The Role of Containerization in Creating a More Sustainable IT Industry

It is estimated that data centers globally use approximately 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year, equating to around 2% of all electricity produced worldwide.1 Additionally, it is claimed that data centers emit as much carbon dioxide as the entire global aviation industry.2

As more organizations adopt new, resource-heavy technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT, these emissions are likely to increase and more data centers will be required, impacting on energy consumption, unless the efficiency of current data centers is drastically improved.

Helping data centers reduce carbon emissions could have a significant and lasting impact. To succeed in this, organizations must actively want to reduce their emissions and have a strategy in place for doing so.

Following on from our blog ‘What are containers?’, this article delves into how adopting container technologies can play a part in improving an organization’s carbon footprint.

Data Center Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions at data centers are determined by four variables:

  • Server utilization rate.
  • Choice of electrical grid.
  • Power usage effectiveness and overall power consumption.
  • The choice and life span of physical equipment.

Container technology can help data centers to reduce their carbon emissions by better-utilizing servers. Containers reduce overheads and allow organizations to run more applications per machine, increasing the utilization rate, meaning fewer servers are needed in total. Given the short life span of most servers, increasing their utilization must be a key priority.

Containerization Benefits

There are several cost and performance benefits of containers over virtual machines, which explains their rise in popularity over recent years. Some of the benefits of investing in containers include:

  • An increase in server utilization rates.
  • Improved reliability.
  • Simplified environment configurations.
  • Ability to run multiple applications as isolated processes on the same server or OS.
  • Rapid deployment and decommission compared to virtual machines.
  • Fewer dependencies on OS (as are included in the container) give more flexibility to deploying applications on different cloud providers and operating systems.
  • As an application that performs better, with less hardware, containers reduce overall carbon emissions.

How Containers can Help Towards an Organization’s Sustainability Goals

Containers help reduce energy consumption through network packets passing through fewer processing layers in container platforms, consuming significantly less energy compared to hypervisors.3 Additionally, the lack of a hypervisor eliminates the drain on system resources, so workloads have a lighter footprint.

Containers allow organizations to run more applications on the same server compared to other technologies. Doing more with the same number of servers not only saves money but is also environmentally friendly as there are fewer servers to build and to power.

Another way in which containers can assist environment goals is that they can extend the life of older hardware, keeping older servers in commission without worrying about hardware compatibility and firmware issues, therefore helping to reduce the amount of e-waste that goes to landfill.

Environmental benefits may not be the main reason IT teams adopt containers, but the efficiency of containers provides an added benefit of mitigating the environmental effects of modern computing. Companies can harness containers to help move the world toward a net-zero carbon economy.


  1. Renugadevi T, Geetha K, Muthukumar K, Geem ZW. Optimized Energy Cost and Carbon Emission-Aware Virtual Machine Allocation in Sustainable Data Centers. Sustainability. 2020; 12(16):6383.
  2. Andrae ASG, Edler T. On Global Electricity Usage of Communication Technology: Trends to 2030. Challenges. 2015; 6(1):117-157.
  3. Power Consumption of Virtualization Technologies: an Empirical Investigation, Roberto Morabito, 2015