AWS at Net Zero LIVE: Boosting Data Centre Sustainability

Hilary Tam suggests taking a value-chain approach, explaining the urgency of business leaders bringing sustainability into forward-looking strategies for their organisations
With insights from AWS’ Hilary Tam, we examine how AWS continues to advance sustainability pledges, from optimising AI, to future-proofing data centres

With a commitment towards sustainability, AWS is working towards future-proof green initiatives across its data centre portfolio.

The company continues to lead in enterprise data centres, with global businesses continuing to use AWS to lower operating costs and become more digitally agile, allowing them to innovate faster and develop a more sustainable footprint. As part of The Climate Pledge, AWS has also committed to the ambitious goal of achieving Net Zero by 2040.

Hilary Tam, Principal BDM, Sustainability Innovation & Transformation at AWS, spoke at our sister publication event, Sustainability LIVE: Net Zero, about how businesses can future-proof their digital initiatives to ensure sustainable progress.

Fusing technology with sustainability strategies

“How do we ensure that our organisations are successful into the future - even as we’re in a carbon intense, resource constrained reality?” Hilary Tam says, during her keynote speech at Sustainability LIVE: Net Zero.

Tam talks about how, according to IDC Europe, 62% of large EMEA organisations will spend at least 5% of their IT budgets on sustainability actions in 2025.

She explains how AWS seeks to enact all types of value solutions for a range of stakeholders, ranging from economic, social and environmental future-fit framing. Ultimately, the main goal is for businesses to consider how technology and sustainability can work together to enable clean, sustainable digital transformations.

Utilising technology departments within a company to advance sustainability initiatives is nothing new for AWS, with the company enacting large investments around the world with the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud allowing companies greater insights into their environmental strategies.

AWS is just one key example of how data centres are planning to overhaul existing services to meet widespread customer demands for innovative technologies like AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). Industry leaders are faced with the challenging task of balancing innovation with sustainable strategies, as they try to keep pace with evolving customer needs in an economical way.

Hilary Tam, Principal BDM, Sustainability Innovation & Transformation at AWS

Hilary Tam suggests taking a value-chain approach, explaining the urgency of business leaders bringing sustainability into forward-looking strategies for their organisations.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure that sustainability is at the heart of our digital transformation journeys,” Tam says. “It’s the right thing to do - but it’s also the smart thing to do. It represents a $12tn opportunity.”

As a result, enterprises can unlock greater opportunities when it comes to both impact and value.

Harnessing the cloud for forward-thinking sustainability

“At AWS we talk a lot about the sustainability of - and in - the cloud, but we are also excited to consider what sustainability through the cloud looks like,” Tam says.

AWS Future Fit Framework aims to help organisations embed sustainability into core business strategies to unlock maximum value.

Tam highlights: “We are encouraging [businesses] to take that longer-term view so that you can drive impact across your value chain and your industry.”

First, companies will need to build with sustainability in mind, rather than just moving data from one place to another. Only then can they accelerate solutions to create achievable sustainable goals.

AWS provides solution architects to work with customers as they are migrating to the cloud, in addition to tools like a migration evaluator calculator that can calculate the total cost savings of migrating workloads from on-premise data centres to the cloud. This is so, according to Tam, that “every IT decision also has that sustainability carbon business case.”

She highlights: “We need to make sure that the footprint of this technology isn’t outweighing the benefits.”

AWS data centres continue to be the beating heart of its innovation, with the company having designed custom chip sets that work to enable greater data centre energy efficiency. For instance, the Graviton3 CPU uses up to 60% less energy for the same performance than comparable instances, as cited by Tam.

Similarly, its Inferentia accelerator, that helps train AI models, consumes 54% less power than comparable EC2 instances - charting a journey towards meeting demand in a sustainable way.

Future-proofing the data centre

Find Hilary Tam’s full keynote speech from Sustainability LIVE: Net Zero in the video below:

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Amazon is well on its way towards powering all operations, not just data centres, with 100% renewable energy by 2025, having already achieved 85% of this goal company-wide by 2021.

The company has also committed to being water-positive by 2030, with AWS planning to return more water to local communities and the environment than it uses in its data centre operations by this time.

To expand the lifespan of its data centres, AWS is also aiming to use predictive maintenance and designing sites for reuse and recovery, giving data centres second use cases where possible.

Tam highlights that the company’s goals are all to maximise data use, avoiding waste where possible and creating a brighter and more sustainable digital future.

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