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The race to net zero: sustainable IT should be part of your winning formula

14 Dec 2021

IT modernization can also positively contribute to sustainability goals

From user devices to data centers and networks, information technologies powering modern businesses have significantly high carbon footprint. Further, energy consumption by these technologies is expected to increase three-fold from 2010 to 2025 with a corresponding carbon (equivalent) footprint comparable to that of half-a-billion cars! With a clear global imperative to halt climate change across all areas of business and society, IT leaders must both reduce their carbon footprint and become enablers of positive climate action initiatives across their organizations.

Sustainability IT via IT Modernization and Cloud transformation

IT must accept its responsibility and make its contribution to a net-zero world. Sustainable IT focuses on an environmentally focused approach to the emerging use of compute power spanning the entire IT supply chain. This includes building management and using application landscapes to run business applications. A recent Capgemini research reveals that even though high ESG (environment, social, governance) maturity companies fare well in their business performance, only 6% of the surveyed companies had high ESG maturity when it comes to sustainable IT.

Specifically, on the IT front, while half of the surveyed companies have some sustainable IT strategy, less than 20% have a comprehensive strategy. Around half of the survey population have difficulties assessing their IT carbon footprint, and over half the companies are unable to create green-IT due to lack expertise, standards, and tools. In the meantime, various studies indicate that cloud-based application workloads could have significant carbon benefit at scale. All leading hyperscalers (i.e., cloud platform vendors like Amazon/AWS, Microsoft/Azure, Google/GCP, etc.) are constantly working on highly power-efficient data centers and on the most efficient allocation of resources to improve their energy consumption – with suitable cloud transformation, enterprise can well leverage.

IT Sustainability does not stop at data centers – the importance of additional levers

Evolving into zero-emission IT application landscapes is a daunting task, requiring specific knowledge, executive commitment, and some investment. Leveraging economies of scale, hyperscalers are constantly improving their hardware components and workload deployment patterns, ensuring that they can efficiently manage power capacity, optimize cooling, leverage more power-efficient servers, and increase server utilization rates. Moving IT resources to cloud only in a ‘rehost/lift-and-shift’ approach does not reduce emissions significantly as there are numerous other variables affecting the total emission caused by IT systems – the major benefit comes from balancing and optimizing the relationship between power and efficiency comprehensively.

While moving entire application workloads to cloud may have some immediate benefits in terms of efficiency, there are additional levers that need to be considered in order to take a holistic strategy to leverage cloud transformation to support IT sustainability. Below we recommend a six-step approach:

  1. Analyze and assess your IT application landscape by using proven and multi-dimensional cloud assessment and transformation planning tools, e.g., eAPM tooling (economic Application Portfolio Management,
  2. Build a sustainable IT platform:
  • Consider smart cloud transformation as one of the key enablers of carbon footprint reduction mechanism
  • You will achieve significant efficiency gains by moving workloads to a cloud that consumes less energy. When setting up the IT platforms you should use newer architectures, e.g., microservices or containers, for the dynamic allocation of resources.
  • Keep in mind the importance of the PUE value. The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) measures the energy efficiency of a data center.
  • Also consider where the data center is located and what energy sources are used for power. This has a direct impact on carbon emissions.
  1. Sustainable application deployment

Transform or develop your applications natively for the cloud to enable faster development and update cycles. Furthermore, consider the following points, for example:

  • Automatically scaling application containers when work-load increases.
  • Selection of efficient deployment frameworks such as Quarkus
  • Introduction of serverless, event-driven architecture, wherever applicable
  • Monitoring resource utilization with tools such as Cloud Watch
  1. Better energy management with adoption of cloud-based DevOps for application development
    Continuously optimize your software development cycles using DevOps processes reducing end-to-end work effort with the goal of more efficient energy use.
  2. CO2 calculation and visualization of the carbon footprint.
    Use of on-premise or cloud-based calculators to determine the carbon footprint for any given IT landscape. This allows comparisons to be made before and after modernization of an application landscape or to identify weak points regarding CO2
  3. Promotion of a sustainability culture
    Development of your teams and the corporate culture to achieve and accelerate sustainability goals.

Besides economic and business agility benefits, IT modernization can also positively contribute to sustainability goals. As an example, in one of our IT modernization projects at Mercedes Benz around 50% reduction was achieved for both energy consumption and carbon emission.

In the context of application modernization in cloud, there are various migration/modernization styles or patterns that can be considered. Commonly known as the “6Rs” – five of these “Rs” are, in increasing order of the amount of application modification required, “rehost” (no change, cut-and-paste/lift-and-shift from on-premise to cloud), “redeploy” (changes in supporting infrastructure or run-environments without any application code change), “replatform” (small changes to application in order to leverage cloud environments better), refactor (re-architecting select parts of the application to further leverage cloud), “replace” (cloud-native development to provide similar or better functionalities of the legacy application), and “retire” (as part of IT landscape rationalization and often done during major move-to-cloud initiatives).

Generally speaking, the more effort (and investment) we put in cloud-based migration/modernization the more business benefits we can expect, especially in terms of sustainability and run cost reduction.. As the next graphic shows an increasing rate of carbon footprint reduction occurs when we adopt migration/modernization patterns that leverage increasing amount of cloud functionalities

Capgemini has gathered sizeable experience in helping our customer adopt cloud in smart ways and simultaneously help contribute to sustainability – check us out at to learn more / contact us for more details

Co- Author

Manas Deb
VP, Business Leader (GTM & Sales), Cloud Computing at Capgemini

Co- Author

Marius Vöhringer
Cloud Transformation & IT Modernization is a perfect match for Sustainable IT