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Cloud GreenOps - Sustainable Business

published at 09-28-2022 by Vandana Konda

Want to drive out carbon from your business?

The biggest problem the world is facing today is the one that everyone is aware of, global warming. The rising temperatures, unseasonal snow and rain, and the endangerment of vulnerable plant and animal species are all consequences of the increasing variability in global weather patterns. However, how does the cloud contribute? 

Do you know that transferring 1GB of data over the internet generates 3kg of co2, the same amount of co2 is produced in a 10-kilometer journey in your brand-new car, according to EU (European Union) regulations? It is easy to overlook our contributions to the problem when using everyday services at work or in our personal lives because they are not directly visible. Information and communication technology (ICT) accounts for 3% of total carbon emissions, of which data centers account for 45%. Which has increased from 33% in 2010 to 45% in 2020. 

I did not know this either, but now that you do, let us work on being a part of the solution.

Excited? Me too. So, the blinders are off and now we can take a closer look at what we can do. 

First question, do we have to start from scratch? The answer is no, some brilliant people have been working on some tools and strategies to enable us to take ownership of our own emissions and reduce the negative impact we have on the world. For example, it is now possible to estimate the amount of carbon emissions based on the data we get from the cloud providers that your business is generating monthly and come up with ways to reduce and act on reducing your carbon footprint. But it is important to know that tools like these in combination with an applicable operating model allow us to be fully accountable for the impact on the environment, but more importantly the improvements we pioneer. 

Cloud GreenOps - Sustainable Business operating model

GreenOps, as an operating model, incorporates all the efforts made to reduce the carbon footprint of the resources running on the cloud by the cloud user.

FinOps has found traction and best practices are being designed to control cloud operational costs. On the other hand, GreenOps is quite new but is closely related to cloud resource optimizations.

These can work together as we see that currently available cost optimization best practices can be utilized in a new light reducing carbon footprint. 

What is the scope of carbon emissions in your business?

The scope of carbon emissions is classified into direct and indirect carbon emissions which are further classified into three scopes namely scope 1, scope 2, scope 3.

Scope of co2 emissions: 

Scope 1.    Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.  (Company facilities, Company vehicles)

Scope 2.   Indirect emissions from the purchased energy. (Purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling for its own use)

Scope 3. Indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions. (Purchased goods and services, fuel and energy related activities, transportation, business travel, employee commuting, end of life treatment….)

Reduction in carbon footprint not only saves the environment and makes your business sustainable but also reduces the cloud cost. Most of the cases, reduction of carbon print means, reduced or effective usage of cloud resources which can reduce the cloud spend proportionately. Sounds too good to be true, but here are some examples of how we can achieve it:

1.     Rightsizing resources:

Rightsizing is the process of identifying the right “fit” for your processes by assigning the right resources to them (The CPU and memory that you have available in the cloud are referred to as resources). For example, although you might fit into an XXXL T-shirt, it does not mean that it is for you. Cloud operations are the same, if you are running a small workload that needs fewer resources, there is no benefit of having a huge resource assigned to it. In fact, there are greater costs and carbon emissions associated with them. 

2.     Deletion of idle resources:

Idle resources are those that were used previously but are no longer in use; idleness is also defined as a resource not being fully utilized (e.g., you only use 20% of a m4.xlarge EC2 instance resulting in 80% idleness). Even though resources are not in use, that is idle still contributes to carbon footprint production. Unallocated resources are those that are not used at all or are not assigned to a workload – both of which are extremely inefficient and should be deleted. 

3.     Switching off resources during idle hours:

As mentioned, an idle resource is also defined as a resource not being fully utilized, consider your employees do not work during weekends (shutting down only test and dev environments but not prod resources). In a month of 31 days, we have 22 working days. Turning off the resources on the other 9 days will reduce the cost of cloud spend by 29% Which means 29% less carbon footprint production. If you can extend it to a daily basis, if all your employees are working in a 12-hour window (daytime). You can also turn off the resources during nighttime which will reduce your cloud spend to 64.5% which is substantial. 

4.     Choosing a region which utilizes renewable energy:

The region in which the resource is located also plays quite a prominent role in reducing the carbon footprint. We can choose between the regions which use renewable energy sometimes without effecting latency. We should also be careful while choosing the region because in some regions they provide technology infrastructure which uses green software engineering, resulting in less co2 emissions compared to others. 

5.     Cloud- Carbon footprint Dashboard:

AWS (Amazon Web Services) created a dashboard to all its users to know their cloud carbon footprint. This tool helps the user to continuously monitor the carbon footprint generation, allowing for better monitoring of current emissions and progressive tracking on improvements. This reinforces the sense of ownership and accountability that a company has to its respective emissions and can be used at various levels of the organization. For example, AWS dashboard provides only scope 2 emissions (particularly for EC2 and S3) with a delay of 3 months. (Other cloud providers (Azure and Google) also have similar dashboards)

6.     Embedding the principles of green software engineering:

One of the principles of green software engineering is to develop carbon efficient applications. Usage of such applications, or devices which are manufactured using these principles are carbon efficient, which contributes to sustainable business. 

Conclusion: In this problem-solution blogpost you might have understood what exactly the problem is, the effects of the problem and all workable solutions. What next? 

The first steps are never easy, but the effective way to start is by gathering information. Start by engaging in a conversation about GreenOps with internal teams and external experts to understand the impact and benefits of implementing the GreenOps approach in your business