A Carbon-Neutral Cloud
Workday provides all of our customers—more than 2,600—with a carbon-neutral cloud. This goal was achieved in 2017 across our global operations. Our data centers use 100 percent renewable electricity, effectively reducing data center Scope 2 market-based emissions to zero.
Workday also obtains the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) for each data center to understand the total energy attributable to our use, and we procure high-quality carbon offsets to mitigate those emissions, effectively reducing our data centers to net-zero carbon emissions.
Even without our specific efforts, we know that moving to the cloud is more sustainable. Numerous studies have shown that cloud computing is more energy and carbon efficient than traditional on-premise computing, including a 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report that indicated that moving all office workers in the United States to the cloud could reduce the energy used by information technology by up to 87 percent.
One Workday customer, Aviva, shared its experience with CDP to further quantify the positive impacts of moving to the cloud while decommissioning its own servers and data centers. The company found that by moving to cloud-computing solutions, it realized lower energy costs for shared computing, while simultaneously reducing its own carbon emissions.
Internal use of IT systems is often a large portion of the total carbon-emissions footprint of many companies. Moving to cloud applications such as Workday can save money and reduce carbon emissions. This creates value beyond the environmental impacts, benefitting corporate stakeholders and the bottom line.
Engineering a Better Carbon Footprint
In late 2018, the Workday data center operations team undertook a unique power optimization project, and piloted the rollout at two Workday data centers in Oregon and Ireland. A team of performance, infrastructure, and data center engineers worked together for over six months to identify the BIOS settings, kernel parameters, and appropriate processor drivers for our servers across various models to enable power-saving settings that could significantly reduce power consumption without impacting application performance. Over the first three months of the pilot project in Oregon, monthly electricity consumption was reduced by 9 percent, while Ireland electricity consumption decreased by over 14 percent. In just these few months of the pilot, Workday was able to reduce power consumption by 297 MWhs and reduce its carbon emissions impact by an amount equivalent to the emissions from burning 230,000 pounds of coal.
After this successful pilot, we plan to roll out the power optimization upgrades to at least 80 percent of currently operational data centers across our global footprint by the end of 2019. The upgrade will also be implemented in all new servers going forward, and once fully implemented we expect energy savings of approximately 30 percent. In an effort to reduce the emissions impact of its operations, Workday will continue to monitor its data centers for additional improvements that increase efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint.
Engaging with Our Data Center Colocation Providers
Although Workday does not own our data centers (we use colocation providers instead), we evaluate PUE, as well as energy mix of the local grid in our data center selection criteria. The sustainability team at Workday works closely with our infrastructure team to ensure that we consider energy efficiency and carbon emissions during our data center selection process. We consider our internal price on carbon when selecting data center locations and colocation providers that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Engagement with our colocation providers is enabling Workday to identify high-quality renewable energy purchases that meet Scope 2 quality criteria, as well as encourage our colocation providers to directly procure credible renewable energy. Workday was one of the founding signatories to The Corporate Colocation and Cloud Buyers’ Principles, which outline six criteria that companies using colo services would like to see their providers meet, such as providing data on customer energy consumption, disclosing facility energy sources, and supporting renewable energy advocacy efforts.