Microsoft, Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy Study Shows Significant Energy and Carbon Emissions Reduction Potential from Cloud Computing

Moving business applications to the cloud can save 30 percent or more in carbon emissions per user.

REDMOND, Wash.; Nov. 4, 2010

Businesses that choose to run business applications in the cloud can help reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by a net 30 percent or more versus running those same applications on their own infrastructure. These findings, from a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Accenture and WSP Environment & Energy, demonstrate cloud computing’s potential to operate business applications more efficiently.

Large data centers, like those run by Microsoft, benefit from economies of scale and operational efficiencies beyond what corporate IT departments can achieve. Benefits become even more significant for a small business moving to the cloud, where the net energy and carbon savings can be more than 90 percent.

The study focused on three widely-deployed and commonly-used Microsoft applications for email, content sharing and customer relationship management. Customers can choose to install each application on their own IT infrastructure or use the corresponding Microsoft cloud application. The study results suggest that choosing the cloud option can enable a significant reduction in carbon emissions. While the findings represent an illustrative case for selected Microsoft applications, it is likely that similar advantages can be observed across many applications and cloud service providers.

The study assessed the carbon footprint of server, networking and storage infrastructure for three different deployment sizes (100, 1,000 and 10,000 users), finding that the smaller the organization, the larger the benefit of switching to the cloud. When small organizations (100 users) move to the cloud instead of using their own local servers, carbon emissions are likely to be 90 percent lower. For large corporations the savings are typically 30 percent or more. In a case study with a large consumer goods company, the team calculated that 32 percent of net carbon emissions could be avoided by moving 50,000 email users in North America and Europe to Microsoft’s cloud.

Lower energy use and carbon emissions enabled by the cloud stem from a number of key factors:

The study determined that, although many organizations may be able to address some of these factors in their own datacenters to decrease energy use and emissions, due to economies of scale, providers of large public cloud infrastructure are best positioned to help reduce the environmental impact of IT through efficiency and scale.

Beyond the commonly cited benefits of cloud computing—such as cost savings and increased agility—cloud computing has the potential to significantly reduce the energy use and carbon footprint associated with running business applications, according to the study. By moving applications to cloud services such as those offered by Microsoft, IT organizations can take advantage of highly efficient cloud infrastructure, thereby effectively “outsourcing” their IT efficiency investments and helping their companies achieve sustainability goals.

A white paper detailing the study and its results can be found here.

About the Study

Using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology aligned to the Global eSustainability Initiative’s (GeSI) approach, the study compared the energy use and carbon emissions per user for Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007 and Dynamics CRM with their cloud-based equivalents: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Dynamics CRM Online. Estimates of energy use and carbon footprint for the cloud applications are based on actual data from Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure. For applications running on Microsoft customers’ infrastructure, results can vary depending on each company’s selection of equipment, operational efficiency, and their usage patterns.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 204,000 employees serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Accenture assists clients in developing and implementing sustainability strategies and solutions that not only protect the environment and enhance social wellbeing, but also serve as an engine for economic growth and high performance. The company generated net revenues of US$ 21.6 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2010. Its home page is

About WSP Environment & Energy

WSP Environment & Energy (E&E) is a global consultancy providing advice on all aspects of environmental, energy, sustainability, climate change, and business risk issues. WSP E&E is part of WSP Group, which provides management and consultancy services to the built and natural environment. Its home page is


Ed Trapasso


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Quote Addendum:


“The benefits of cloud computing are clear: increased productivity, reduced costs, and lower management overhead of products have become key considerations for organizations evaluating Microsoft’s cloud services. Now add environmental benefits as Microsoft’s cloud can help reduce energy use and carbon emissions by at least 30% per user. The cloud has the ability to deliver business value for customers in an age where corporate responsibility is critical to business success.”

 Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft.


“The study’s findings confirm what many organizations – large and small – have already discovered: Cloud computing is more economical and IT resources are used more efficiently when business applications run in a shared environment. That’s because, among other benefits, cloud computing delivers multiple efficiencies and economies of scale, which contribute to the reduction of energy consumption per unit of work, thereby helping to significantly reduce carbon emissions.”

 James Harris, Accenture’s Managing Director of Cloud Services.

WSP Environment & Energy:

“This represents one of the industry’s first quantitative studies of the environmental impact of cloud computing. While the benefits are clear for organizations, at a broader industry level, the systemic impact that cloud computing may have on driving down ICT carbon emissions is significant. It reinforces the opportunity of ICT in our transition to a low carbon economy, and highlights that it can be done in a way that can also enhance business productivity and the services you and I experience.”

- Andrew Armstrong, Vice President, WSP Environment & Energy