Category Archives: IT Sustainability

Azure Stack HCI: IT infrastructure innovation that reduces environmental impact

The era of technological innovation has a duty to merge with environmental sustainability, and Microsoft Azure Stack HCI represents a significant step forward in this direction. In the fast-paced world of enterprise IT, organizations are constantly looking for solutions that not only offer excellent performance and innovation, but which also contribute to reducing the environmental impact of their IT infrastructures. Azure Stack HCI stands as a cutting-edge solution that combines technological excellence with a commitment to environmental sustainability. In this article, we will explore the positive environmental implications of adopting Azure Stack HCI.


Reduction of energy consumption

In a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), several hardware components are replaced by software, which combines the processing layers, storage and networking in a single solution. Azure Stack HCI is the Microsoft solution that allows you to create a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), where computing resources, storage and networking are consolidated into a single platform. This eliminates the need for separate devices, such as appliance, storage fabric and SAN, leading to an overall reduction in energy consumption. Furthermore, Azure Stack HCI systems are purpose-built to operate efficiently, making the most of available resources. This elimination of separate devices and optimization of resources help reduce the amount of energy required to maintain and cool the infrastructure, thus contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Figure 1 – "Three Tier" Infrastructure vs Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

Intelligent use of resources

Azure Stack HCI allows you to flexibly scale resources based on workload needs and allows you to extend its functionality with Microsoft Azure cloud services, including:

  • Azure Site Recovery to implement disaster recovery scenarios;
  • Azure Backup for offsite protection of your infrastructure;
  • Update Management which allows you to make an assessment of the missing updates and proceed with the corresponding deployment, for both Windows machines and Linux systems, regardless of their geographical location;
  • Azure Monitor which offers a centralized way to monitor and control what is happening at the application level, network and hyper-converged infrastructure, using advanced analytics based on artificial intelligence;
  • Defender for Cloud which guarantees monitoring and detection of security threats on workloads running in the Azure Stack HCI environment;
  • Cloud Witness to use Azure storage account as cluster quorum.

Furthermore, there is the possibility of modernizing and making the file server more efficient as well, which remains a strategic and widely used component in data centers, by adopting the solution Azure File Sync. This solution allows you to centralize the network folders of the infrastructure in Azure Files, while ensuring flexibility, the performance and compatibility of a traditional Windows file server. Although it is possible to maintain a complete copy of the data in an on-premises environment, Azure File Sync turns Windows Server into a “cache” which allows quick access to the contents present in a specific Azure file share: then, all files reside in the cloud, while only the latest files are also kept in the on-premises file server. This approach allows you to significantly reduce the storage space required in your datacenter.

Figure 2 – Platform integration with cloud solutions

Figure 2 – Platform integration with cloud solutions

Thanks to virtualization, the dynamic allocation of resources and the adoption of solutions in the cloud environment, you can use only the resources you need on-premises, avoiding waste of energy. This approach to infrastructure reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing, management and disposal of obsolete hardware components.

Optimization of physical space

Consolidating resources into a single Azure Stack HCI platform reduces the need for physical space for server installation, storage devices and network devices. This results in a significant reduction in the surface area occupied in server rooms, allowing for more efficient space management and higher computational density. In turn, the reduction of the occupied space means lower cooling and lighting needs, thus contributing to overall energy savings.


The adoption of Microsoft Azure Stack HCI offers significant benefits in terms of environmental sustainability. The reduction of energy consumption, resource optimisation, the intelligent use of physical space and the wide flexibility help to reduce the environmental impact of data centers and IT infrastructures. Azure Stack HCI represents a step forward towards the adoption of more sustainable IT solutions, enabling organizations to optimize resources, reduce carbon emissions and promote more efficient and environmentally conscious management of IT resources.

The calculation of the energy consumption and environmental impact of Microsoft's public cloud

After the Paris Agreement, with increased attention on climate change and measures taken by governments to reduce carbon emissions, the environmental impact of IT systems is increasingly in the spotlight. Several studies have shown that the cloud also offers significant benefits in terms of sustainability and provides companies with the possibility of reducing the environmental impact of IT services, thus contributing to a more sustainable future. To evaluate the real impact, it is advisable to apply measurements and controls. This article describes the methodology designed to calculate the carbon emissions associated with the use of Microsoft Azure resources.

Microsoft provides tools to monitor and manage the environmental impact of carbon emissions, based on the methodology described in this article, which is constantly evolving and improving. Such tools, specific to the Azure cloud, allow to:

  • Get the visibility you need to promote sustainability, taking into account both emissions and carbon use.
  • Simplify data collection and emissions calculations.
  • Analyze and report more efficiently the environmental impact and progress of a company in terms of sustainability.

