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Google Workspace, BigQuery, Google Cloud Strategy, Application Development, Sustainability, Application Modernization, cloud infrastructure

A Sustainable Google Cloud Journey: An Environment-Friendly Approach to Application Development

By Vijeta Pai | April 15, 2021

While people worldwide are celebrating Earth Week, it has become essential to take a step back and look at where we are with our responsibility towards the environment and how we can celebrate our planet while making technology more reliable and accessible to everyone. 

Google has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to climate action and environmental sensitivity, and this fidelity is evident in the company's sustainability goal to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. However, what does this commitment mean for us, as Google Cloud users? Where does our responsibility lie in this sustainability mission? 


Google Cloud's Sustainability Commitment 


In 2018, Google achieved 12 consecutive years of carbon neutrality and, for the second year in a row, matched 100% of the electricity consumption of our global operations with renewable energy. Then, it announced the goal to power operations with carbon-free energy, 24x7, 365 days a year. 

Currently, Google Cloud data centers use a blend of renewable and nonrenewable energy. Carbon emissions, for example, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere, are part and parcel of performing any kind of activity at the data center. 

However, Google Cloud is helping customers like us understand this information in a consumable format, so we can check the environmental footprint of the data centers in which we host their applications. What does this information mean for us, and how can we help make our applications friendlier to Earth while working on an optimum performance? 


Green Data Centers 


Google data centers are twice as energy-efficient as typical data centers, and they're sharing performance data with their users to help businesses get greener. Using the Google data centers efficiency tool, teams can measure and improve energy use, assess the performance report by year and quarter.

Apart from this, Google Cloud uses a healthier, greener supply chain to encourage recycling, reuse, and make more thoughtful use of our planet's resources. 

However, since sustainability is a joint effort by the cloud provider and user, it is essential to understand what resources we have at our disposal to make choices that work best for our applications and the planet. 

Google Cloud uses the term "green data center" to indicate a sustainable data center: a service facility that utilizes energy-efficient technologies. Knowing the list of green or energy-efficient data centers can help us make the right switch for an environmentally friendly experience. Google Cloud has released carbon-friendly energy scores for Google Cloud regions. This information can help us choose locations that are energy efficient and have lower carbon emissions. 


Making the Right Choice for Your Applications 


The region picker tool can help us assess scores, and we can slide the bars in front of different metrics to shortlist the regions best optimized for our use.


There are icons on the right-hand side of the region name which denote how energy efficient the region is and how expensive it is for our applications. Apart from these icons, there are three more metrics displayed for our consideration. Here's a breakdown of what these terms stand for:


Carbon-Free Energy 

A Google Cloud region's carbon-free energy percentage describes how much energy comes from renewable sources and what part is nonrenewable. In our example, 89% of the power comes from renewable sources, making it an excellent, sustainable option to run our applications. 


Grid Carbon Intensity 

A Google Cloud region's carbon intensity refers to the number of grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) that it takes to make one unit of electricity a kilowatt per hour (kW/hour). Simply put, a region with lower carbon intensity is a more sustainable choice to run our applications. Google has released this information since we may encounter situations where more than one region might receive an equal portion of its energy from renewable resources. This information can help us make a better choice for Earth. In our example, we have a low grid carbon intensity, which makes it a good choice. 

Google Compute Engine Price 

While we run our applications on Google Cloud, we must also factor in the price along with a good sustainability model. Google helps us with this metric to make a good choice that works best for us, our users, and the environment. 


AI for Sustainability 


AI has the potential to optimize the working of various applications, conserve resources by detecting energy emission reductions, remove/reduce CO2, help develop greener supply chain networks, and make the best use of available resources to avoid wastage. To avoid reinventing the wheel, you can refer to our outstanding contributor Leah Zitter's article on the impact of AI on energy efficiency in the Extra Credits section. 

Google's DeepMind has reduced the electricity for cooling Google's data centers by 30% and created learning systems to optimize Android battery performance. For the visual learners, here's an infographic outlining how we can use AI in our goal towards a sustainable environment:


Extra Credit

  1. Google Cloud Sustainability Details

  2. Google Environmental Report

  3. Google Cloud Region Picker Tool

  4. Google Cloud Efficiency and Sustainability Report

  5. Google Cloud AI Adoption Framework

  6. Impact of AI on Energy Efficiency


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