By comparing on-premises business applications to cloud-based equivalents, the researchers found that cloud computing has positive effects on the environment, especially if you are a small company.
A Microsoft study bears out what
environmentally-conscious companies have hoped for all along: cloud
computing has the potential to reduce energy consumption and carbon
emissions by 30 percent or more.
Large data centers, like those run by tech
giants Microsoft and Google, benefit from economies of scale and
operational efficiencies, according to the study. Small businesses, of
about 100 users, moving business applications away from on-site servers
into the cloud can see net energy and carbon savings of more than 90
percent, the researchers wrote. For mid-sized organizations, of about
1,000 users, the savings were between 60 to 90 percent, according to
the Microsoft-commissioned study
"The cloud has the ability to deliver business
value for customers in an age where corporate responsibility is
critical to business success," said Rob Bernard, chief environmental
strategist at Microsoft.
Larger operations are generally more efficient managing server utilization
and capacity, the researchers said, noting that they can increase the server capacity
for an application during peak periods and decrease when not in use.
Large public cloud environments are better at dynamic provisioning and
can serve "millions of users" across many companies simultaneously on
one "massive" shared infrastructure, according to the study.
The researchers concluded that while
independent organizations can incorporate dynamic provisioning, server
utilization and other strategies into their own data center
, the benefits will not be as great as it would be for a large cloud provider.
The study focused on three commonly used
Microsoft business applications: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for
e-mail, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 for content sharing, and
Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the customer relationship management
platform. Each on-premise product was compared with cloud-based
equivalents: Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online,
and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.
Researchers calculated the carbon footprint of
server, networking and storage infrastructure for three different
deployment sizes, of 100 users, 1,000 users, and 10,000 users,
according to the writers. The study relied on actual data provided by
Microsoft to estimate cloud-based energy use and carbon footprint.
Choosing the cloud option can enable a
significant reduction in carbon emissions, and the smaller the
organization, the larger the benefits, said the study. In fact, the
research team calculated that 32 percent of emissions could be saved by
moving 50,000 e-mail users in North America and Europe off individual
Exchange servers and on to Microsoft Exchange Online.
Companies are generally considering the move to cloud computing
to reduce costs and increase business flexibility. Along with hoped for
reductions in the electric bill, companies are interested in minimizing
the number of physical infrastructure, such as servers and switches,
needed. Companies can also outsource some of the performance and
"The benefits of cloud computing are
clear: Increased productivity, reduced costs and lower management
overhead of products have become key considerations for organizations
evaluating Microsoft's cloud services," said Bernard.
The study focused on select Microsoft
applications, but the study authors felt it was "likely" that "similar
advantages" would be seen for other business applications and cloud
Accenture and WSP Environment and Energy conducted the study, commissioned by Microsoft.