Decarbonizing Cloud Computing


Did you know that the IT infrastructure that underpins today’s digitalized world is responsible for about 4% of the world’s carbon footprint – roughly the same as civil aviation? This stunning figure includes the energy consumption of data centers, the backbones of IT, that must be powered and cooled down. Energy is wasted twice: waste heat is lost & additional energy is required to keep servers at a suitable temperature.

As a major international bank, plugged into markets the world over, Societe Generale is undeniably a large user of computing capacity. A lot of that data is processed via cloud computing which is the practice of using a network of remote servers to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Committed to reducing its carbon footprint and founding member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, the bank has been at the forefront of green cloud computing. It’s partnership with Qarnot computing, a pioneer in data center heat waste recycling for sustainable use, has been one of the key initiatives to that end. 

Qarnot computing, a French SME, was created in 2010 to answer the question of how to reuse the waste heat that is produced by data centers and transform it into a resource for others. To do this, Qarnot moves IT infrastructure from data centers to where the excess heat has value: in the buildings where people live and work. The end result is a distributed network of secure, small data-centers that take the shape of digital boilers with embedded microprocessors as heat sources. These decentralized computing clusters provide, on the one hand, cloud computing power to clients such as Societe Generale and on the other, a heat source for buildings, urban heat networks, swimming pools, etc. 

Market activities are among the most computing-intensive activities of the bank: mathematical models required to price or monitor risks represent 20% of their IT carbon footprint. “Finer pricing and risk management always means more computations, and we felt like we had a role to play in moving our business to a more environmentally sustainable operational model”, explains Pierre Garampon, Head of Applied Research & Development within Societe Generale’s market activities. “Working with Qarnot, and after a hefty security vetting process, we finally were able to move some of our pricing model calculations to their data centers”.

In October 2021, Societe Generale and Qarnot’s partnership took a big step forward with the installation of 1000 processing cores in a building in Kankaanpää, Finland. These cores are running pricing calculations for the bank and at the same time, via associated digital boilers, contributing to the city’s heat network. The setup is able to reuse 91% of the heat produced by the processing cores. This project will help Societe Generale’s market activities reduce the carbon footprint of its price calculations by 80% compared to using classic computing solutions.

“This partnership with Societe Generale, started in 2013, has allowed us to reconcile technical performance and energy leadership. The acceleration of our collaboration is an excellent signal that points to a real decarbonization of the digital sector in general and a growing focus of the banking sector to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations,” says Paul Benoit, President and co-founder of Qarnot.

This win-win solution underlines a key value of both Societe Generale and Qarnot: innovation. Innovation for the environment, for operational efficiency and for clients. Indeed, thanks to this green cloud computing solution, Societe Generale is able to help its clients reduce the indirect carbon footprint of their own activities when they trade on products whose pricing is done via Qarnot’s processing cores.  The partnership is fully aligned with the bank’s purpose of “building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions”. It’s all about striving to create an impact, and in this particular case, an impact on the market activities ecosystem. #MarketsWithImpact

With 20 more digital boilers due to be connected to the Finish processing cores in 2022, and many other projects looming at the door, the Societe Generale / Qarnot partnership has a promising future. 

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