Green Software Summit outlines developer best practices
The Green Software Foundation’s Global Summit highlights the sustainability of technology and the important role developers can play in combating climate change.
The practice of developing climate-friendly software is largely in the hands of organizations, but there are steps individual developers can take to benefit the environment.
The Green Software Foundation, founded in May 2021, is a nonprofit organization created by the Linux Foundation with the support of tech giants Accenture, GitHub, Microsoft and Thoughtworks. The foundation focuses on sustainable software that can help tackle climate change, said Chris Murphy, CEO of Thoughtworks North America, during a keynote address at the Green Software Foundation’s Global Summit this week in New York. Two ways to make that solution possible, he said, are to create greener software with built-in sustainability and to change the culture of software to make sustainability a top priority.
“I feel we’re at a key moment here in society as we see the increasing digitalization of every industry of every organization in the world,” Murphy said. “We have an opportunity – and I would say it’s an obligation – to ensure that digitization is sustainable.”
“This whole conversation is important because everything is enabled by software,” said Abhijit Sunil, an analyst at Forrester Research. In other words, software is still consuming the world, he said.
The green software movement is gaining momentum
Forrester’s 2021 report warns that technology can no longer ignore the demand for environmental sustainability. In the past, “green” was more about money than the planet, the report says, but awareness of climate change has changed that perception.
“While the impact of climate change on consumption and data creation is not yet in the same spotlight as the steel and plastics industries, the issue will gain prominence in the next decade,” Forrester said in the report.
Forrester’s Sunil said that until recently, conversations about green software were mostly in academia, but now the topic is becoming a topic of conversation for major players in the IT services industry.
For example, according to Sunil, companies participating in the Software Foundation are working on code reuse guidelines to maximize code reuse and optimize code energy consumption.
Simon Mingei, vice president of research at Gartner, explained that the main reason the green software movement has been slow to gain momentum is because of the complexity involved in coordinating the moving parts of a company, which range from enterprise architecture and solutions to operations and vendor groups. . In addition to measuring energy, resources and greenhouse gas emissions from the combined parts, companies must also consider other optimization points, such as performance and cost.
Sunil and Mingai agree that while there are many moving parts in the green software movement, individual developers play an important role.
” Software efficiency is a key term that keeps coming up with everyone I talk to,” Sunil said. Optimizing code development efficiency is a key contribution developers can make to sustainability, he said.
Practical tips for improving software efficiency
Every developer’s path to sustainable technology starts with company guidelines, said Emily Sommer, a software engineer at Etsy, during a high-level panel discussion.
The Forrester report acknowledges that an internal value chain in which a sustainable attitude is embedded in the workforce and sustainability goals are clear from the top down can help improve a company’s long-term energy profile.
That doesn’t mean developers have to wait until their company moves to sustainability. Individual developers can make small changes to their workflow, such as developing a way to automatically clean the system, Sommer said.
“If you can identify it, you can get rid of it,” she said.
“If you can identify it, you can get rid of it,” she said.
On a larger scale, Sommer said, doubling down on data storage is a sure way to overspend. She advised developers to ensure a good vetting process for the project to get feedback and create a collective mind focused on sustainability.
According to Will Spielberg, Spotify’s technical manager, for developers working with mobile or Web development, the first thing to do is reduce the number of network calls. Similarly, he said, tweaking metadata or packets can reduce the size of data.
Spotify has monitors to measure carbon efficiency at all levels of the organization, down to the individual developer, Spielberg said.
“That’s probably the first thing you could do, because if you can’t monitor it, if you can’t measure it, you’re not changing anything,” Spielberg said.
Green projects under construction
Developers who are interested in measuring their software’s carbon footprint should familiarize themselves with the Software Carbon Intensity (SCI) specification , said Dan Lewis-Toughley, a senior development consultant at Thoughtworks, at a high-level seminar.
The SCI score can be created for any software application, from small projects to enterprise-scale applications, using the following formula, he said:
SCI = ((E * I) + M) by R
E = Energy consumed by the software system
I = Carbon emissions based on location
M = Embodied software system emissions
R = Functional unit (e.g., carbon per additional user, API call, or machine learning task)
The equation is under development, but the Alpha version shown above is available on GitHub along with detailed instructions for calculating the various components of the formula.
The Green Software Foundation is also working on an open-source software development kit that should be available soon, according to Lewis-Tawkley. The tool will be integrated into the build pipeline, he said, allowing for automatic deployment of carbon-conscious applications in optimal clean energy environments.
Forrester’s Sunil said other areas being explored by the foundation are optimizing storage and caching methods and using a content discovery network, or CDN, to get data closer to where it’s needed. The problem is multifaceted, he added, but every small step toward reducing emissions contributes to the climate change problem.