Now that Sustainability makes up one of the 6 pillars of the AWS Well Architected Framework, we thought it was important to check out what sustainability in the cloud really means.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, but when Lloyd Mini got in touch to offer me their electric Mini to live with for a week, it seemed the perfect time to focus on sustainability across my whole life. And to scoot around the city, giggling at how silly electric car acceleration is.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room – the main impact all our cloud shenanigans have on the planet is the energy they consume. Way back in 2018, AWS hit the milestone of having 50% of all data centre energy powered by renewables. And by 2025, they aim to reach 100%. So job done, right? Well no, we all have our part to play.
2. Less Is More
Even though cloud providers are aiming to only use renewable energy sources by 2025, we still need to carefully consider how we use that power in order to meet our sustainability obligations, as per the Well Architected Framework.
As well as energy, we must consider the cooling requirements of our workloads, and the environmental impact of manufacturing more and more capacity in the cloud. So if we can build auto-scaling solutions which only use up resource when our platforms get busy, we can release capacity to others when we don’t need it. Fewer machines idling, but still consuming power, and therefore less of a demand to keep increasing physical capacity.
3. Usage Patterns
Most folks need their production cloud workloads to run 9-5, Monday to Friday, but do you? Are there asynchronous jobs, or reporting calculations which can be computer outside of these core hours?
This one hit home when I started really looking into how my bills might look if I owned the shiny Mini currently sitting on my drive. Because there is a high demand for electricity from industry during the day, and demand from residential customers in the evenings, the UK power grid would much rather you top up your car batteries at night. So if you agree to do that, they’ll give you much cheaper energy. Ideal!
Similarly, if you agree that your cloud workloads can be interrupted if things get super busy, and you’re essentially just using up the capacity which would otherwise be wasted, AWS will give you a discount too.
So think about the way you’re using energy, and see if there are small changes you could make which would not only reduce the environmental impact you have on our planet, but could save you money too!
4. Shared Responsibility
AWS has a very well documented shared responsibility model for most things, and sustainability is no exception. They do as much as they can to make sure the cloud has as little impact on the environment as they can. But you must make the right choices about how you use those tools to minimise the impact that your platform exerts.
And this is a paradigm shared with the electric mini. They’ve put together a car that could, if used properly, have much less of an impact on the environment. But you need to be sensible with the resources to which we all have access, and make sure we are collectively maximising the positive impact these changes can have.