Greening the Cloud: The Role of AWS in Building a Sustainable Future

June 14, 2022 | Jonathan McCracken
Greening the Cloud: The Role of AWS in Building a Sustainable Future

This pursuit for a better future involves the adoption of sustainable technologies and practices, which reduces carbon footprint. The fact that 96% of S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports in 2022, demonstrates their genuine commitment towards a greener future.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has taken a lead in this movement, setting ambitious targets to power its infrastructure with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement's targets. The consensus is clear – to prioritize adoption of sustainable technology solutions that not only benefit the environment but also provide a competitive advantage to the tech companies.

There are multi-faceted challenges of effective resource allocation, determining investments with greatest impact, and technological development that enterprises face in their sustainability transformations.

One strategy to overcome these challenges is to break down long-term goals into smaller ones, i. e. into short-term projects that serve as building blocks to reach larger goals. In the IT business, this can be achieved by aligning technology investments with sustainability issues. Cloud services, in particular, can play a key role in reducing the environmental impact by making better use of shared resources. Tech companies can also implement sustainable practices in their data centres, such as using renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency through virtualization and server consolidation.

Achieving Sustainability Goals with AWS: A Comprehensive Guide

Data centres consume a significant amount of energy, accounting for up to 40% of operating costs for tech companies and, specifically in the US this is as much as 2% of total energy consumption. AWS clouds are the best bet to address this issue and meet the growing demand for sustainable solutions. AWS data centres have a lower carbon footprint compared to average on-premises data centres due to their higher utilization rate and energy-efficient servers powered by renewable resources.

According to 451 Research, AWS can reduce its carbon footprint by up to 96% by 2025 using renewable energy. Their studies also show that AWS infrastructure is more energy-efficient than average enterprise data centres in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific. In fact, AWS Cloud is 262.6 times more energy-efficient than the average US enterprise data centre and its carbon footprint is around 88% lower when factoring in the carbon intensity of consumed electricity and renewable energy purchases. Moving workloads to AWS could also help European companies reduce their energy use by almost 80%.

AWS offers a three step solution, to support the sustainability goals for tech enterprises – migration, optimisation, and transformation. In the first step, workloads of any kind, application, website, data centre, storage, or physical or virtual servers, are identified and moved to the cloud with ease, which results in reduced carbon footprint when compared to managing on-premises data centres. It then further optimizes the workloads in the cloud through sustainable and energy-conserving frameworks. Lastly, in the transformation step, the aim is at achieving sustainability goals by developing collaborative applications to monitor ecological footprints.

AWS’s promise to deliver faster time-to-market and flexible resources also allows for easy tracking of workloads on demand while reducing the environmental impact of all the IT operations. All along the process, the entire focus is on maximizing energy efficiency and reducing power costs, making AWS a compelling option for businesses. 

Creating a greener tomorrow

With its range of tools and services designed to help enterprises on their sustainability journey, AWS is the perfect partner for a greener future. So, how can enterprises get started on a sustainability journey with AWS to reduce carbon footprint and drive sustainable transformations? Here’s are some ways to do just that: 

  • AWS Well-Architected for Sustainability

The AWS Well-Architected Framework provides best practices for cost-effective, reliable, secure and efficient cloud systems. Its six pillars - operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, cost optimization and sustainability, can enhance an enterprise’s sustainability efforts and optimize their AWS workload.

AWS also offers several other strategies to reduce carbon emissions, such as using their custom-designed silicon chips, optimized for running machine learning workloads and other specific tasks in the cloud and distributing workloads across different availability zones within a region. It also offers various tiers of S3 storage to help reduce energy consumption. Pre-set fine tuned data life cycles automatically move data to the most appropriate storage class, saving time and effort while reducing energy usage.

