How can the environmental impact of Cloud applications be reduced?

Davidson Consulting, Inria, OVHcloud and Orange join forces for the “DISTILLER” research programme

According to Ademe (French agency for the environment and energy management), the digital sector currently accounts for more than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, half of which is generated by data centres and network infrastructure.

The sector’s environmental impact is expected to grow further as usage increases. In France, 10% of the electricity produced is used to meet the needs of data storage centres alone. Aware of these challenges, digital players are increasingly concerned about the energy consumption of hosted services.

In just 10 years, progress has been made in ensuring greater energy frugality in data centres. However, these developments focus mainly on hardware efficiency (for example, the optimisation of components or of the cooling of servers, use of renewable energy sources), without really addressing the various software layers, which can have a significant impact on the use of allocated hardware resources. How can new Cloud-native software be developed in a sustainable and frugal manner? Which programming languages, libraries, frameworks and Cloud infrastructure should be considered for each project?

These are the questions that the DISTILLER project (recommenDer servIce for SusTaInabLe cLoud nativE softwaRe), launched following a call for projects issued by the French national research agency (ANR), aims to answer.

Inria, OVHcloud, Orange and Davidson Consulting have joined forces in a consortium to pool their expertise with the aim of drafting detailed recommendations on the most suitable software elements and configurations to ensure the sustainability and energy frugality of Cloud applications, as from the design stage.

DISTILLER will study and organise the Cloud software ecosystem and then use the resulting data to put forward optimised configuration models, based on various artificial intelligence algorithms.

By studying all the layers of a Cloud-native application, from the physical infrastructure to the computer code, DISTILLER takes a global approach that enables a drastic reduction in the digital sector’s environmental footprint.

At the end of this three-year project, DISTILLER’s recommendation system will be able to provide Product Owners, engineers and developers with all the information necessary for the design, production and configuration of more sustainable Cloud applications, while taking into account all the constraints specific to this type of project (performance, flexibility, confidentiality).

To meet this ambitious goal, DISTILLER plans to study Cloud-native applications and their configuration in order to extract all existing variations and to define empirically, on the basis of production measurements, a sustainability indicator on which to base the system of recommendations for sustainable software components.

Through its forthcoming website, the consortium will publish news on the progress of its research and on its results regularly in order to share its work with the community and researchers.

«The Distiller programme is a major step forward in the research we have been carrying out over the past 10 years on the energy impact of software and is now one of the priorities of the institute <>. It will advance basic research in the field of eco-responsible digital technology and its applications, particularly in the Cloud. It will contribute to the sustainability and transfer of our flagship software program, PowerAPI <>, which measures the energy use of software, while encouraging the emergence of new tools to support developers as they adopt good design practice for their software.» Lionel SEINTURIER, rhead of the Spirals research team, Inria

« Reducing the environmental impact of the digital sector depends on each part of its value chain. As a Cloud service provider, the OVHcloud teams are involved in the Distiller project to develop knowledge on software bricks. By sharing this knowledge with our customers, partners and the community, we are committed to measuring an accurate and exhaustive environmental footprint for digital services. This initiative complements our global environmental strategy by going beyond the provision of renewable electricity or extending the life of our servers.» Tristan VUILLIER, Program Manager Sustainability, OVHcloud

« The performance of Cloud-native applications and their optimised use of Cloud infrastructure is a source of energy efficiency that contributes to the reduction of the digital sector’s environmental impact. It is an important subject for the future» Véronique GUIBERT, CSR Director, Orange Innovation. 


“As a management consultancy and technology expert, a member of the B Corp Collective and part of the “Green It” collective, Davidson Consulting is committed to promoting, as far as it can, the emergence of solutions that reconcile innovation with digital sobriety. With DISTILLER, we wish to further contribute to the design of fairer solutions in order to provide scientific and technical support and to accompany the development of best practice for digital players. Finally, we wish to share these virtuous practices and our experience in this area with our ecosystem and apply them in our activities and projects.”  David OLIVIER, R&D Director, Davidson consulting.

The DISTILLER project in figures: : 

  • Project duration: 36 months
  • Official start: 2022
  • Subsidised budget: €664,580
  • Number of researchers involved: 15