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Green cloud optimization: Reduce your digital footprint, increase your bottom line

21 April, 2021 | 38 min 31 sec
Podcast Host Tania Salarvand | Podcast Guest Dan Lewis-Toakley and Elise Zelechowski
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Brief Summary

Sustainability has become a business imperative. Emerging practices like green cloud optimization can produce real-world improvements to energy usage, efficiency and your balance sheet. We speak with ThoughtWorkers – Dan Lewis-Toakley, Green Cloud Lead for North America and Elise Zelechowski, Global Head of DEI, Sustainability & Social Change about the wide-ranging business implications of reducing your cloud carbon footprint, tips to champion these efforts and tools to measure your impact.


Highlights

  • Sustainability is no longer a 'nice-to-have', it's become a business imperative. Consumers are making purchase decisions with a focus on their environmental and social impact. Businesses need to innovate with sustainable practices in order to compete.
  • Benefits include: significantly reducing the energy consumption and carbon emissions, brand shine, risk mitigation and cost savings.   Sustainability can also offer benefits for app performance, customer experience, delivery speed, software development lifecycle and signal to the marketplace that you are a modern digital business that understands sustainability is a key component of your long-term viability as a business.  
  • It has been reported that cloud could take up over 10% of the global electricity supply by the next decade. With the shift to the cloud, the energy source and efficiency of the data center is a responsibility of the cloud providers; but customers have control over the utilization of those services and ways to continue optimizing to avoid emissions being created in the first place.  
  • Green cloud optimization: 1) Optimizing to reduce energy and carbon emissions. 2) Optimizing to reduce cost. 3) Ongoing reporting and metrics for your organization, factoring in sustainability reporting metrics alongside other cross-functional requirements.
  • Businesses need measurement tools to help provide transparency to their employees, investors, customers and other stakeholders – to ensure organizations embracing sustainability are making it true to their DNA versus “greenwashing”. ThoughtWorks' new open source tool, Cloud Carbon Footprint allows organizations to measure, monitor, and reduce the energy, carbon emissions, and spend associated with cloud and produce metrics that can be shared.
  • There's a benefit in being at the forefront of sustainability when it comes from a reporting perspective as well as around brand and recruitment and employee retention. The developers of today and of tomorrow have expectations for employers who care about sustainability and the impact of the digital carbon footprint.
  • Whether you are a hundred percent on-prem or co-located or at the other end of the spectrum, there's scope to consider green cloud optimization. Regardless of where you are on the journey, there's a path forward to optimize with green cloud.

Podcast Transcript


Tania Salarvand

Hello, and welcome to Pragmatism in Practice, a podcast from ThoughtWorks, where we share stories of practical approaches to becoming a modern digital business. I'm your host, Tania Salarvand.


The move to a sustainable world is accelerating and a large number of companies are attempting to address this as it has wide business implications. Consumers want to feel good about their impact on the world and will factor sustainability into their decision-making for a brand or a supplier. As our recent Looking Glass Report suggests, one of the best sustainability steps a business can take is adopting a greener approach to data centers and cloud usage. So, what is green cloud? How can a greener cloud strategy boost sustainability efforts, and what do you need to do to champion this effort within your organization?


We're here to discuss just that. Today I have Dan Lewis-Toakley our Green Cloud Lead for ThoughtWorks North America and Elise Zelechowski, our Global Head of DEI, Sustainability and Social Change at ThoughtWorks


This is really good timing to have this conversation. As many of you know, Earth Day is coming up, depending on when you're listening to this, it's on April 22nd, but we should also note and be clear that it's not just about a day a year where we really celebrate mother earth. It should be about what we do throughout the year in our daily activities, both personally and professionally, and how we can continue to push our companies and empower our clients to consider sustainability as just a continuous focus and a long-term strategy. I know that both of you agree with me on that one. So, let's get started.


Elise, maybe we can start with you if you don't mind doing a quick introduction of yourself and maybe telling us a little bit about why it has become so important in the business world to start thinking about sustainability and the commitments organizations are making.


Elise Zelechowski 

Sure. Thanks for having me Tania. So, I have a background in climate and sustainability policy working across government, nonprofit, and now in the private sector. As you said, Earth Day is a special day of the year where we really focus on sort of what's happening to the climate, but chief sustainability officers with organizations are thinking about this every day. Their remit is to be looking at their businesses footprint and trying to understand where they can make the most impact with their sustainability initiatives.


So, when we talk about the drivers, right, we're talking about consumers and employees, right, sort of demanding this from brands and employers. Regulation, which varies country to country, but we're seeing more of it. There are obviously cost implications with different strategies that companies can undertake, either cost savings or sometimes investments that have a longer term ROI, but companies are doing it for other reasons like brand benefit overall. Associating their brand with climate impacts has a really big impact in the marketplace.


