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Our Top 20 Sustainable Technology Examples to get you started

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Sustainability is a Non-Functional Requirement that you need! But do you know how to get started? The topic has been around for years, but we are now witnessing cloud providers measuring carbon. And executive attention is focusing at org carbon usage. This means that there is mounting pressure on software teams to create a sustainable solution. But how? You have come to the right place for Sustainable Technology Examples to get you started.

Tell me everything I need to know – our foundational sustainable technology examples

  • The Green Software Foundation is a great place to start. They are a non-profit group that pull together foundational standards. If standards are too hard for you to get through then the Principles of GreenSoftware site will help you. But if that’s a little too concise, MicroSoft have written a blog putting their standards into practice. They also have a learning module to teach you the 8 principles of green software.
  • For larger companies, the UK government has a very thorough Sustainable Development guide – we find it a little dry, but on the plus side it is very clear. 
  • For those of us on AWS, we have been working with the Sustainability pillar as part of the Well-Architected Framework.
  • Friend of the blog, Sheen Brisals from LEGO Engineering has written a fantastic series of four blog posts on Serverless and Sustainability. He also has a great talk, if you have time to spare.
  • Finally, Adrian Cockcroft, VP of Sustainability for Amazon covering AWS, has a super talk from re:Invent 2021. In our opinion, this is the best summary of sustainability in software that you will find. ​​ 

How does sustainable technology fit into the bigger picture?

As engineers, we are usually tackling low-level concerns. So it’s life affirming to see a large scale effort or movement driving the same message.

In 2021, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, was held.

  • OS-Climate (the Opensource group) recorded their talks and content.
  • The EU also have a framework to guide investors on sustainability.
  • And we are observing more groups offering solutions, like Climate Solutions 101.

There is some heavy reading here, but it is worth looking into to understand the bigger picture of climate change.

Sustainable Technology Examples on The Serverless Edge
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

I get it but give me talking points to convince my boss

You have completed all your background reading – but how do you convince your boss?

We can measure carbon usage now, but it’s still high-level. If the sustainability messaging isn’t getting through to your boss, we find that using Cost as a proxy is a big help. Also, sometimes teams are more motivated to optimize for carbon reduction, than optimizing to save money.

  • Thoughtworks (as usual) have written an excellent blog on the topic. They consistently write fantastic content on emerging trends and always offer very practical advice. This piece combines Team Topologies principles with Green Software to describe a GreenOps approach to setting up a team to improve sustainability in the cloud.
  • Some companies elect to join the Green Software Foundation. This is usually spearheaded by a senior technical team. In the case of VMWare, the Office of the CTO wrote this piece when they joined up. In the article they also reference the Green Software Principles.
  • This is a great fit for VMWare as their business is effectively built on efficient compute – virtualization – in the cloud, this article describes their past, present and future. 

You may think that you don’t have a business case to replatform or move to a more sustainable service. Maybe you believe that there is too much tech debt to deal with.

We believe that it is more compelling to flip the question:

We are using too much compute which is not efficient. 

so…

We should increase our efficiency which would simplify things, reduce cost AND is more sustainable.

My boss is on board so what tools are available?

The main cloud providers have been excellent in providing tools to measure carbon usage. Their messaging is along the lines of “we will make the data center efficient, you make the software efficient”. AWS phrase this as “we look after sustainability of the cloud, you look after sustainability in the cloud”.

  • Amazon, Google and Microsoft Azure all have great tools and content.
  • If you are with another cloud provider and they do not have a strong toolset or approach, I would ask questions. Or you can use this open source tool.
  • The UK Government Digital Service (GDS) also have a great case study.

We’re ready to go but now we need to get executive attention

Do you need to convince the executive team or the board? We hope they are asking you about this already! Rather than you trying to convince them. But here are some helpful hints just in case.

The Serverless Edge and Sustainability

Of course we at The Serverless Edge see the link between Sustainability, Serverless and Well-Architected as a game-changer. Could Carbon Usage be the ultimate metric to measure technical debt? Imagine a single metric that represents efficiency, with no tricks? We are not quite there yet, but we think it’s not that far away. Here are some of our articles:

There’s no time like the present – get started today on your sustainability journey. Our future generations will be grateful!

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