fortunately, as technology becomes more sophisticated, the efficiency of each of these areas has improved considerably.
A 2020 article in Wired cited that from 2010 to 2018, “The typical computer server uses roughly one-fourth as much energy, and it takes roughly one-ninth as much energy to store a terabyte of data.” Moving servers out of on-premise data centers and into the cloud and edge has enabled virtualized and elastic resource use that improves the efficiency of servers and, as a result, reduced the power and cooling needed to keep those servers running.
Power and Cooling
In addition, power and cooling methods themselves have become more efficient. Hyperscale cloud data centers increasingly use renewable energy for power and innovative methods of power and cooling, such as recycled waste heat and submerging data centers underwater. In addition, as explained in an article by STL partners, “Arguably, an edge data centre may require less energy for cooling, relative to its output and size. This is known as “free” cooling and particularly relevant in cooler climates. A few racks of servers (edge “data centre”) would have a higher surface area per server than if the same size rack was being processed in a hyperscale data centre.”
Similarly, edge computing reduces the resources needed for networking, as it decreases overall traffic. By moving processing closer to where data is generated or needed, the time and energy needed to serve each request is reduced and bandwidth is improved. This makes networking more green because, as explained by LFE, “High bandwidth consumption is linked to high energy usage and high carbon emissions since it uses the network more heavily and demands greater power.”
Finally, storage devices today are considerably more energy efficient than their predecessors. Older data centers and CDNs often use an older type of storage device called hard disk drives (HDD) that read and write data using a mechanical process where data is stored magnetically on spinning disks, whereas newer facilities (such as Azion’s edge locations) use solid-state drives (SSDs) which store data digitally. This makes SSDs not only faster and more durable than HDDs, but also more resource-efficient. Intel observed in their report that, “SSDs commonly use less power and result in longer battery life because data access is much faster and the device is idle more often. With their spinning disks, HDDs require more power when they start up than SSDs.”
How Does Azion Reduce Energy Consumption?
Azion is built on the foundations of serverless and edge computing models to make energy consumption more efficient. Not only does Azion’s Edge Application reduce bandwidth through measures such as image optimization, efficient caching, and load balancing, our serverless model eliminates wasted resources by automatically scaling to meet need. By running workloads when and where they are needed, companies do not need to overprovision resources to prepare for usage spikes; as a result, both the environment and the company benefit from less energy waste.
As Internet connectivity and usage increases, so must energy efficiency in the IT sector. Device manufacturers, service providers, digital businesses, and end users all must play a part in helping to offset and reduce the environmental toll of increasingly data-hungry technology. By following and furthering the use of renewable energy, innovative heating and cooling, energy-efficient hardware and software, and other green computing measures, companies that produce, consume, and process data can ensure that next-generation technologies help to reduce, rather than increase energy consumption. The more energy we use, the more important it is to keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility.