Why Tech Companies Should Prefer Sustainable Software Development
Jan 20, 2022
Have a question?
Tech managers often focus on immediate achievements instead of real impact. They are proud when employees work late and believe it equals productivity. In reality, this approach is counterproductive.
Sustainable software development yields much better results. It’s a comprehensive approach to optimizing the SDLC, finances, and human resources during software engineering and use. Sustainable software also means minimum harm to the environment, which is critical given that by 2040, ICT will account for 14% of the global carbon footprint.
To achieve sustainability in software engineering, product teams introduce proactive updates, minimize complexity, pay attention to resources consumed by software, and more. These are far-reaching efforts that change the entire industry and contribute to combating climate change.
Would you like to learn more about sustainability in software engineering? Keep reading to discover.
What Is Sustainability in Software Engineering?
First, let’s clarify the notion of sustainable software engineering. Many companies call their approaches sustainable when in reality, they don’t realize what sustainable software means. As a result, they follow a few principles of sustainable software development and create solutions that still consume too many resources.
Sustainable software development is a comprehensive approach that centers around two main ideas. First, product teams should make their solutions as cost-efficient, productive, and eco-friendly as possible. Second, optimization should increase the quality of products. The principles of sustainability listed below explain the sustainability software methodology in more detail.
Why Should Product Teams Strive For Sustainable Software Engineering?
The idea of making our planet greener is not enough to convince businesses to change old-fashioned approaches. Usually, only business advantages or regulatory requirements speed up the change.
When it comes to sustainability in software engineering, the benefits are far-reaching. They allow product teams to create solutions that focus on growth instead of troubleshooting. When development is unsustainable, by and large, teams are stuck in a vicious circle of fixing mistakes and financial losses. Sustainability software development, on the other hand, allows engineers to continuously improve their services despite the growing complexity. They create sustainable software that uses less human and hardware resources than traditional products.
Here are the main benefits of sustainability software:
- It’s eco-friendly. Sustainable software development relies on environmentally friendly practices, and hence, causes less environmental damage. By 2030, data centers will consume 8% of global electricity. The carbon footprint of computer systems steadily grows. Therefore, it’s life-critical to start reducing the volume of consumed resources and emissions caused by ICT now.
Environmental impact associated with data center operation (US)
- Software sustainability ensures an entirely new engineering approach. Even though sustainable software engineering focuses on ecology, it also revolutionizes SDLC approaches. Sustainability is about optimizing the work of tech teams as well. Instead of working on weekends to meet deadlines, managers promote actual productivity. They invest time in organizing smarter work to enjoy greater efficiency later on.
- Sustainability software increases revenue due to more motivated and productive teams. When tech teams feel they develop a product that brings real value to society, it boosts their motivation. They offer more creative and efficient solutions, which generate more profit.
- Sustainable programming shows end-users and your business partners that you care. Companies that offer sustainable software have a better reputation. Consumers view such brands as more reliable. They feel that by using such solutions, they make a positive impact.
- Sustainability software cuts maintenance expenses. Since sustainable software reduces the load on servers and consumes less power, it’s highly cost-effective. It matters both to end-users and product owners.
- Sustainable programming cuts unexpected costs resulting from compliance with new regulations. In the upcoming decades, we will see many new acts limiting carbon emissions and excessive use of resources. By designing sustainable software now, you prepare for the future and simplify compliance. When governments pass such regulations, you will meet the requirements without rebuilding your product.
- Sustainability in software engineering makes your company a favorable place of work. When potential employees know their work will contribute to the big idea, it may be a decisive factor to join your company. Such an advantage is critical in a highly competitive labor market where qualified human resources are (and will be) limited.
Finally, any tech company that wants to compete with market leaders will need to ensure software sustainability. By following principles of sustainability, you create products that will last. They have enough flexibility to adapt to the changing market environment where the need for optimization becomes more acute.
8 Principles of Sustainable Software Engineering
Microsoft has formulated the principles of sustainable software engineering as the discipline at the crossroads of climate science, hardware, software data center design, and electricity markets. Here, we use Microsoft’s classification. Yet software sustainability is much more than eco-friendly technology. Sustainable programming is about taking a sustainable approach to every aspect of software creation and use.
Training a single AI model emits as much carbon as five cars in their lifetime. So make sure every gram of carbon emitted due to software system use brings the maximum value.
We burn fossil fuels to produce the most electricity. Therefore, energy consumed by devices and hardware is never clean. The cost of powering a data center comprises a significant share of its annual operating budget. It means electricity use optimization should be one of the sustainable software priorities.
#3. Carbon intensity
Aim for the zero-carbon intensity of electricity (emissions per kilowatt-hour of consumed electricity). It mostly depends on your location and the type of power used with devices. Hydroelectric plants have cleaner energy than mixed electricity sources.
#4. Embodied carbon
Embodied carbon is the result of hardware production and disposal. The more efficiently you use hardware, the less carbon it generates in the long run.
#5. Energy proportionality
Energy proportionality software development principles mean that the power a computer system consumes must translate to real work. The more someone uses a computer, the more efficiently it converts electricity into value.
#6. Network efficiency
When software sends data online, it uses many devices in the network, each of which consumes electricity and causes carbon emissions. That’s why tech companies should reduce the size of data and hops between network devices, distance data travels, and make network devices more energy-efficient.
#7. Demand shaping
Align your electricity demand with the existing supply for sustainable programming. When the renewable energy supply is high, maximize the use of applications. When demand is low, use them less.
The last of the software development principles states that there are many ways to reduce the environmental impact of ICT. The key sustainable programming point is to choose the measurement criterion that clearly shows where to channel optimization efforts.
Apart from the listed sustainable software development principles, you should use human resources efficiently. It’s crucial to optimize the work of your tech team and adopt an optimum pace. It will allow you to continuously improve your product instead of making hasty decisions to meet deadlines.
3 Main Steps Towards Software Sustainability
Software sustainability requires a revolution of software development best practices, models, and approaches. To ensure sustainability in software engineering, teams need to measure how much energy their products consume. Most tech teams have never done that before. Hence, it may be challenging to change the mindset and become greener.
If you want to shift to sustainable programming, rely on the principles of sustainability and follow these steps.
Step #1. Get ready for sustainability software development and educate your team
Few tech companies have adopted sustainable programming approaches. They focus on satisfying the current user needs without making strategic software sustainability plans. Hence, to achieve sustainability in software engineering, you need to rebuild your existing models.
Be sure to implement automated testing, avoid overdesign, and adopt tools to calculate the environmental impact of the software.
Learn how Leobit can help you build sustainable software applications today
Step #2. Use green coding for sustainable programming
Green code is code written to minimize the relative power consumption of the algorithm. This way, green coding reduces the energy load on physical servers and systems. It’s a trending approach that enables sustainable programming.
To create green code, you need to:
- Optimize features with high energy consumption and common usage scenarios
- Remove unused features and loops
- Optimize data usage through a more efficient cache policy, minimized data exchange, and compression
- Adapt the work of the application to the power mode and operating conditions of the device
- Choose a less energy-consuming ML model if your software includes AI capabilities
Step #3. Measure the impact of your product
Finally, you have to monitor the energy consumption of the developed software to identify the modules you can optimize. It’s a step-by-step process that should happen throughout the entire sustainable software engineering cycle.
Examples of Sustainable and Green Programming Projects
Tech industry leaders are sustainable software engineering trend-setters. They value their business reputation and understand the impact they have on society. To know what others do for software sustainability, check out these examples.
In 2020, Apple committed to ensuring 100% carbon neutrality for its products and supply chain by 2030. It plans to decrease emissions by 75% and develop innovative carbon removal technologies for the remaining 25% of the footprint. Apple has also designed a 10-year climate roadmap for lowering emissions. According to it, all recently released iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac devices include recycled content.
The world’s largest retailer has introduced many digital transformations to reduce wastage and energy usage. They also take steps to enhance supply chain efficiency through more advanced sustainability software solutions.
In particular, Walmart allows consumers to complete mobile express returns through their mobile app. Buyers can scan QR codes at local retail stores to pay for goods. It saves their time and benefits ecology since self-service reduces transport usage and related CO2 emissions.
In 2020, Facebook released its Net Zero Commitment paper, confirming the readiness for sustainable software engineering and careful resource management. In 2030, they will reach net-zero GHG emissions across their value chain.
To improve sustainability, Facebook incorporates circular economy principles into their server hardware and consumer products. They build repairability and recyclability into design processes and extend the life of their hardware.
Given that tech leaders shape the industry, sustainability in software engineering will become a dominating trend. Every technology company and startup entering the market will need to follow the principles of sustainability and design optimized solutions.
Sustainable Software Development With Leobit
Leobit is a software development provider that has completed sustainable software engineering projects for customers worldwide. We believe that software engineering practices must be responsible and follow sustainable software development principles in our work.
Starting a project, Leobit assembles a dedicated team that has the necessary skills to create green code. We measure the environmental impact and power consumption of the designed software solutions. As the project complexity increases, Leobit’s team finds ways to optimize it and proactively replan the work.
We create sustainable software that brings equal value for the consumed power. It relies on the high standards of code quality and testing. Outsource to Leobit to develop a solution that satisfies user needs with optimum functionality without overloading hardware.
Contact us to discuss your project and sustainability software needs now. Also, Leobit’s design team prepared an informative infographic on the main aspects of sustainable software development and some interesting statistic that you can view below and/or download here.
There are eight sustainability software principles, including carbon, electricity, carbon intensity, embodied carbon, energy proportionality, network efficiency, demand shaping, and optimization.
Green software relies on engineering approaches that reduce the use of power and cut carbon emissions. Such solutions are optimized to generate the maximum value for minimum energy use.
Software carbon footprint is the volume of carbon the software generates during its lifecycle. Even though the software doesn’t emit carbon itself, it runs on the hardware that consumes power.