Ever wondered that something you do on your computer, such as develop a software program or send a file via the internet, could have an impact on the environment? Yes, this question is critical especially in the digital era when technology and software are considered to be the backbone of almost every business; when smartphones have become an integral part of your end users’ day-to-day life!
However, with Tech giants and businesses setting “net zero” targets, the question that we have asked in the beginning makes a lot of sense. The term net zero means for each gram of carbon you emit you also extract one gram of carbon so that the overall mass of carbon in the atmosphere remains constant.
This blog is in continuation to our discussion on achieving your sustainability goals with Cloud Computing. At first we would be discussing the eight principles of sustainable software engineering and then move on to how we are helping companies achieve their sustainability goals.
As you embark on your journey to greener cloud, we recommend you to also start following sustainability practices to make your computing green. Afterall, charity begins at home!
Here are the eight principles of green software engineering, originally stated by Asim Hussain, Green Cloud Advocacy Lead at Microsoft. Let’s embrace green coding as a sustainability step forward towards green cloud computing.
8 Sustainable Software Engineering Practices
1. Build Carbon Efficient Applications
No matter what you do, you will always emit carbon through your activities; therefore, you must focus on extracting the most value possible from each gram of carbon you emit into the atmosphere.
You need to build applications that offer value to the users but emit less carbon (greenhouse gases) per unit of work.
“Global computing could be responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than air travel”, says a Study. Therefore, by building carbon-efficient applications you can play your part in the climate solution.
2. Build Energy Efficient Applications
As Software engineers your journey doesn’t just start from the computers. You need to ponder about the source of electricity that powers your computers; whether the source is non-renewable like coal and gas or renewable like water, wind, solar, etc.
The software applications that we build consume electricity during execution, therefore we need to build energy-efficient applications.
3. Consume Lowest Carbon Intensity Electricity
The carbon intensity of electricity is a measure of how much carbon emissions are produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed.
Electricity generated using fossil fuels is more carbon intensive while electricity generated using renewables like solar, wind or hydroelectric emits no carbon.
Also, carbon intensity varies with change in location and time (hour, day, and season) due to changing electricity demand and electricity generation.
However, we don’t get to use electricity from a particular source. Generally, we plug into power grids that’s supplied with electricity from a mix of sources. That in turn produces electricity with varying amounts of carbon.
As a developer you can focus on minimizing the amount of electricity consumed in your applications in order to reduce carbon intensity of the local grid’s energy mix.
4. Build Hardware Efficient Applications
The device that you are using right now to read this blog would have emitted some carbon during its creation. The carbon that hardware releases while they are being manufactured and also during their disposal is known as embodied or embedded carbon.
As a green software developer, one of the ways you can become carbon-efficient is by becoming hardware-efficient.
To become hardware-efficient you would need to develop applications that don’t make a hardware obsolete, in other words, extend the expiration date of hardware devices.
Hardware becomes obsolete because of the continued creation of software that pushes its limit.
Now, this is something that is conflicting with the market values of a software. How would your software become competitive and at the same time it is hardware-efficient? Something to ponder; please let us know your thoughts on it in the comments below.
5. Maximize Hardware Energy Efficiency
This sustainability practice is about measuring the relationship between the power consumption of a computer system and its utilization i.e. rate at which useful work is done. This is also known as energy proportionality.
As per this relationship, the more you utilize your computer, the more efficient it becomes at converting electricity to useful computing operations.
Also, you can set a goal to run your applications on as few servers as possible and at the same time ensure the highest utilization rate in order to maximize their energy efficiency.
6. Increase Network Efficiency
A network comprises a series of switches, routers, and servers. Each of these equipment in the network has embedded carbon and also consumes electricity.
The internet as you already know is a network of networks. It is a worldwide web of devices that are either powered by renewable energy or energy mix of renewables and non-renewables.
When you send or receive data across the internet, it travels across the many devices in the network. As a result, any data sent or received across the Internet emits carbon. However, you can keep a check on this and many other factors that determine the amount of carbon emitted in order to send data including data size, distance the data travels, how efficient are the devices in the network, and more.
7. Build Carbon-aware Applications
Sometimes just being carbon-efficient is not enough for your applications.
Therefore, this sustainability practice suggests that you build applications that have eco-modes which users can switch to if they want to consume less energy and emit less carbon.
Eco mode means when the cost of running your application goes higher, users of your application are presented with a choice – either to continue with the same experience and emit more carbon or compromise with the experience and emit less carbon.
8. Increase Carbon-efficiency with Measurement & Optimization
In sustainable software development, there are many aspects that need to be optimized. However, by choosing those areas that would drive success in your optimization efforts, you need to pick a measurement criterion.
For instance, if you discover that the database queries are causing 10x more carbon emissions then you can choose to reduce megabytes from network communications for two weeks. Likewise, you may start observing sector wise, identify the areas you can put efforts to decarbonize them and then go for it.
However, you should know that not all the domains of your application are easier to decarbonize. Hence, it’s essential to weigh up the optimization efforts you invest in versus the potential rewards you gain in terms of decarbonization.
To create designs that would reduce the overall carbon, focus on architecting an application that performs better for the same level of utilization. If your application utilizes the hardware and electricity efficiently, this means that you have developed a performant application.
How are we putting our efforts towards a greener cloud?
At Helios Solutions, we have enabled many companies worldwide with their cloud migration strategies, i.e., move toward a more efficient and eco-friendly approach from on-premises physical server and hardware.
We make sure that your cloud computing goals work in tandem with your sustainability goals and at the same time help you achieve your overall business goals.
We try to make cloud computing green by adopting greener server architectures, virtualization, containerization, serverless computing and other sustainable software interventions.
Every business has unique challenges and needs. To find out how we can help you with your cloud computing journey, please get in touch with our Cloud Solution architects.
Navigating to a Sustainable (Low-Carbon) Future
If your business is concerned about climate change then you have overcome one of the greatest barriers to green cloud computing.
Wherever you are on your cloud journey, partnering with the right software development company could be your practical and impactful first step to fulfilling your sustainability initiatives.
Let’s join hands in empowering your business to meet the challenges while ensuring your applications consume lesser resources thus reducing your carbon footprint.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!