People have significantly transformed the natural environment over the years. Environmental degradation is one of the most serious problems we face today. It is predicted that by the end of this century, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase by 30%, while the information technology sector is expected to account for 14% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2040 (it accounted for 1.5% in 2007). Industrial development has disrupted the chemical composition of the earth’s atmosphere. The result of the greenhouse effect is climate change.
In order to stop the negative effects of human activities, more and more solutions are being implemented to reduce human impact on the environment. One such solution is green software, which focuses on creating applications with high code efficiency to reduce used and wasted computing power and minimize resource consumption and carbon footprint.
What is carbon footprint?
Carbon footprint is defined as the calculation of total greenhouse gas emissions during the full life cycle of a product (company). It is expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent per functional unit of the product (CO2e/functional unit). In fact, all of our online activities have a small (but ultimately significant), carbon impact. By developing and practicing green IT principles, one can learn to use resources wisely.
What does Green Software Engineering really mean?
Green Software Engineering is a growing discipline that combines climate science with software development, as well as hardware and data center design. Its principles are the core set of competencies needed to build and run green and sustainable applications.
Two philosophies of sustainable software
- The first one says that everyone plays a role in the fight against global warming and climate change, which is why we need as many people as possible involved in interdisciplinary cooperation between different industries, sectors, or technologies. Implement green solutions should be implemented everywhere because everything is connected.
- The second assumes that sustainability by itself is enough. In the past, this was not the case and sustainability had to go with other additional benefits such as lower costs, greater efficiency, or resilience. Of course, the advantages of creating sustainability are still multiplying, but nowadays, we don’t need any additional benefits than the idea itself.
What are the benefits of green software development?
Sustainability should be permanently integrated into company procedures and constantly evolve. Being socially responsible nowadays is not just an image function – it is a necessity because the environment is a finite resource that cannot be easily restored. Companies should strongly incorporate sustainability into their business practices, which in fact – brings many advantages for the company itself as well.
While this is not the primary goal of green software development, there are a number of business benefits that make a strong case for sustainable engineering. One big advantage for applications is a much simpler architecture, which translates into faster software and greater energy efficiency. What’s more, green engineering influences low resource consumption, which allows for accumulating long-term savings. What’s important – consciously building applications that do less harm to the environment and are socially responsible, resulting in great brand resilience and increasing trust among its consumers.
What does it mean to develop green software?
- Carbon. Building carbon-efficient applications. This means creating software that, while emitting as little carbon as possible, will be able to provide the same or even better user experience.
- Electricity. That is, building energy-efficient applications. Since currently most of the world’s energy is still produced from coal, electricity consumption must be reduced to make the software more energy efficient.
- CO2 intensity. It measures how much carbon dioxide emissions are generated when electricity is consumed. It has been known for a long time that electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar emits a significantly reduced amount of carbon dioxide, so you should use them as much as possible when developing software.
- Embedded carbon. This is the amount of carbon released when creating (and also removing) electronic devices. So it’s good to create applications that are hardware-efficient and to reduce unnecessary application functions to a minimum. Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s not computers that are worn out after time, it’s developers who constantly create software that pushes the limits of the hardware.
- Energy Proportionality. It measures the relationship between the power consumed by a computer system and the percentage of computer resources used. The idea is that the more we use a computer, the better it performs in processing energy, therefore it is worth trying to use several servers with high utilization to maximize energy efficiency.
- Shaping Demand. Build carbon-aware applications! Video conferencing software is a good example. It usually shapes demand by lowering video quality while prioritizing audio quality.
- Networking. When you use the Internet to send or receive data, it goes a long distance, traveling through many connected devices on the network. Each of these devices (servers, routers, switches) has built-in carbon and consumes electricity, so reduce the amount of data and make your applications more energy efficient.
- Measurement and optimization. Focus on long-term strategies and optimizations that increase overall carbon efficiency. To achieve this, prioritize the parts of the application architecture that have the greatest potential return.
Applying Green Software Engineering principles to some popular application architectures:
It is a kind of architecture that handles HTTP requests and the worker part, which deals with operations that require time or processing. There are methods to optimize it for sustainability:
- By introducing caching headers that allow browser caches and proxies to cache static resources, it is possible to reduce network traffic to the application.
- Another way to optimize the Web-Queue-Worker architecture is to use compression and decompression for data sent over the network. These consume far less power than sending uncompressed data over the network.
- Using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to distribute static application assets closer to the source of the request makes it possible to reduce the distance all requests for static assets must travel across the network.
You should also be interested in optimizing the database and its storage.
It is better to use the best possible database to interact with your data set. For example: performing a lot of relational queries on your dataset, a relational database will certainly be much more efficient than a NoSQL database.
Microservices architecture is characterized by the fact that it consists of small, autonomous services that should implement a single business capability. To optimize this type of architecture for sustainability, the following solutions can be implemented:
- When two or more microservices are highly interconnected, it is worth considering co-location to reduce network congestion and latency.
- Think about launching resource-intensive microservices in lower-carbon regions.
- Combine services with similar points of scale to reduce the footprint of the entire microservice’s architecture.
If there is an option, apply workload migration to PaaS. PaaS solutions are often sized more appropriately for the workloads they can run at high utilization of their core computing resources.
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The N-tier architecture organizes applications into separate logical layers based on their responsibilities. The layers of the N-tier architecture operate on a series of physically separated layers representing computing resources. Green solutions introduced in this architecture can be as follows:
- If you have many logical layers in the physical layer, a good solution would be to increase the physical layers and reorganize where the logical layers work. Increasing the physical layer with a more granular organization of the logical layers will allow far more flexibility in scaling the logical layers. This, in turn, will maintain high utilization of computing resources and avoid idle logical layers.
- Try to update the load distribution and computing resources in such a way that they use fewer resources with higher utilization. This allows you to reduce the amount of energy that computing resources spend idle or consuming energy without doing work.
Let’s make a difference
Pursuing sustainability in various areas of business is the key to a better future. Being fully aware that technology is responsible for making many of the world’s significant changes, it is necessary to raise awareness of green solutions in the business step by step. Making code changes / architectural changes and choices that actually reduce the carbon footprint of the application must be made. At Applover, we are constantly educating ourselves in sustainable software development methods, knowing how much benefit they can bring to our planet!