One of the downsides of the technology explosion, the hyper-connected Internet of Everything and the rising prominence of data centers is that IT is becoming a more visible consumer of energy. As IT enters the upper echelon of power users, it will likely be subject to carbon emissions restrictions, renewable energy initiatives and other environmental policies, according to the Data Center Journal. Increased regulatory attention could translate into higher operations costs unless businesses explore alternatives beyond optimizing legacy equipment for power usage efficiency.

Enterprise IaaS clouds can offer the means for businesses to immediately scale back on resource spending, which can significantly defray any looming operations price hikes trickling down from environmental initiatives. A recent report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is a government lab under the U.S. Department of Energy umbrella, and Northwestern University stated that businesses could slash their power usage substantially by migrating infrastructure to enterprise clouds. Their research found that if every U.S. company migrated its core software applications from on-premises equipment to the cloud, the energy used to run the software would decrease by up to 87 percent.

The cloud environment is designed to use energy efficiently, according to the report. Data virtualization and scalable server strategies ensure that only that equipment which is actively needed will be in use, instead of powering several servers that may not all be functioning at maximum capacity. Additionally, enterprise cloud data centers generally require less energy for cooling and power management systems, and usually have top power utilization effectiveness values.

Keeping it simple with IaaS clouds
When many organizations evaluate migrating key critical business applications to the cloud, they may not take into account that three of the biggest energy suckers are right in front of them – it's apps that are used every day, like email, productivity and CRM software, that pose a significant challenge to keeping energy costs down. The report focused on the energy savings that could occur through putting these three core software applications in an IaaS cloud. The combined energy footprint of these applications, which companies generally leave running at all times in order to maintain continuity, is 373 petajoules of energy in an on-premises system, while it would only require 47 PJ to power the trio in the cloud. The resulting reduction, 326 PJ of energy, would produce 23 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, or an amount sufficient to power Los Angeles for a whole year.

The report found that email software consumed the most energy of the three, because email servers are often decentralized and fragmented. Productivity software was the next largest consumer, comprising word processing, file sharing, presentation apps and data analysis tools, and is also often scattered. By consolidating these applications in the cloud, with a dedicated data server (and necessary redundant ones to preserve information), businesses can use data center energy much more effectively.

"We can't fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to assessing sustainability," said the report's lead author, Eric Masanet, according to "We need numbers – hard data – to properly analyze how cloud computing compares to how computing is done now."