The cloud is always greener when you explore all the sides

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By Terry Maiolo, VP and GM, APAC, OVHcloud

Cloud computing as part of the path to sustainability 

The global push for organisations to improve and report on sustainability is picking up pace, with the Sustainability Reporting Standards by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) set for finalisation as early as this year. In Australia, climate change is now among the top three issues facing executives, with over two-thirds (68%) of executives increasing their investment in sustainability over the last yeari. 

As businesses step up their sustainability strategies, reducing emissions and waste from their own technology operations will become key to supporting their sustainability goals.  

Cloud computing spending by enterprises in Australia is forecasted to reach US$14.1 billion in 2025, representing a growth of 12.5%ii. Cloud computing technology relies on data centres powered by electricity, and for sustainability-minded businesses, this is an area of opportunity to adopt a sustainable cloud position and opt for greener cloud computing providers. 

 Reducing IT component waste, optimising data centre energy consumption and innovating have strong potential to come together in bridging sustainability and cloud efficiency, and cloud providers have a responsibility to help achieve this. We must rethink how we design and innovate in technology to minimise environmental impact, drive performance, and support our ecosystem.  

More than cooling a server 

Cloud providers have long invested in new transformational technologies to support cloud computing in a sustainable way. From proprietary water-cooling to the latest hybrid immersion liquid cooling technology, cloud providers constantly innovate to find energy-efficient ways to cool servers and reduce environment impact.  

Take immersion cooling, for instance, which is the practice of submerging electronic devices in a thermally and not electrically conductive liquid. A cloud provider can eliminate the need to employ pumps, heat sink structures, heat exchanges and the large surface areas that limit the number of servers that can be implemented. Instead, the cooling effect from the fluid could penetrate more thoroughly, enabling cloud providers to maintain the full infrastructure needed for cloud servers, while reducing energy consumption. 

Hybrid immersion liquid cooling is another unique technology that has emerged for sustainability-minded cloud providers in recent times, building on the best of both water cooling and immersion cooling. In this model, servers can be submerged in a dielectric fluid in its own independent tank, with high-heating components continuing to benefit from direct to chip water cooling.  

The hybrid immersion cooling approach, as one of the latest solutions in the market, allows for a variety of benefits – it can be designed to allow for more compute power, while preserving footprint and adapting to harsh climates. Most notably, a well-designed hybrid immersion liquid cooling technology solution can eliminate pumps and fans for zero rack cooling power consumption, and a silent data centre. 

Sustaining each link of the supply chain 

Applying circular economy principles to supply chains can also open opportunities to provide more energy-efficient solutions. Many businesses already do this with their own supply chains, and they can benefit from engaging cloud providers who work and design with the same mindset.  

Key factors when considering a cloud provider are the provider’s control and oversight of their own production chain, and how they regard each step of their supply chain, down to their purchasing philosophy. 

Cloud providers should by principle have strong, if not full control of their supply chain. This control allows providers to choose and control all equipment while considering sustainability and economies of scale. It means providers can select components specifically for easy reuse, recyclability, and repair, rather than work with standard components that may not necessarily be environmentally friendly.  

 Responsible cloud providers should be able to clearly outline how they have factored sustainability into each link of their supply chain, which in turn helps businesses better understand and clarify the sustainability of their own technology operations. For instance, when a data centre needs more servers, the snap reaction may be to produce more servers to accommodate. However, the environmentally responsible action is to consider whether existing servers can be reallocated among data centres, rather than create new ones. 

 Another example is the extent to which a cloud provider considers the reusability of their infrastructures, servers, and components. Often, an easy option is to scrap these materials when they are no longer needed but cloud providers can look towards expanding the lifespan of these parts and considering how extra components can be offered second lives in other functions or businesses, and whether servers can be moved or repurposed, rather than disposed of.  

Purchasing also has an important role to play within a sustainable supply chain, and a cloud provider’s purchasing philosophy is another significant reflection of their sustainability position. While purchasers’ primary focus is to enable a cloud provider to operate under the best conditions, they should be thinking more broadly about how their purchasing can impact the local economic network, general society, and the environment. 

 Sometimes, it is not always about negotiating the best deal but about the relationship that a cloud provider holds with their suppliers, and how they are working towards ethical, social and environmental goals together in conducting their business.  

A clear outlook ahead 

 The road to sustainability is not straightforward, but it is becoming one that businesses must embark on, with 78% of executives noting that a fast-changing Australian regulatory environment had motivated climate action last year aloneiii 

 The good news is that many Australian businesses are leading the corporate movement on sustainability. Ninety-seven percent of Australia’s top companies already provide sustainability reporting and are generally outperforming global peersiv. This sets a strong base for them to re-examine key areas of their business operations and optimise these from a sustainability standpoint.  

While factors such as efficiency, cost, and performance are always part of the equation in choosing a cloud provider, sustainability has been less a consideration. However, there is no more reason to neglect sustainability when choosing a cloud provider, especially as sustainability rises on both the corporate and regulatory agendas. It is not easy to confirm a cloud provider’s position on sustainability, but a careful look at factors such as their resource efficiency indicators, control over their production chain, how they manage their supply chain, and their purchasing philosophy can provide valuable insight.  

 As businesses continue to boost their sustainability strategies, they will benefit from working with like-minded suppliers, who can together with them forge a clear, bright path towards a more ethical, socially responsible and greener future. The first step to this? Start looking all sides of the business’ operations, and technology providers, with an eye for sustainability. 



About OVHcloud

OVHcloud is a global player and the leading European cloud provider operating over 450,000 servers within 37 data centres across 4 continents to reach 1,6 million customers in over 140 countries. Spearheading a trusted cloud and pioneering a sustainable cloud with the best price-performance ratio, the Group has been leveraging for over 20 years an integrated model that guarantees total control of its value chain: from the design of its servers to the construction and management of its data centres, including the orchestration of its fiber-optic network. This unique approach enables OVHcloud to independently cover all the uses of its customers so they can seize the benefits of an environmentally conscious model with a frugal use of resources and a carbon footprint reaching the best ratios in the industry. OVHcloud now offers customers the latest-generation solutions combining performance, predictable pricing, and complete data sovereignty to support their unfettered growth.



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