Unless you lived in a cave for the past year, you should know about “Despacito,” the Luis Fonsi’s incredibly popular song. If not, don’t worry, I’ll tell you the story. The story is that the official video of the song is currently the most viewed video in the history of YouTube, slated to hit 5 billion views in March 2018. We tend to dematerialize whatever content we consume through the Internet and sometimes we even find hard to believe that concrete elements of everyday life exist behind it.
So, for example, how much energy was burned to play that video 5 billion times?
Downloaded on a PC, the video sums up to 60MB and is unanimously reckoned that 1MB of data transferred over the Internet requires around 8 watt to travel from end to end. 8 watt by 60MB by 5 billion downloads makes an interesting 2.4 GWh.
Therefore, the world burned 2.4 GWh of energy because of Despacito. How much is it?
According to Terna—the Italian electricity system operator—2.4 GWh is the energy that the regions of Molise and Valle d’Aosta together requested from the grid in the entire course of 2016. Therefore, energy-wise, playing Despacito for 5 billion times is the same as providing energy for a year to a community of 500,000 people in the 8th biggest economy.
Software has some kind of relationship to energy. No experts doubt that software could definitely contribute to a greener world but the way it can happen is still a bit obscure.
What does it mean “green software”?
Web dictionaries describe “green software” as software developed to have minimal impact to the environment. Impact may originate from:
- The cost of writing software
- The cost of running written software
The former point applies to any companies that doing any business consumes electricity and connectivity. Ideally, any company should be advocating and operating carbon neutrality which means reducing energy consumption and consuming energy from renewable sources. This may come easier if you’re Google, as you may read at https://environment.google, but it’s definitely possible even if you’re a far smaller company like BaxEnergy.
At BaxEnergy every work station is equipped with sensors to monitor consumption of electricity and occupancy. Temperature, lighting and quality of the air are also under constant control. The roof is covered by solar panels and supplies part of the energy consumed to write software. Even the food served in the cafeteria is produced on a strict on-demand basis. At BaxEnergy software is written in a workplace that is as sustainable and environment-friendly as we could make it.
In the past two decades, hardware resources have become significantly cheaper to the point of growing at least one generation of software developers oblivious to any concerns of saving memory, bandwidth, storage or CPU. As developers, we have found easier to rely on the promises of smart hardware capable of reducing energy consumption running in low power modes. The bad news is that such hardware improvements are much less effective than they look at first. As of today, a smart powered device can run to consume only 50% of energy with 50% of load, but when it runs at full power it consumes more than twice as much energy as it takes at 50%.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how much the hardware improves, truly green software will only come with energy-efficient software.
The way ahead to green software is paved with good intentions and the ultimate goal is saving—everything and as much as possible.
- Saving CPU cycles through better algorithms
- Balancing local storage and bandwidth
- Using less memory and less hardware resources
- Using virtualization and serverless architectures
In particular, virtualization and serverless solutions are more than welcome in a green software perspective for the ability to scale down power consumption.
Spot solutions are organically emerging in the entire spectrum of the software industry but a comprehensive approach and software environment consciousness is, at most, behind the line of the horizon. Green software is still a green fruit but it is getting ripe quickly.
Sounds like bad news?
Well, it depends on how you look at it. The horizon seems to be far away but, in the end, you can always see it!