This methodology used by Microsoft is constantly updated to include science-based approaches as they become available and relevant for assessing the carbon emissions associated with the Azure cloud.

Standards used for calculation

Microsoft shares its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) into three categories (scope), sticking to Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a globally recognized standard for the methodology for calculating and reporting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Scope 1: direct emissions – emissions deriving from combustion and industrial processes

Greenhouse gas emissions in this category include emissions from the combustion of diesel and emissions from the use of refrigerants for cooling data centers.

Scope 2: indirect emissions – emissions resulting from electricity consumption, heat or steam

Greenhouse gas emissions in this category include emissions from the consumption of electricity used to power Microsoft data centers.

Scope 3: other indirect emissions – the emissions generated during the production phase and at the end of the product life cycle

Greenhouse gas emissions include emissions from the extraction of raw materials, from component assembly and end-of-life management of hardware devices (for example: recycling, landfill or compost), such as servers and network equipment, used in Microsoft data centers.

Figure 1 – Examples of types of scope carbon emissions 1, 2 and 3 in the Microsoft cloud

In this context, it should be borne in mind that the 2020 Microsoft has reaffirmed its commitment to integrating sustainability into all of its businesses. In fact,, announced an ambitious goal and plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate carbon emissions. Under this plan, Microsoft has set itself the goal of becoming a company “carbon neutral” by 2030, and is adopting various strategies to reduce its carbon emissions, including the purchase of renewable energy sources, optimizing the energy efficiency of its data centers and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.


Microsoft bases its calculation methodology also relying on widely accepted ISO standards in the industry:

  • Carbon emissions related to materials are based on ISO standard 14067:2018 (Greenhouse gases – Product carbon footprint – Quantification requirements and guidelines).
  • Operational emissions are based on ISO standard 14064-1:2006 (Greenhouse gases – Part 1: Organization-wide specifications and guidelines for quantifying and reporting GHG emissions and removals).
  • Verification and validation are based on the ISO standard 14064-3:2006 (Greenhouse gases – Part 3: Specifications with guidance on validating and verifying greenhouse gas claims).

Calculation methodologies

Scope 1 and 2

Greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of electricity for scopes 1 and 2 are usually divided into categories such as Storage, Compute and Network. The quantification of the emissions of these scopes is based on the time of use of the individual categories. The methodology used to calculate emissions in Scope 1 and 2 is generally based on a lifecycle analysis present in a Microsoft study, available at this address. This methodology for the Scope 2 includes calculation of energy impact and carbon emissions for each specific data center, considering factors such as data center and server efficiency, the emission factors, renewable energy purchases and infrastructure energy usage over time.

Scope 3

Calculation of emissions relating to the Scope 3 is summarized in the following figure:

Figure 2 – Methodology for calculating emissions relating to the Scope 3

It starts with the assessment of the life cycle of the materials used in the data center infrastructure and the related carbon emissions are calculated. This sum is then segmented based on customer usage of each data center.

This methodology for emissions related to the Scope 3 calculates the energy and carbon footprint for each data center over time, taking into consideration the following:

  • The most common materials used for the construction of the IT infrastructure used in data centers.
  • The main components that make up the cloud infrastructure.
  • The complete list of all assets in Microsoft data centers.
  • Carbon factors for cloud infrastructure at all stages of the lifecycle (extraction of raw materials, component assembly, use and disposal at the end of the life cycle).

Validation of the Microsoft methodology for scope 3 is published at this link.

Common definitions

This section contains definitions of the most frequently used terms relating to the impact of emissions:

  • mtCO2e: is the unit of measurement used to express the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the global greenhouse effect. It takes into account not only carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), but also of other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases (F-gases). mtCO2e is used to measure global greenhouse gas emissions and to set emissions reduction targets.
  • Carbon emissions (mtCO2e) from Azure: carbon emissions (mtCO2e) for the Azure cloud refer to the amount of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), emitted into the atmosphere due to the use of Microsoft Azure cloud computing services. This value includes Microsoft Scopes (1, 2 it's the 3).
  • Carbon intensity (mtCO2e/usage): the carbon intensity index provides a ratio between carbon dioxide emissions and another variable. For Green SKU, this is the total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per hours of use, measured in mtCO2e/hour. The purpose of this index is to provide visibility into carbon emissions related to the use of Azure services.
  • Carbon emissions expected at the end of the year (mtCO2e): Projected end-of-year cumulative carbon emissions allocation based on current year's cloud resource usage projection and previous year's trends.


To identify the benefits to the IT environment of deploying applications on Azure, it is important to educate customers about the environmental impact of their IT assets and provide them with the tools to govern that impact. This must be done with the intention of improving, setting specific and realistic sustainability objectives. Such an approach benefits both the business and society.