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What is green cloud computing & how are businesses using it?

Lee Griffiths

Green cloud computing

In my previous blog, I introduced the topic of Green IT and it’s importance, and why businesses should follow it. This blog will explore another aspect of Green IT, by looking into green cloud computing.

What is green cloud computing?

Green cloud computing is a practice companies undertake to bring efficiencies to the cloud computing space. This practice helps them use what they already have available more sustainably to reduce their energy consumption and their overall carbon footprint. This has been pushed into the public conscience in part from the work of the United Nations COP meeting along with supporting works from the European Commission and other organisations.

While cloud-based computing bolsters many benefits in modern society, it has become increasingly pervasive due to its high-power consumption which will only continue to demand more generated energy. The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices worldwide is forecast to almost triple from 9.7 billion in 2020 to over 29 billion in 2030. In 2018, the energy consumption of European data centres was also ~77 TWh, the equivalent of 1000 coal energy producing power plants.

How does green cloud promote environmental sustainability?

Green cloud computing promotes environmental sustainability in several ways from maximising energy efficiencies to encouraging the use of recycled materials and more. Some of its most impactful methods of promotion include:

  • It utilises more of a physical server’s processing power with the use of scalable virtualisation. Allowing many virtual servers to run on the same hardware, with inbuilt protections from each other’s applications and data, reduces the number of physical servers needed by data centres.
  • All machines can be cooled by larger, more energy efficient cooling systems. These systems are very advanced and can use AI to continuously optimise the efficiency of the whole data centre. The slight downside to the cloud approach is the minor increase in network traffic, which can add a reliance to network connectivity in the way these applications are designed.

What are businesses claiming to do with green cloud computing?

The three largest Cloud service providers currently are Google (~10%), Microsoft (~23%) and AWS (~32%) in ascending order of their market share. Each of these will be tackled in the pattern of carbon emissions, energy make-up and energy usage and efficiencies.


Google may be a multinational tech giant, however, it is only the third largest cloud service company with ~10% market share as of Q4 ’22. The company claims to have been carbon neutral in this area since 2007, and they have committed to only having 0 carbon energy sources by 2030.

Google recommends that businesses consider the following strategies for reducing their carbon footprints:

  • Choose cloud regions with higher average hourly CFE% and lower grid carbon intensity. For regions that have the same CFE%, use grid carbon intensity to further compare the emissions performance of those regions.
  • Optimise cloud workloads to reduce carbon emissions. One example is increasing efficiency by using elastic Cloud services and autoscaling features to minimize unused compute resources and run batch workloads during times when grid carbon intensity is lower.
  • Set organisational policies to restrict the location of cloud resources to cleaner regions.

Google also claims to have the more efficient server than the typical data centres. Reflecting on this point, they refer to a paper identifying the energy use of data centres in 2018 being comparable to the energy use in 2010, despite the massive leaps in processing power.


With their Azure offerings, Microsoft currently has a 23% market share as of Q4 ’22, nearly double its market share in Q4 ’17. In 2020, Microsoft announced that they would become carbon negative by 2030. While this is a bold claim, it is an undoubtedly great first step for the green cloud.


With their AWS offering, Amazon outcompetes in cloud services with a whopping 32% market share as of Q4 ’22, which has been constant since 2017. They claim to be on track for full renewable power sources by 2025, five years earlier than the original goal of 2030. They also aim for the wider organisation to become carbon neutral by 2040.

According to 451 Research, moving to the AWS cloud is 3.6 times more energy efficient. In 2018, Azure research also claimed that the Microsoft Cloud is ~93% more energy efficient and ~98% more carbon efficient than on-premises solutions. Although this echoes the results found by Google, these gains in efficiency may not be down to the individual companies, rather an industry-wide shift affected in part by newer hardware focusing on energy efficiency.

This blog is part 2 of a 3-part blog series exploring the topic of Green IT. You can read the next part by following the below link:

Find out more about green cloud computing and how it can support your business by contacting us today.

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Lee Griffiths