Together we can make a difference

An open letter to software engineers.

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge of our generation and likely will be for generations to come.

While politicians debate policy and targets, we should ask ourselves, as software engineers: what can we do?

When I think about the that question, this quote by Henry Petroski comes to mind:

The most amazing achievement of the computer software industry is its continuing cancellation of the steady and staggering gains made by the computer hardware industry.

Much of the state of the art in software development practise and tooling surrounds expedience of the development process driven by time to market and cost considerations. This is manifested in heavy runtime software infrastructure, large libraries, or inefficient code; frequently all of these.

This leads to increasing demand for compute resources, which in turn drives energy consumption. Data centres currently account for approximately of 1% of the global demand for electricity according to The International Energy Agency, hovering between 175 and 200TWh annually.

If you follow the link above, you will see two trends, energy demand for servers increasing and data centre infrastructure reducing, neatly offsetting each other. While convenient currently, innovation in data centre infrastructure cannot continually cancel the server demand.

So how can we, as software engineers, prevent future increases or better still reduce power consumption? When designing the solution architecture of your application, please ask yourself: can I make this more energy efficient?

David Mesquita-Morris
9th October 2019