With the UK Government pledging to cut emissions by 68% by 2030, there will be increasing pressure on businesses to do more to reduce their environmental impact. While reducing and recycling waste are some of the methods that spring to mind when helping to achieve a zero-carbon future, one area that is often overlooked is a company’s online carbon footprint. Melissa Hendry, Co-founder & Managing Director of digital transformation specialists, ddroidd, discusses how a business’ website could be significantly increasing its carbon emissions and even costs.
On its own, the software we use does not consume energy or cause environmental harm. The issue is the way software is developed and deployed. Software is dependent on hardware, and as reliance on software increases exponentially, so too does the reliance on the machines which support it.
Currently, when a user accesses a webpage, the videos, text and images contained are requested from external servers. Each time the webpage is visited, most of this page information is served afresh and discarded once the user leaves. Constant information requests mean more servers are needed and there is more chance of overload as ‘new’ content must be retrieved every time.
It is no wonder then that data centres collectively consume around 3% of all global power generated. It’s a scary figure but one data centres are making moves to tackle. According to the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, 75% of the power supplied to data centres in Europe will be supplied through renewable or carbon-free energy by December 2025.
While moves are being made to reduce this energy consumption, more needs to be done to reduce the amount of data being unnecessarily stored. Technology has the uncanny ability to provide solutions to the very problems it creates. Using smarter code, combined with an efficient set-up of hosting architecture, some technology providers can establish optimised applications that give businesses full control over their processing power.
Rather than devices needing to continually retrieve the same data, technologies such as the ddroidd A+++ solution recycle and reuse previously processed information, eliminating the need for unnecessary information reprocessing that demands extensive resources. It’s a method that can cut information reprocessing by 90%, reduce a website’s energy consumption, improve reliability and responsibility as well as cut costs. Indeed, reducing the energy consumption of software can be 100 times more powerful than reducing the energy consumption of hardware.
The benefits of developing and deploying ‘greener’ software speak for themselves and can be achieved in only three steps.
- Articulate a strategy that guides trade-offs and allows for flexibility
IT teams must firstly calculate the right level of tolerance for their software’s environmental effects. Inevitably, there will be trade-offs between business and environmental goals, and software engineers must determine where the go/no-go line is. For example, AI software requires huge amounts of energy to increase accuracy from say 96% to 98%. Whether that 2% increase in accuracy is worth the added energy consumption is a business decision that requires deliberation.
- Review and refine the software development life cycle
What is the smallest possible environmental footprint we could make with this application? The answer will guide the first stages of the software development cycle. Expectations may shift as further knowledge is gained, but this starting point is an important benchmark for defining the feasibility of objectives. From here, recommendations can be developed for algorithms, programming languages, APIs and libraries that can be drawn on to minimise carbon emissions.
When it comes to deployment, monitoring real-time power consumption through techniques such as dynamic code analysis is essential for understanding the gaps between design choices and actual energy profiles.
- Make the cloud green
Today’s applications are invariably deployed over the cloud, which has led to an exponential growth in cloud-based services and a rapid expansion of power-intensive data centres. Though renewable energy sources and improved cooling systems are helping to address the problem, implementing green software solutions creates new opportunities to save energy.
With ambitious targets to reach a zero-carbon future, businesses are at a critical point to find achievable yet impactful solutions to reduce their carbon emissions. Efficient technology can play a crucial role in a more sustainable future.