Moving to Cloudflare can Cut your Carbon Footprint, a Report


As Cloudflare continues to hunt for efficiencies in every component of its network hardware, every piece of software it writes, and every Internet protocol it supports, it also wants to understand in terms of Internet architecture, how moving network security, performance, and reliability functions like those offered by Cloudflare from on-premise solutions to the cloud affects sustainability. To that end, earlier this year it commissioned a study from the consulting firm Analysys Mason to evaluate the relative carbon efficiency of network functions like firewalls, WAF, SD-WAN, DDoS protection, content servers, and others that are provided through Cloudflare against similar on-premise solutions. 

Although the full report is expected somewhere next year, according to initial findings, Cloudflare Web Application Firewall (WAF) “generates up to around 90% less carbon than on-premises appliances at low-medium traffic demand.”

Needless to say, Cloudflare is excited about the possibilities of these early findings, and looks forward to the full report which early indications suggest will show more ways in which moving to Cloudflare will help reduce a company’s infrastructure’s carbon footprint. However, like most things at Cloudflare, this is only the beginning.

The Internet has a number of environmental impacts that need to be addressed, including raw material extraction, water consumption by data centers, and recycling and e-waste, among many others. But, none of those are more urgent than energy and emissions. Conceptually, reducing emissions from energy consumption is relatively straightforward — transition to zero emissions energy sources, and use energy more efficiently in order to speed that transition. 

To date, much has been written about improving efficiency or individual pieces of network hardware (like Cloudflare’s deployment of more efficient Arm CPUs) and the power usage efficiency or “PUE” of hyperscale data centers. However, Cloudflare thinks there are significant efficiency gains to be made throughout all layers of the network stack, as well as the basic architecture of the Internet itself. This study is the first step in investigating those underexplored areas.

Since the final report is still being written, there will be more information about its methodology upon publication. But, just to share, to estimate the relative carbon savings of moving enterprise network functions, like those offered by Cloudflare, to the cloud, the Analysys Mason team is evaluating a wide range of enterprise network functions. These include firewalls, WAF, SD-WAN, DDoS protection, and content servers. For each function they are modelling a variety of scenarios, including usage, different sizes and types of organizations, and different operating conditions.

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