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You can deliver sustainable technology through Serverless

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Delivering sustainable technology is becoming mandatory for organisations across the planet, from both a regulatory and moral standpoint. We have written a lot on how using Well-Architected and Serverless First principles is the best way to build a secure, cost effective, reliable and performant applications. More importantly, we firmly believe that a Serverless first approach is the sustainable approach for Long Term Value.

Sustainable building covered in plants on The Serverless Edge
Photo by Victor on Unsplash

We have been thinking about this topic for quite some time and we believe that these 5 steps will get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Measure your carbon footprint.
  2. Move to Public Cloud and close your Data Centers.
  3. Run your workloads in a low carbon region where possible (keeping in mind data location regulations, latency requirements and service availability).
  4. Eliminate waste by understanding and meeting your users needs in the simplest way possible.
  5. Adopt a Serverless first mindset and approach.

Sustainable technology guidelines

In addition to our 5 steps the UK Government’s Central Digital & Data Office recently published guidance on how to make your technology sustainable which contains awesome guidance for any businesses or government agencies. They have 12 questions that are important to consider when aligning with sustainability goals.

At the start of your project, you should consider these questions:

  1. What are your organisation’s sustainability goals?
  2. If the contract is more than £5 million per year, has the supplier committed to meet the government’s net zero target, and published a Carbon Reduction Plan? I would update this to: has your supplier committed to meet a net zero target, and published a Carbon Reduction Plan?
  3. Can you include specific project objectives to meet your organisation’s sustainability goals?
  4. Have you identified potential benefits for meeting sustainability objectives, or risks that would stop you meeting those objectives?
  5. Does your organisation have processes for recording and reporting on sustainability goals? For example, reporting on the targets for greenhouse gases, waste and water.
  6. Do your project plans include user research to more clearly define requirements and reduce the chance of buying software and hardware you do not need?
  7. Do you have a process or plan for recording the impact of future upgrades to software and hardware?
  8. Are you able to recycle or repurpose any equipment you are replacing?
  9. Are you able to use existing datasets for your project?
  10. Are there any opportunities for minimising processing, transmission and storage?
  11. Can you put in place processes which reduce printing and paper trails in back office systems and user facing services?
  12. Have you assessed whether home working is a practical and more sustainable option for your project team?

The whole document is worth a look, but I would draw your attention to the steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Cloud Bill as Proxy for Carbon Score

Without an accurate Carbon Score capability from your cloud provider, we feel using your Cloud Bill as a proxy can be a useful indicator of your Carbon usage.

Lower cloud bill = less carbon used

To back this up, AWS released a report by 451 Research that EU businesses that move to AWS Cloud can improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions that states that “Businesses in Europe can reduce energy use by nearly 80% when they run their applications on the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own data centers”.

As well as the advantages of improved time to value, security, cost, performance, reliability, and increased pace of innovation, moving to Public Cloud is now the right thing to do from a sustainability point of view as well.

Cloud Provider Carbon Footprint Score

As ESG and reducing carbon footprints are becoming a Board/C-Suite priority, Cloud providers that can provide rapid and accurate answers to questions on their workloads will be at a significant advantage.

  • What is our Carbon footprint?
  • How can I reduce our Carbon footprint?

Emerging capabilities

Google GCP have launched the Carbon Footprint capability with accurate measures of your gross carbon footprint and guidance on how to reduce the footprint.

Microsoft Azure have launched the Sustainability Calculator which helps their customers to understand the carbon footprint of your Azure cloud resources.

The pressure is now on AWS to provide something similar.

Update 2nd December : AWS announced a Customer Carbon Footprint Tool that is coming soon ! :

AWS re:Invent season

With AWS re:Invent on next week, we are hoping for some significant announcements to help teams deliver not only a Well Architected Serverless solution, but a sustainable solution. Check out our thoughts on Serverless Craic:

There is a Sustainability Track this year and this attendee guide has some great sessions that we will be keeping a keen eye on.

Serverless for Sustainability

In the same way that for certain workloads at a certain scale, a serverless approach may not be the cheapest, the same will apply for carbon score. But for the vast majority (and growing number) of use-cases, the serverless option will prove to be the cheapest and most sustainable.

We believe a Serverless first approach is the sustainable approach. With these emerging Carbon Score calculators we will now be able to prove it as well.

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