A step on the way to a Greener Software Engineering

A step on the way to a Greener Software Engineering

New digital solutions often require upgrades to a company’s IT infrastructure and the utilization of advanced features like AI and Big Data analysis. But as computer software increase in power and capability, they also consume more energy. Consequently, an important way that an organization can commit to environmental sustainability is by pursuing green software engineering principles when developing new digital solutions.

Green software engineering is a method of development that keeps a firm eye on energy efficiency. As well as performance, the emphasis is on producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reducing a business’ carbon footprint. Companies can contribute to environmental sustainability by pursuing green software engineering principles when developing new applications.

With all that in mind, let’s looks at the principles of green software engineering.

STEP 1. A GREENER DESIGN

Green software engineering starts with green-minded design. Quite simply, green design requires factoring in environmental impact in the early stages of your software development and digitalization projects. When it comes to green design, project considerations fall into two categories: structural and behavioral.

Structural considerations involve optimizing the architecture and design of your development projects. This is when you’d choose the programming languages the project will be written in.  Structural considerations take into account the environmental impact of the software’s functionality. I.e., how much work your servers are going to have to do in handling requests, etc.

For a simple example of a structural consideration, look no further than a website or web app. If a site features a lot of high-resolution images, and videos, the end user’s HTTP requests to your server will be more frequent and longer, resulting in more energy consumption.

Consequently, a green design perspective needs to evaluate how many images and videos are necessary to the site or app. Similarly, how much can we reduce the resolution of the media without compromising user experience (UX)? Would implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) be more energy efficient?

Behavioral considerations turn their attention to how the design of your software will influence the end user’s behavior.  Returning to the above example, the more high-res images a site has, the slower it will load. On a related note, the slower a page loads, the more clicks it takes to get to the information, the longer the user has to spend on it, increasing their overall screen time. Plus, from a UX (as well as customer conversion) perspective, a slow-loading site increases the chance the visitor will leave. For instance, as page load time goes from one second to three seconds, “bounce rate” rises by 32%. So, the slower your site is, the higher the likelihood of the user hitting the ‘back’ – making their browser do more work and prolonging their search engine use.

Starting the software engineering process with green design principles puts you on a path to an overall greener development cycle.

STEP 2. A GREENER DEVELOPMENT

The next, and very important, component of green software engineering is green development. This is the stage where the actual software engineering takes place so it’s vital to keep energy efficiency in mind. Green development include green coding and green engineering methodology best practices.

Green coding not only takes the needs of the program into account but the energy efficiency of the programming language as well. A seminal study revealed that C, C++, and Rust are among the greenest programming languages. While Python, Perl, and Ruby are among the least green.

Green engineering best practices starts with choosing the appropriate methodology. Agile methods guarantee to accelerate the time-to-market of software with increased user satisfaction. When you’ve chosen the methodology based on its “greenness”, you still need to set an environment-friendly software development platform, and practice efficient coding. Fortunately, you can’t go wrong when writing reusable, modular code.

Not only does writing tidy, well-organized code reduce the initial development time but it decreases the timeframe and cost of future updates. Another crucial component in reducing carbon emission when you code is using coding libraries, frameworks, and even open-source software where possible. Only writing code from scratch when absolutely necessary is a great way to reduce your environmental impact during the development stage of software projects.

Naturally, if developing in-house, you have greater control of these factors. Otherwise, it’s prudent to look for a trusted green software engineering company to develop your project in an eco-friendly way.

STEP 3. A GREENER DEPLOYMENT

Green deployment refers to integrating new digital solutions in the most energy-efficient way possible. This stage starts to factor in IT architecture requirements and energy sources. This stage starts to factor in DevOps approach, IT architecture requirements and energy sources.

An agile DevOps strategy is a must to ensure the best compatibility and efficiency of your solution. The DevOps engineering team will continuously interact with the developers and IT operations, while automating and monitoring as many project tasks as possible. You will gain in efficiency, and consequently in energy consumption. 

Architecture Design, there’s the matter of your server network: the infrastructure responsible for handling the data requirements of your software. Developing green digital solutions is one side of the equation, but if the designed architecture behind them isn’t energy efficient, your application will be responsible for more carbon emissions than intended. 

Now, if you rent your servers or use a web hosting solution, you can simply switch over to  a more environmentally responsible provider (notice we said simply – the required data migration is never easy and need to be handle by experts!). If, however, your company houses its own servers, then you need to ascribe to several green hosting solutions best practices. These are not limited to, but include:

  • Ensuring the buildings housing your servers use electricity and water as efficiently as possible. This includes optimizing heat dissipation and airflow design.
  • Optimizing power utilization within each server and rack.
  • However, these actions must be preceded by the right monitoring app, that can accurately measure energy use and efficiency and give you improved targets to work towards. Without an awareness of the datacenter’s performance, it’s difficult to highlight the right areas of your datacenter and accurately measure the effectiveness of your improvements.

The selection of energy sources is another overarching element of green deployment.  Fortunately, this is just a matter of asking your energy provider about renewable energy sources, and make sure you choose the one using more sustainable sources, like solar panels, wind farms, hydroelectricity, etc.

STEP 4. A GREENER USAGE

Green usage is considering how much energy you’ll consume through continuous use of your software and IT infrastructure. Green usage can be summed up by an alternative phrasing of the famous environmentally-friendly principles of recycle, reuse, reduce – amending them slightly to “review, reuse, reduce”.

  • Review
    • Regularly reviewing your code and deleting unused features. This reduces the number of lines compilers have to parse, increasing energy efficiency. 
    • Real-time energy monitoring: developing custom tools to get the most accurate picture of your company’s carbon emissions possible. Customized monitoring tools are important because once you know your company’s energy costs, you can maximize your efforts to decrease them.
  • Reuse
    • As discussed above, writing modular code that can be adapted and reused in updates and future development projects.
    • Similarly, using code from code libraries, frameworks and free open-source software (FOSS)
  • Reduce
    • As well as deleting obsolete features, practicing code minimization to make remaining code more efficient and reduce the number of lines – as well as file sizes.
    • Legacy software may need a full makeover, to be more energy efficient.
    • Consolidating hardware: some server networks are designed in a sub-optimal way and warrant reconsideration. This decreases both cooling and power requirements (not to mention costs)
    • Reduce your rate of new hardware purchases by maintaining and repairing existing devices to fully extend their lifespan.

 

 

Conclusion

Green software engineering requires companies to factor eco-friendly programming languages, infrastructure, as well as partners, suppliers, and service providers into the development of new digital solutions. Sustainable software development not only incorporates green coding principles but involves making every stage of the project life cycle – from development to ongoing support – as green as possible. A continuous DevOps approach will help to find and adjust the best sustainable strategy.

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