  • Optimizing Data Storage for Sustainability: AWS S3

Optimizing data storage with AWS, for sustainabliity can help immensely without compromising data accessibility or performance. AWS S3, one of the oldest and most trusted cloud storage services, provides the enterprises a range of storage classes designed for specific access patterns. For example, S3 Infrequent Access (IA) can reduce environmental impact and lower costs without sacrificing data durability for workloads that don’t require constant access. AWS Glacier provides cost-effective and sustainable data archiving solutions with three different storage classes. Enterprises can reduce their costs and carbon footprint by simply moving to the right storage class in AWS S3 while ensuring to maintain data accessibility via the same APIs and with infrastructure changes made automatically without needing any programmatic changes. 

  • Fine-Tuning Lifecycle Policies for Sustainability

Efficient cloud data management requires mastering the art of fine-tuning lifecycle policies for data storage and retention. Bucket-level policy configurations allow control of the access to objects within a specific bucket and lifecycle policies enable easy transitioning of data between storage classes such as S3 Standard, S3 Glacier Instant Retrieval, and S3 Glacier Deep Archive. Scheduling these transitions at specific time intervals optimizes cost hence enhances sustainability. This configurability significantly lowers cost, making it crucial for cost optimization and environmental sustainability.

Enterprises also need to rethink their traditional three-tier architecture and consider modern alternatives to enhance business agility and reduce carbon emissions. AWS offers a plethora of sustainable options such as CloudFront for hosting applications, AWS Lambda for executing code without server management, and even low-cost messaging services like Event Hub. It also provides managed databases like RDS, Aurora, and DynamoDB for object key storage resulting in better business agility. 

  • Graviton and Inferentia

AWS Inferentia and AWS Graviton, the two different processors designed by Amazon Web Services serve different use cases. AWS Inferentia is a machine learning inference chip that can be integrated seamlessly with other AWS services such as Amazon EC2 instances, and  optimized for running deep learning models with high performance and low latency. It lowers the overall cost of running inference workloads, making it an attractive option for both cloud-based and on-premises environments.

AWS Graviton, on the other hand, is a revolutionary general-purpose processor based on ARM architecture that provides a cost-effective and energy-efficient option for running applications on AWS. When combined with Lambda, for the same workload, Graviton results in a remarkable improvement in application performance and energy efficiency by up to 60%. AWS also offers specialized instances for machine learning workloads that can further reduce power consumption by up to 54%, enhancing workload performance.

  •  Using Kepler to Analyze Carbon Impact of Workloads

Measuring progress towards sustainability goals becomes crucial when it comes to creating the real impact. Kepler, a visualization tool from an open-source platform, offers a managed service on AWS and helps achieve this. When run with Kubernetes, Kepler can monitor workloads by their electrical output in real-time, enabling engaged teams to analyse the carbon impact of their workloads. Another tool, Kube-Green, provides a straightforward configuration for Kubernetes users to reduce their carbon footprint by scheduling cluster downtime during non-working hours. This ensures energy savings and lower carbon emissions by spinning down non-production clusters.

  • Reducing Carbon Footprint with CloudFront and Lambda Edge

Cloud computing services like CloudFront and Lambda Edge can help reduce an enterprise's carbon footprint while also improving the customer experience. CloudFront, a content delivery network, can bring the presentation layer closer to the user, resulting in much faster page loading times for an improved user experience reducing network traversal. Lambda Edge, another cloud service, processes tasks at the network’s edge, saving time and energy while reducing data centre carbon intensity. These services offer significant benefits for reducing the carbon footprint.

Going Green with AWS: Now is the Time!

The key to sustainability is to constantly track and monitor the carbon footprint. AWS Cloud offers a broad and deep set of capabilities to help enterprises reach their sustainability goals. With this ability to track changes over time and turn metrics into actionable KPIs, AWS stands a clear leader enabling enterprises to drive down their carbon footprints efficiently. As an AWS partner, Xerris can help enterprises leverage the power and advanced capabilities of AWS Cloud to drive sustainable transformation.

This blog is based on a recent webinar, 'Greening the Cloud,' by Accolite Digital.

If you missed the webinar or would like to revisit any of the topics discussed, you can watch the recording here.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how we can help your organization thrive sustainably with AWS Cloud, please reach out to us here.