Cloud

The Environmental Implications of Public Cloud

Network equipment giant, Cisco Systems, is looking at shutting down almost a third of its private data centers and migrating applications to the public cloud in order to reduce its environmental footprint.

The pledge came from CIO, Jacqueline Guichelaar, who joined the company in February and marks one of the less often talked about benefits of the public cloud.

“As technologists, we have a huge responsibility to make sure we’re always thinking about how to optimize power consumption,” Guichelaar told the Wall Street Journal in an interview, expanding on her vision to reduce the company’s environmental impact.

Private clouds or enterprise data centers tend to house a mishmash of legacy and new equipment that has evolved with the company. This brings with it several challenges, including a legacy IT environment to maintain and an increasingly inefficient hardware portfolio.

Cost and Environmental Impact Go Hand-in-Hand

The electricity used by a single data center can power as many as 25,000 households, said Guichelaar, citing research from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. But a major benefit of public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud is that their data centers house racks upon racks of commodity hardware. Cloud customers can also scale and flex their cloud consumption in line with their demands meaning they don’t have to overprovision on hardware and pay in excess for power and cooling. Many of the newer public cloud data centers are also cutting edge facilities with optimized energy consumption models.

That’s not to say there are some economic benefits to Guichelaar’s plan. “Environmental issues and cost issues sometimes go hand in hand,” she said. Shutting down propriety and inefficient operations can certainly be economically beneficial.

Cisco to Cut 30% of Data Centers Within Five Years

Cisco already uses a number of undisclosed public clouds for some of its internal applications, but the plan outlined by Guichelaar is on a much grander scale and will take some time to execute. It’s understood that Cisco has 22 data centers worldwide and plans to reduce that number by 30% within the next five years.

The company itself is in the midst of a transformation to become more software-centric. For decades Cisco has been a leading provider of specialist network hardware but as the focus for equipment and control moves toward virtualization and software-controlled the company is seeking to reinvent itself in the software space.

Migrating to the public cloud? Read our essential enterprise guide to hybrid cloud strategy today.

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