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January 10, 2023

Writing Sustainable Software

By David Anderson

Sustainable Technology is Fundamental

As humanity gets to grips with global warming, we are seeing a positive and welcome move from cloud providers. They are making sustainable technology and sustainability central to their operations and in their guidance for customers.

In recent years, each of the big three cloud providers has developed its own sustainability strategies. These strategies have varied from investing in and constructing renewable energy sources to carbon offsetting and the purchasing of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). You can read a good overview in WIRED: Amazon, Google, Microsoft: Here’s Who Has the Greenest Cloud.

Will the environment affect how we build softwareWhat is sustainable software development?

As active engineers working with deadlines and pressures around delivery, you can be forgiven for asking these questions.

Sustainable Technology Is a Climatic Pattern

In Wardley Strategy Cycle terms, we might describe sustainability as a significant Climatic Pattern (no pun intended). Climatic Patterns/Patterns are external forces influencing what you and your organization do. These are the broader rules of the game, the patterns of the seasons, and competitor actions. Climatic patterns will affect you.

Google and Microsoft have been leading the sustainable technology charge in recent years by helping organizations to achieve net-0 carbon emissions. They do this by introducing the ability for enterprises to measure their carbon footprint in the cloud. Sustainability as a Climatic Pattern influencing digital organizations is now becoming a factor that cannot be ignored by leadership in these organizations. Cloud providers are doing ever more to empower organizations in measuring their carbon emissions.

The Serverless Edge predicts more ‘digital’ organizations will enact green/sustainable technical and architectural strategies. They will do this to drive down their carbon footprint towards net zero carbon emissions. These strategies will involve movement and evolution across value/supply chains that will lead to positive outcomes and sustainable operations.

Extending SCORP with Sustainability — SCORPS

In terms of sustainable software and software architectures, we can build on the advances of cloud providers. The Value Flywheel Effect book and posts on The Serverless Edge talk about the SCORP continuous improvement processes for development teams. There is potential to extend the SCORP continuous improvement process to factor sustainability into decisions and goals: SCORPS

We acknowledge that sustainable change is slow and deliberate. The SCORPS process takes teams on a continuous improvement journey with the Well-Architected Framework at the heart of its doctrine. At re:Invent 2021, AWS included the addition of a sixth pillar to Well-Architected: Sustainability.

This as an awesome opportunity for development organizations to bring environmental sustainability into their workload and architecture designs.

Shared Responsibility Model

The AWS Well-Architected Sustainability pillar is an asset aimed at supporting development teams and organization making environmentally sustainable decisions for their software architecture. It articulates a Shared Responsibility Model. This is intended as a ‘meet in the middle’ type compromise. AWS take care of sustainability at the core infrastructure. We optimize application and enterprise design.

The AWS Sustainability pillar includes Best Practices for Sustainability in the Cloud. These practices are grouped into five categories:

We would anticipate teams being able to use the pillar to assess their current state/workloads and make recommendations and decisions to improve their sustainability trends. Just as important is the need to make good decisions around new workloads and setting them on a sustainable path.

Our initial impression is that the sustainability guidance offered by AWS will be very positive for teams leveraging serverless architecture strategies. We are on the right course with our serverless-first development approach.

It’s an exciting and empowering time for teams and organizations wanting to do their bit by making environmentally friendly decisions for their software architecture. Over time I personally hope to begin to introduce the sustainability pillar into our Well-Architected Reviews and into our continuous improvement initiative SCORPS.

You can read more about this in The Value Flywheel Effect by David Anderson, Mark McCann and Michael O’Reilly. Out now from IT Revolution.

*This post was originally published on The Serverless Edge.

- About The Authors
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David Anderson

David Anderson has been at the leading edge of the technology industry for twenty-five years. He formed The Serverless Edge, and continues to work with clients and partners to prove out the thinking in his book, The Value Flywheel Effect. He is also a member of the Wardley Mapping community.

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