Less Carbon in the Cloud - Earth Day 2022

When it comes to impact on the environment, does it matter where our software applications are run? Does all computing processing have an equal impact on the environment?  

These are interesting and important questions when it comes to software architecture. What is the impact of designing an application to be run by our customers on their own servers, versus designing it to be run as an application on a public cloud platform such as Amazon Web Services (AWS™)? As one example, StrataSync from VIAVI was architected using public cloud, and the results are startling. This has prompted us to adopt a “sustainability by design” approach to architecting our solutions. 

VIAVI customers connect their test instruments to an application that enables them to do things like upload test results and download instructions and work packages for test engineers. Had that application been architected as an on-premises solution, that would have meant each of our approximately 9,360 StrataSync customers buying and running at least one of their own servers on which to run the application, dependent on the scale of test equipment deployment and volume of data. Instead, StrataSync runs on the AWSTM cloud platform, hosted in their availability zones in the USA and Europe.  

Published research (Source: Rao, K. Thirupathi, P. Sai Kiran, and L. Siva Shanker Reddy. “Energy efficiency in datacenters through virtualization: A case study.” Global Journal of Computer Science and Technology) shows that a server running in an efficient, virtualized, load-balanced data center is more than twice as energy-efficient compared with a stand-alone server that is, at times, doing not much more than just heating the room. When you also factor in efficiencies of scale in construction and running larger data centers, instead of many organizations running their own small data centers, the environmental benefits of processing “in the cloud” are even greater. A report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Source: “The Energy Efficiency Potential Of Cloud-based Software: A U.S. Case Study” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) said that shifting data processing away from desktop and individual data centers to the cloud would lead to an 87% reduction in data processing footprint. 

VIAVI has more than 9,000 customers using StrataSync. If each of them had to provision their own server(s) to run instrument management software that would be a lot of separate servers running globally. Yet, because we chose to develop a cloud-based application, StataSync is running on approximately 35 servers within AWS data centers! That’s not an 87% reduction in emissions, but a 99.6% reduction! 

It’s interesting how a technical software architectural decision that might seem to have nothing to do with climate change, can make a significant difference to emissions. 

Earth Day is on 22nd April 2022 and is an opportunity for both businesses and individuals to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). Think about how you can get involved and #InvestInOurPlanet. 

About The Author

Global Facility Manager, VIAVI Solutions

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