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- The company presents the public preview of the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, a specialized cloud to accelerate organizations’ Sustainability journey
- Last year, Microsoft signed renewable energy purchase agreements in 10 countries, becoming the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in 2021
- Microsoft has launched a plan to reduce water usage in its evaporative-cooled data centers by 95% by 2024
Since 2010, the number of Internet users worldwide has doubled, and by 2022, global traffic is expected to increase by 4.2 zettabytes per year, while mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) connections multiply. These trends reflect an exponential digitization that is supported by the cloud and that translates into a growing demand for data centers. As a result, the cloud industry faces a major challenge: continuing to scale computing power – essential for a digital economy model – and reducing carbon emissions to preserve the planet.
To advance the “Net Zero” objective (zero net emissions), Microsoft is investing significantly in R&D in its cloud infrastructures and sharing its experience in this area, as well as helping organizations to register, inform and reduce with more their carbon emissions effectively. To that end, it launches the preview of the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, a specialized cloud that offers organizations the ability to access a complete, integrated and automated set of knowledge to accelerate every step of their path to Sustainability.
And Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability leverages the breadth of the entire Microsoft cloud: it’s a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution suite that connects to data sources, accelerates data integration and reporting, provides accurate carbon accounting, measures performance against goals, and enables smart insights so organizations can take more effective action on Sustainability.
“Data centers must be part of the solution to widespread decarbonisation, but the climate challenges we face will not be solved by just one company or industry. Our mission is to find ways to improve our data center operations, share these learnings with the entire cloud industry and empowering our customers and partners with tools to measure their progress in sustainability,” said Noelle Walsh, Corporate Vice President of Cloud Operations and Innovation at Microsoft.
The Future of the Data Center
With the growing demand for the cloud in the public and private sectors, it is critical to dedicate resources to finding creative and innovative solutions in order to achieve the ambitious goals of Sustainability.
Today, migrating to Azure offers a more sustainable solution – up to 98% more carbon efficient and up to 93% more energy efficient – than traditional data centers. However, Microsoft’s commitment goes further: to be carbon negative by 2030 and, by 2050, to remove from the environment all the carbon it has emitted, directly or through electricity consumption, since its foundation in 1975 .
To that end, Microsoft has launched a series of initiatives that can also help the industry shape the future of data centers. Some of the most significant:
- Reduce water usage in data center operations by 95% by 2024 and be positive about water by 2030: the company is working to achieve maximum consumption optimization by adapting to the climate in all parts of the world . This project has the potential to eliminate the use of water for cooling data centers in cities like Amsterdam, Dublin, Virginia or Chicago, while reducing its use in desert areas by up to 60%.
- Continued research into immersion cooling as an alternative to water: Microsoft was the first cloud provider to use liquid immersion cooling. Furthermore, its application in overclocking scenarios is being studied, which demonstrates that this type of liquid cooling can be used not only for Sustainability purposes, but also to achieve greater chip performance in Artificial Intelligence technology and machine learning and creating more densely compressed servers in smaller spaces. In addition, the use of this cooling technique can increase the life of chips by 20%, contributing to a better use of hardware and greater sustainability.
- Designing data centers that support local ecosystems: Microsoft has been evaluating the performance of ecosystems in 12 data center regions in terms of quantity and quality of water, air, carbon, climate or biodiversity. The aim is to renovate and revitalize the surrounding area to provide regenerative value to the local community and the environment. The results of this research are already helping to shape one of his first projects in the north of the Netherlands.
- Reducing the carbon footprint of data center design and construction: The carbon associated with construction materials and processes represents at least 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions over the entire lifecycle of a building or infrastructure, from according to the latest data from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Microsoft plans to build between 50 and 100 new data centers annually and, thanks to the EC3 (Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator) calculator developed by Building Transparency, estimates it can reduce the carbon incorporated in the concrete and steel used by between 30 and 60 percent .
Successes in the commitment to Sustainability
“Our current progress is possible thanks to the investments we have made in the development of advanced data centers and the co-development, in collaboration with our partners, of cloud-based solutions and tools that we can use in our direct operations and which are also available for the market in general,” adds Noelle Walsh.
Some of the most recent milestones Microsoft has achieved:
- Renewable energy and grid decarbonisation: in July, the company expanded its goal of achieving 100% renewable energy supply by 2025, committing to maintain 100% electricity consumption 100% of the time by purchasing free energy. carbon. Over the past 12 months, Microsoft has signed new renewable energy purchase agreements for approximately 5.8 gigawatts in 10 countries around the world, with more than 35 individual agreements. According to BloombergNEF, Microsoft is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy as of 2021.
- Creation of Microsoft Circular Centers to extend the lifecycle of servers and reuse them, reducing waste: in 2020, Microsoft’s top suppliers reduced their carbon footprint to the equivalent of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide, and during next year, they will extend this model to all of their cloud computing assets to achieve 90% reuse of electronic equipment.
- LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification: the company plans to obtain this certification for all of its data centers, thus ensuring energy efficiency and resources in all of its buildings. So far, the Arizona data center, which opened in June, already has this certification.
Working together with the cloud supply chain to reduce indirect emissions (Scope 3): Microsoft’s leading suppliers have already reduced their collective footprint by 23.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and saved a total of $1.47 billion, according to the latest Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) reporting cycle.