Cloud computing has given us almost instant accessibility to virtually unlimited resources in a way that used to be unimaginable. Right now, the only limitations are the dollars you have to spend but the relative low-cost of cloud infrastructure makes previously unfeasible things eminently possible. AWS S3 Glacier allows you to retain years of data online for less than the proverbial reasonably priced car.
At re:Invent 2021, AWS announced the new Sustainability pillar of the AWS Well Architected Framework (New – Sustainability Pillar for AWS Well-Architected Framework | AWS News Blog (amazon.com). This new pillar gives us the framework to challenge ourselves and our customers to design intelligently for what we actually need, positioned against what is possible. It makes us think about the wider implications of the decisions that we make. Do we choose to keep ALL the data (because its relatively cost-effective to do so and we might need it), or do we choose to understand our data and define our retention requirements based on that? Those petabytes of storage have an environmental impact.
Designing with sustainability in mind enables us to reframe our thinking. If you have 24 hours to stand up your disaster recovery (DR) environment, is having a full DR site ready to go in 5 minutes necessary? That unused infrastructure is generating emissions in order to exceed your requirement.
What we can and should do is apply the AWS Sustainability pillar best practices to our solutions. Establish service-level agreements that align delivery value with sustainability. Measure performance using key performance indicators which promote sustainability. Scale intelligently to reduce both cost and carbon emissions. Understand security and data transfer requirements and use this to inform region placement decisions, selecting the greenest regions. Code to reduce device obsolescence. Even small improvements are cumulative if they can be re-applied to multiple solutions.
Climate change is happening and our carbon footprint is something we all need to consider. AWS have introduced a Carbon Footprint Tool (to be available early 2022), enabling a direct view of the impact of our solutions on the planet we live in. This visual link is a powerful motivator and enabler to move our mindsets towards designing more sustainably and aligning the solutions we deliver with an ethos of moving towards sustainable world.
Cloud makes things possible, considered design makes those things sustainable.