Today, the carbon impact of the digital sector represents nearly 4% of global emissions, more than the world’s air travel industry. In this context, reducing data center emissions is becoming a critical issue. There are 7.2 million data centers globally, according to the German statistics office, with the majority (2,670) located in the U.S. Data centers and data transmission networks are responsible for 1% of all energy-related GHG emissions. Currently, the way websites are built and operated is extremely polluting, and this issue continues to grow inexorably.
The first solution is to improve and optimize the code of existing websites and applications to reduce their energy consumption and ultimately use fewer servers. To achieve this, many performance management and optimization tools have been developed in recent years. Various platforms are available for the latest technologies and languages, and many developers have mastered these current languages and can competently contribute to this effort.
However, one major problem remains: many websites and applications are based on outdated systems, such as Java2e, and languages. Updating applications using the latest version of the same language will boost performance significantly. In the case of Ruby 3.2, application performance may increase by up to 40%.
Legacy Sites: A Headache for IT Teams
So-called “legacy” websites represent the majority of existing websites. Because they’re based on old computer languages or frameworks, it makes these websites very difficult to maintain, evolve, and even more difficult to optimize!
For this type of application, a replacement using a new language is not always easy, if not impossible. Without taking these legacy websites and applications into account, reducing the environmental impact of the cloud would not be possible in practice. Before looking ahead, it is therefore critical to first look at the existing websites and applications, which are often much more energy intensive.
To effectively reduce the environmental impact of legacy websites, it’s imperative to reduce the amount of energy used. For example, deploying these legacy websites or applications on the latest generation of PaaS (Platform as a Service) makes it possible to significantly reduce the consumption of resources required for a single application. Comparisons show that some hosting platforms can achieve optimization factors of 12x.
Strategies for ‘Greener’ Websites
PaaS hosting platforms can achieve this by optimizing resource allocations (CPU, RAM) in several ways. Firstly, they reduce the resources allocated (CPU, RAM) to each application without impacting the company’s website’s availability guarantees. This can be attained with dynamic and intelligent orchestration of resources, which allows the density of containers (closed virtualization environments) on a single machine to be increased very significantly, and, therefore to use far fewer machines for a single application.
Alternatively, IT and development teams can run the workload on more energy-efficient machines and choose suppliers and data centers in regions that offer countries that offer a better environmental impact. For example, France produces energy with nuclear power (nearly 80% of its electricity production), which is much lower in carbon emissions than what’s produced by its European neighbors. Similarly, in North America the Ca-1 grid, located in Montreal, runs on 100% renewable (hydropower) energy. It’s also possible to move the code closer to the user – at the edge – to reduce network usage and decrease bandwidth consumption.
Finally, some platforms go a step further and provide complete and transparent reports on the carbon emissions of each application to help organizations, local authorities and businesses make the best decisions.
The energy crisis, rising inflation and the impact of climate change have all accelerated our awareness of the urgency to act on all possible levels. On the other hand, the need for development teams to reduce infrastructure costs requires reducing the resources needed to run existing sites, which is possible by using platforms that support the hosting of all types of applications, both modern and legacy. This is one of the clear options for reducing the environmental impact of the cloud in the coming years and one that deserves the full attention of development teams.