Public cloud, public gain

Modern businesses need data centres to host their applications and data. But demand is increasing every year, and data centres could use 20% of global electricity by 2030. How are we reducing our share?

Migrating to public cloud data centres

Get an overview of everything from initial phases with potential customers to agreement signing.

84% of our customers now use cloud products, and this is increasing by an average of 5–10% each year.

We’re discontinuing on-premise products at a steady clip and have various internal programs and communities that help Visma companies move their products to public cloud.

Employing hyperscaling

One of the simplest ways we can reduce the environmental impact of hosting is by using Hyperscale Computing (HC). As its name implies, HC is a hyper-efficient method that many data centres use to process data. HC monitors traffic and scales resources up or down, dynamically responding to fluctuating demand. That means we use only the resources we need, when we need them.

At Visma, nearly all of our data centres employ hyperscaling.

Choosing more sustainable regions

We could technically use data centres anywhere in the world, but that’s not sustainable. Instead, we choose regions based on these factors:

  • Data residency – What are the laws in the country where the data centre is located, and will their approach to privacy and human rights meet Visma’s standards?
  • Distance to consumers – How far does the energy need to travel from the data centre to where it’s consumed?
  • Energy efficiency of hardware – How energy efficient is the data centre provider’s hardware? Do they have the latest equipment and do they take steps to minimise power consumption?
  • Availability of renewable energy – What’s the carbon intensity of the local electricity grid? How much CO2 is released for every kilowatt hour (kWh) produced?
Choosing cloud providers and locations is tricky.

While Microsoft and Google are more ambitious with sustainability overall, we can’t use them in countries where they’re not present. And since they’re US-based, GDPR compliance requires more work. That said, Europe still lacks viable alternatives.

A resource is only as sustainable as we use it

For a software system to be sustainable, it has to produce maximum value while minimising energy and hardware resources. This requires us to understand and manage the economics of the cloud – not just for cost but also resource optimisation. So we work to identify unused resources, shut them down, and even delete them when needed.

All Visma companies on the public cloud have access to Apptio’s Cloudability tool, which analyses our cloud architecture and recommends improvements for speed, cost, and quality. We also have the Public Cloud Architecture Assessment, an internal evaluation that determines the quality and readiness of any Visma company’s cloud architecture.

Demanding a demand shift

The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. That makes renewable energy harder to count on than fossil or nuclear energy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still harness more of it in our pursuit of 24/7 carbon-free energy.The amount of renewable energy in the electricity grid often varies by time and location. So we’re becoming better at adjusting to that variability through demand shifting – that is, running services where and when that renewable energy is available.

We’re piloting demand shifting in the first half of 2023.

(Not) left to our own devices

Software can’t run without hardware. And the hardware Visma owns – our computers, monitors, phones and other devices – is responsible for nearly 11% of our total emissions. But we need to look closely: not all hardware is created equal when it comes to emissions, and we should replace it as infrequently as possible.

We’re creating a blueprint for hardware decisions, where reducing consumption is our top priority. This means prolonging our hardware’s lifespan through repair programs and employee education, while ensuring that any new hardware we do purchase has a comparatively low footprint. Our first hardware strategy will be published in 2023.