Understand about Carbon Impacts of Kubernetes

3 min readAug 14, 2023

As of today, the important topic in businesses is sustainability. Well, yes but what are we speaking mostly? The longer we keep the lights on or the water running, the more resources we consume. That only means a bigger carbon footprint? The answer is no, It’s the same for running the software with high compute power. The more computing power and digital storage we need, the more electricity we use.

We should acknowledge and accept there is a problem. IT is a large and growing part of global warming problem; by 2030 it’s predicted that 21% of all the energy consumed in the world will be by IT. Energy that is still, for the vast majority, generated from fossil fuels. The internet accounts for 3.7% of global carbon emissions; slightly more than aviation, and we all know we need to fly less… but what will do for IT? Will consider stopping building or using, the technology? Obviously no, as it is part of the growth and requirement.

Considering the facts, we never think about environmental sustainability, when we think about Kubernetes. But finding sustainability within cloud computing offers an effective way to reduce your environmental footprint while also cutting cloud costs.

As the adoption of Kubernetes continuously growing and understanding how this open-source orchestration platform can help reduce the environmental carbon (CO2) impact of our anu digital lives should consider top of mind.

One big reason is newly adopted regulations. The US and European Union have issued Carbon emissions regulations and now have goals to reduce output by 40% and 55% by 2030 respectively. Also, reporting requirements are real, and companies will be penalized, depending on if they go over or stay under their emission quotas. Building efficient infrastructure has even started showing up in areas like the “Well Architected” framework, where practitioners are now required to report on infrastructure efficiency which could someday require more specific requirements.

CO2 in the cloud-first world

The carbon intensity of electricity or grams of carbon emissions per kWh is explained through the amount of CO2 emissions produced per kWh of electricity. However, different forms of energy production have very different carbon intensities, usually measured by finding the grams of carbon per kWh of energy being produced.

Carbon intensity offers a useful way to examine the climate impact of power and how cloud customers are reducing their emissions. Data from the International Energy Agency tells us, the global power source averages 545 grams/kWh. In terms of the cloud, the average AWS power mix carbon intensity is about 393 grams/kWh. When figured this way, it’s easy to see how large-scale cloud providers use a power mix (or combination of various fuels) that is 28% less carbon intensive than the global average.

The study also reveals the fraction of required energy (16%), when combined with the fraction of carbon intensity of power mix (72%), equates to only 12% of the carbon emissions. This math reveals an estimated 88% reduction in the carbon footprint for customers using a managed cloud service like AWS instead of an on-premise data center.

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