Call for change

Cloud has become essential for organizations looking to be more flexible and resilient. But getting to the cloud is only part of the journey, as Accenture has learned in our move to operate our enterprise IT infrastructure in the cloud.

Capitalizing on the Cloud Continuum is not just about being in the cloud. It’s about seamless operations, continuous optimization and transformation to achieve ongoing business value—an unfulfilled outcome for many companies—and to consume efficiently and more responsibly.

Accenture decided to take a fresh look at how we were structuring our cloud services now that we’ve been running in the cloud for several years. Given that the world of cloud is rapidly maturing, constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated, it was clear there was an opportunity to foster greater innovation, capitalize on best-in-class cloud services and realize more value.

At the same time, we wanted to address how to use the power of the cloud to make smarter choices and run Accenture’s business in a more responsible way. We also needed to address the longer-term challenge of finding ways to keep IT emissions down as Accenture grows.

Key to extracting value from the cloud is to ensure we are secure from the start, make responsible decisions, and that our people and culture are aligned to the new ways of working in the cloud. Building on that foundation, we chose to optimize around speed, sustainability and spend. With cloud, we can harness these areas to operate our business with agility.

"It’s not a matter of if you should use the cloud, it’s a matter of how you should use the cloud."

— DON GALZARANO, Managing Director – Global IT, Enterprise Technology, Intelligent Cloud & Networks, Accenture

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We looked at how we were structuring our cloud services and reexamined our cloud environment using cloud analytics and reporting, data-driven insights, knowledge of vendor offerings, and an understanding of our compute environment. Our aim was to see where we could get the most value for Accenture, focusing our efforts on speed, sustainability and spend.

Our analysis led us to identify six key levers that enable us to optimize our cloud operations. These levers make operations leaner, smarter, greener, and continuously realize value.

They include:

  • Application modernization – We are re-platforming legacy applications to serverless technology and cloud-native architecture while maintaining application functionality, increasing operational efficiency and cost savings.
  • Right sizing and true sizing – We looked at how much compute power we needed, when we needed it and most importantly, when we didn’t need it. We measured instance usage and performance to understand compute needs, correctly match workloads and avoid overprovisioning. Doing this unlocked powerful savings that significantly reduces our operational costs and carbon emissions impact.
  • Instance payment strategy – By understanding our vendor offerings and Accenture’s true compute needs, we found the most efficient pay structure that led to more informed decisions about how we pay for cloud services. To find the most efficient payment structure, we leverage spot and reserved instances for interruptible and predictable workloads.
  • Instance upgrades – We run instance upgrades regularly that allow us to stay current, run faster and more efficiently at a lower cost. This ongoing upgrade process also keeps instances on the latest verified version, taking advantage of new releases from cloud providers.
  • Environment rationalization – To prevent waste, underutilization and redundancy, we encourage teams to leverage the cloud’s horizontal scaling technology, automatically matching compute power based on usage. We also defined stricter standards and created governance structures for environment sizes and types. These efforts also include working in partnership with cloud providers who are transitioning to use renewable energy to power their data centers.
  • Smart scheduling – We established automated, flexible shutdown schedules based on usage patterns that turn off servers in environments that are not in use, reducing costs and idle resource consumption. This effectively gives teams a way to “turn off the lights” at the end of the day and enables Accenture to operate in a greener way.

CO2 Calculator prototype
An innovative aspect of our program was the development of a CO2 Calculator prototype to produce detailed, data-driven measures of the environmental impact of our cloud environment. It’s based on a series of formulas to measure an estimation of Accenture’s public cloud energy consumption. This information enables our application teams with ways to lower energy usage and estimated carbon emissions.

Using algorithms, the CO2 Calculator analyzes billing and consumption data across Accenture’s global IT public cloud environments, and in turn, estimates energy and CO2e (e = equivalent) emissions, based on how frequently our server inventory remains powered on for use, as well as what size servers we choose to run within the environment.

This estimation results in more rapid optimization. By being able to make reasonable calculations as to the environmental footprint of a specific asset, like a cloud virtual machine, we can show how responsible and thoughtful management of even that one, individual asset can make a difference to the environment. The CO2 Calculator prototype creates a continual cycle by which stakeholders can consume the data and allow it to drive better business and environmental decisions.

A new way of working
Implementing these optimization efforts challenged long-standing assumptions within our global IT community about acceptable or recommended ways to operate one’s cloud environment and to shift to embracing a new mindset of thinking from a sustainability perspective. Our project team was able to incent a new way of working through data-driven guidance to understand the current baseline of cloud utilization and how much inefficiency existed.

We then focused on rethinking cloud consumption. Instead of basing consumption on risk mitigation, we changed the focus to be around fine-tuning consumption based on actual needs. We supported the application teams in being able to show total value back to their customers. We did this by showing how they are contributing to Accenture’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions as well as gaining the security that their decisions are being made based on intelligent data, not simply a cost savings discussion.

The more our program progressed and demonstrated that the guidance was not adversely impacting any of the business, the less people resisted and the more they came on board with the new way of managing cloud consumption.

A valuable difference

Well into our cloud optimization program, our global IT’s efforts are delivering notable results across the three areas of focus—speed, sustainability and spend. And it’s been recognized as one of the winners of the 2022 CIO 100 Awards, which celebrate the organization and teams that are using IT in innovative ways to deliver business value.

Not only is Accenture operating at a faster pace, with more efficiency and increased ability to meet business demands, but we’ve significantly reduced our environmental impact. We also anticipate a 25% increase in planned savings over three years as we continue to make smarter operating decisions.

As we took steps to realize value in the cloud, we also realized a few other things. It is no longer enough to simply “operate in the cloud,” companies must also consider how they operate in the cloud.

It is critical to:

  • Be data driven – Analytics and reporting are available and help unlock huge insights into ways you can increase savings while eliminating waste. Develop this capability in house or consider third parties that specialize in cloud analytics.
  • Understand your consumption – Know how much compute power you need, when you need it, and more importantly, when you don’t need it.
  • Leverage vendor offerings – Cloud vendors are operating in an increasingly competitive landscape. Many of them have flexible payment structures or new technology that your company can take advantage of if you know about it.

Accenture’s cloud value realization journey includes:

"Optimizing our cloud operations is a must in moving Accenture to a market-leading, cloud-native position where we can act fast, be nimble, run cost-effectively and securely, and create a sustainable footprint for years to come."

— PENELOPE PRETT, Chief Information Officer, Accenture

Speed

  • 1,300 cloud instances upgraded in 6 weeks with no noticeable impact to the business
  • Time to deploy applications decreased from weeks to days due to our modernization efforts

Sustainability

  • 49% decrease in CO2e emissions in 6 months
  • 220+ estimated reduction in metric tons of carbon emissions in 9 months
  • 900K+ estimated reduction of kWh of power consumption in 9 months
  • 20% reduction in average run hours across all server instances
  • All Accenture cloud provider partners have committed to providing carbon neutrality across data centers by 2030

Spend

  • $13 million in savings from reserved instance utilization estimated over 4 years
  • 12% reduction in total IaaS spend
  • 13% of fixed IT spend shifted to variable IT spend
  • 25%+ planned savings over the next 3 years

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