5 Ways to Optimize Cloud Migration Energy Savings

Migration to the cloud provides a unique opportunity for energy savings. We share how to realize these savings for your organization.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

January 12, 2023

4 Min Read
Data storage archive concept with rendering folder connect on circuit board.
Kittipong Jirasukhanont / Alamy Stock Photo

Migrating to the cloud has the potential to reduce the energy consumption of your workloads dramatically. In fact, cloud migration can lower energy consumption by 65% and carbon emission by 84%, according to Accenture.

But whether you actually achieve energy savings rates like those depends on how you execute your cloud migration strategy. Simply moving workloads into the cloud doesn't automatically guarantee dramatically lower total energy expenditure or a smaller carbon footprint.

With the right approach, your cloud migration strategy can advance energy savings goals. Keep reading for tips and best practices on optimizing energy reduction during and after the migration of workloads into the cloud.

How the cloud saves energy

Before looking at specific practices, let's discuss the main ways in which the cloud saves energy, relative to on-premises hosting strategies.

The main reason is economies of scale. In the cloud, most workloads run on shared servers within data centers that are something like 200,000 square feet each in size. When you operate on that scale, it becomes easier to use energy more efficiently than you could in a private data center or server room.

The ability of cloud providers to source cleaner energy, like wind and solar, than most businesses could source for private data centers is also an advantage. It may not reduce total energy consumption, but it leads to cleaner energy and lower carbon emissions.

Optimizing energy savings during cloud migration

But again, although migrating workloads to the cloud will generally result in lower energy consumption rates, the extent of your savings depends on exactly how you migrate your workloads and how you configure them to operate post-migration. To optimize energy consumption, consider strategies like the following.

Think beyond cloud VMs

Lifting-and-shifting workloads from on-premises servers into cloud-based virtual machines is the simplest way to migrate to the cloud. But it may not be the most energy-efficient approach.

Other types of cloud services and deployment techniques – like serverless functions and containers – can yield greater energy savings because they make it easier for workloads to consume exactly the right amount of resources necessary. With VMs, you may keep VMs running when your workloads aren't actually handling requests, which leads to wasted energy.

Consolidate and right-size cloud VMs

Of course, it's not always feasible to migrate all of your workloads into serverless functions or containers. Some may have to remain in VMs.

If they do, make sure you consolidate VMs by migrating multiple workloads to a shared VM instance where performance and security requirements allow. You should also right-size your VM instances, which means ensuring that they have the optimal resource allocations for your workloads.

Both of these strategies help to save energy by minimizing wasted VM capacity. As a bonus, they're likely to save you money, too.

Use availability zones wisely

Cloud providers allow customers to configure multiple availability zones for most types of workloads. Doing so increases the reliability of workloads by mirroring them across multiple data centers.

If you require high levels of availability, setting up multiple availability zones when migrating to the cloud makes sense. But from an energy-savings perspective (not to mention a financial one), excess availability zones are problematic because each additional zone essentially doubles the energy consumption of your workloads.

To save energy, consider using an alternative strategy for ensuring workload reliability, such as a "pilot light" approach (under which you'd keep a backup copy of your workloads in a secondary availability zone or cloud region, but would not actually spin them up unless the primary zone fails).

Use low-energy data migration

If you have very large volumes of data to migrate to the cloud, you might be tempted to use physical media that cloud providers offer for this purpose. By copying your data to physical devices and then shipping them to a cloud data center, you may be able to move data more quickly than you could if you transferred it over the network.

Unless you truly need the speed that this approach offers, however, you'll reduce energy consumption during cloud migration by relying on the network instead. Moving data over the network consumes some energy, but not as much as transporting physical data boxes hundreds of miles.

Evaluate your cloud provider

Last but not least, be sure to research your cloud provider's energy efficiency track record before migrating to the cloud. All of the major public clouds have made loud public commitments to energy efficiency and sustainability, but when you dive into the numbers, promises don't always map cleanly onto reality.

So, do your homework and determine the extent to which your prospective cloud provider can actually back up its claims to energy savings before you migrate to the platform.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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