With the material world being geared increasingly towards understanding climate change and carbon footprints, we often forget that the digital world contributes to fossil fuel emissions as well. Looking at the trends of today, we can predict that digital consumption will only increase over time, therefore adding to the carbon footprint of these companies. How are different cloud providers dealing with this issue? Let’s look at Microsoft.
Microsoft, one of the Big Three cloud providers, has brought 2 plans to the climate change table: one to reduce the company’s carbon footprint to allow for a “greener” cloud, and the other to implement underwater data centers powered by renewable energy. Seems like a lot to process? Let’s break it down.
Microsoft’s new “Green Plan” outlines how their data centres will run on 60% renewable energy by 2020. At the end of 2018, 50% of the company’s energy was renewable and carbon neutral. Wanting to cut their carbon emissions by 75% by the end of 2030, the company has implemented an internal “carbon tax” for business divisions. Taking tangible steps to reduce the effect of the buildings and resources used in the past, they are also redesigning their campuses into carbon neutral havens. Although Apple, Google, Amazon and the likes are all rapidly moving in the same direction, a great victory for companies of such large proportions, Microsoft will be the first company to reach a campus of zero-carbon and zero-waste goals.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
It doesn’t mean being satisfied with what they have done so far. Being at the forefront of technological innovation, one of the most remarkable stories of the digital age proves to be Microsoft’s “underwater data centers”.
In the testing stages now, these centers are quick to deploy, and could provide internet connectivity for many years to come. Imagine a 40 foot long data pod, sleekly dropped into the depths of the ocean off the Coast of Scotland. Seems like something out of your sci-fi novel dreams? We agree. Not only is the concept of this data center a force to be reckoned with, but the implementation of this idea could also allow for ways of delivering AI applications and gaming content to end users. Operating without maintenance for 5 years, the pod’s cooling system uses ocean water, sustainably managing itself.
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, says “Since 50 percent of the world’s population lives close to water bodies, we think this is the way we want to think about future data center regions and expansion”. Data centers are now the backbone of the world. Rather than keeping them in tightly stored boxes lining facilities, Microsoft wants to integrate them into the natural world, and use this sustainable energy to help them get there. Using submarine technology and applying this research, Microsoft is tangibly changing the way that we look at storing data. The whole process of creating one of these underwater data centers took a total of 90 days as compared to the usual 2 years of production time. This would allow the company to react to demand without facing shortages. The Azure Cloud platform is becoming the computer of the world, and the world is Microsoft’s literal oyster.