Ready or Not, Sustainability is Influencing Cloud IT Purchase Decisions

March 8, 2023By Andrew Smith

Environmental responsibility and sustainability initiatives are critical elements of modern enterprise, social, and governance (ESG) programs. As enterprise sustainability and ESG policies continue to mature, so has scrutiny on cloud services providers regarding the greenhouse gas emissions produced by their datacenter infrastructure and the resulting impact on climate change.  

As a cloud storage services provider, Wasabi has an important role in this equation. We’re committed to helping our clients and partners quantify the environmental impact of their Wasabi storage environment. To accomplish this, we’re launching Wasabi’s Carbon Footprint Calculator. This novel, first-of-its-kind, web-based tool allows you to input your current/estimated Wasabi cloud storage footprint by volume, designate a storage region, and immediately receive an estimate for the annual carbon footprint, expressed in CO2e. Like everything else Wasabi does, this tool is designed to be simple and powerful, with the added benefit of providing our users and partners with an accurate metric that fits into their ESG programs.  

Why Sustainability Matters to Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers 

Efficient, sustainable datacenter operations are essential to the health of any cloud infrastructure services provider. Fluctuating energy costs can have a significant impact on operations, and it is imperative that providers track utilization rates and energy consumption at an extremely granular level. The need for this level of reporting and efficient use of energy was highlighted recently by Microsoft CFO Amy Wood, who shared publicly that the firm will pay more than $800 million in extra energy costs to operate its data centers due to cost increases. The focus of this piece is not to criticize Microsoft’s operations, but to highlight this example and the significant monetary impact that fluctuating datacenter energy costs can create – and ultimately, why efficient energy use and sustainability should be imperative to every cloud infrastructure buyer. 

Perhaps more importantly, it isn’t just financial impacts on cloud services providers driving sustainability and ESG initiatives. The fact is that sustainability matters to the market. As part of The Wasabi 2023 Cloud Storage Index, we learned that sustainability is top-of-mind when it comes to cloud storage vendor selection: 

2023 Wasabi Cloud Storage Index organizations most important considerations graph

N = 1,000 Source: Wasabi 2023 Global Cloud Storage Index

The fact that sustainability was ranked higher than the availability of adjacent services, performance and scalability, and price/TCO speaks volumes about the level of influence enterprise ESG policies are having on IT purchases at a global level and how important it is that cloud services providers detail their sustainability initiatives, while also providing quantifiable metrics.  

When we analyzed the results further, the story became even more interesting. C-level respondents ranked sustainability as their #1 choice. New cloud storage adopters (those who said they purchased cloud storage 1-2 years ago) also ranked sustainability #1. Finally, analyzing the data by global region showed us that EMEA respondents ranked sustainability #2. Among APAC respondents, sustainability was tied for #2 alongside the availability of adjacent services. 

It Takes a Village: The “Virtuous Cycle” of Cloud Infrastructure Sustainability 

As significant as sustainability initiatives are to cloud infrastructure providers and the market, we also acknowledge that no one IT provider can control the entire equation. In reality, cloud infrastructure sustainability is a collaborative process that brings together several constituencies, including (but not limited to): 

  • Silicon/storage media manufacturers 

  • Data center providers/hosters 

  • Cloud services providers 

  • Technology and channel partners 

Each of these constituencies has its own sustainability goals and ESG programs, which in most cases, exist independently of one another. Furthermore, there isn’t a single governing body or consortium which manages all of these constituents from a sustainability perspective. Collaboration and partnership are often achieved on an ad hoc basis. We can use Wasabi to illustrate these dynamics further. Wasabi hosts its storage systems in colocation data centers, partnering with datacenter providers that operate with high energy efficiency standards and leverage renewable energy, which in turn helps reduce Wasabi’s footprint. Furthermore, Wasabi storage regions are engineered to be incredibly efficient, from the software level down to the individual hardware components (drives, routers, switches, etc.). Specifically, Wasabi uses the maximum possible density in specialized equipment racks to drive down energy consumption, minimize CO2e footprint, and improve the storage capacity to rack footprint ratio. As of 2022, Wasabi uses 18 TB HDDs and will soon begin to utilize 22 TB HDDs in all Wasabi storage regions. Implementation of high-volume drives is critical when it comes to carbon footprint, as each increase in drive capacity represents a significant drop in CO2e per Terabyte of storage, the result of drives operating more efficiently from a watts per TB perspective. Taking the example one level deeper, our storage media partners also have sustainability initiatives that dictate how their drives are manufactured, how they procure and source rare earth minerals, and how they manage waste and recycling. 

See Wasabi’s Sustainability 1 Pager for more details. 

Measurable, Reliable Metrics are an Essential First Step in the Quest for IT Infrastructure Sustainability  

IT sustainability is complex, and from a services provider perspective, multiple levels of complexity factor into the overall carbon footprint, which involves a range of stakeholders. So how do enterprises take the first step in managing this complexity and understand emissions associated with cloud infrastructure usage? 

From a services provider perspective, we assert that establishing reliable measurement of carbon footprint is a logical and responsible first step. By providing a quantifiable measurement, organizations can strategize ways to better manage, reduce, or offset this rate over time and how it should factor into enterprise initiatives. Ensuring and managing IT sustainability will be a long-term, iterative process. Wasabi is committed to helping organizations improve this process, and we hope our Carbon Footprint Calculator will become a valuable tool to support your enterprises’ sustainability and ESG program.