There are tax benefits we're seeing increasingly and frankly, businesses need to innovate in this way to compete. The competition out there is fierce. The way sort of consumers are looking at products is heavily focused on and increasingly on the brand shine that comes with environmental and social impacts.


Tania Salarvand 

Elise, if I can just add on to that. You mentioned brand being a big piece of that. I'm curious how much of that turns into brand theater versus reality? Do you have any thoughts on how organizations are really embracing it and making it true to their DNA and core versus saying it, but there's no action behind it.


Elise Zelechowski 

Yeah. No, that's a great question. You know, I think that the journey to really looking at your environmental footprint is a challenging one. A lot of companies right now are still using Excel spreadsheets, right, to really understand and gather the data that they need to make informed decisions about where to make investments around their environmental footprint, around mitigating those impacts. So, there are a lot of new frameworks and tools out there that I think can help businesses really sort of make their commitment more transparent. Things like the science-based target initiative, other types of ESG frameworks. Those are things that I think businesses really need to align to, so they ensure that they're not only aligning to a specific process that has a broader climate and sustainability goal, but that they have tools to help them really ensure transparency, right? To their employees, to their investors, to their customers and to other stakeholders who really want to make sure that there's not just green washing going on and they're really walking the talk.


But I do think that when we look at things like sort of who owns sustainability within the business, I think historically, right, we've seen it mostly owned by chief sustainability officers. I think increasingly chief information officers, chief marketing officers are starting to understand how sustainability impacts their work and how their work impacts the sustainability goals of the company.


Tania Salarvand 

I like that framing of green washing. I've not heard that before. So, it's something that I might start to use as well. I think something you just said really ties well into Dan's role. So, Dan is a technologist and I'd love for you to do a quick introduction of your passion and experience in this space, but you clearly know there are a lot of challenges and opportunities to drive what sustainable businesses are looking for. I think in a recent publication it was noted that the tech sector's carbon emissions are on par with the aviation industry, which is mind blowing. In fact, I was just in a conversation with a group of friends this morning who were just asking about how you can even look at technology as a way to track, monitor, record and measure carbon footprint, which I think is just really something that's top of mind. Where do you see the biggest tech contributions to carbon emissions across technology?


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

Thanks Tania, it's great to be here. My background is building software solutions for climate focused nonprofits and also climate movements and activists around the world. I suppose for the last two years I've been at ThoughtWorks, I've been focusing on helping our clients understand the energy and carbon emissions related from their cloud usage.


So, to answer your question, I think most people are familiar with how physical actions can impact the environment. So, riding a bike versus driving in a car. The digital actions also do a study by the University of Michigan in May last year during the pandemic, they looked at the carbon emissions associated with a virtual conference that they hosted and they compared that with the carbon emissions with what the conference would have been if it was in person. The good news is they did find that there was a significant decrease in emissions from the virtual conference, but it was still a significant amount.


So, it's something we really need to keep in mind. It's only going to increase. In 2019 one million people per day were coming online for the first time every single day. With the rise of blockchain machine learning and artificial intelligence, these technologies have a significant energy consumption due to the amount of computing required to support them.


Fortunately, we've been lucky in the ITC industry that our energy and carbon emissions have remained fairly consistent over the last couple of years, around 1% of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, but that's not necessarily guaranteed going into the future. Another good piece of news is that when it comes to cloud computing you can significantly reduce your carbon emissions associated with the cloud by up to 84%, one study by Extensis showed by moving from on-prem to the cloud. But if you adopt cloud native practices where you really optimize your applications for the services that cloud providers provide, you can get upwards of around 98% reduction in carbon emissions.


So, I think all in all, we definitely have some challenges to face with the energy consumption and carbon emissions, the tech industry, but we also have some really good opportunities to optimize and improve over the coming years.


Tania Salarvand:

Those are some really big percentages you refer to Dan, which in general, people thinking about what that means to their day to day is probably daunting. To think about how and why they should be thinking about reducing it, I'm sure scares them further. So, I think we can definitely dig into that a little bit further.


So, Elise, speaking about that, exactly how people are utilizing technology, how have you seen clients or various organizations really use technology to help with those sustainability initiatives or what are the gaps that you typically see in organizations in order to make an impact?


Elise Zelechowski:

Yeah, Tania, as I mentioned before, I think this is still a pretty young area. We see there are a number of tools out there that businesses can employ to start tracking their data, but I would say that for the most part, what we've seen is that companies are still using things like Excel. I think one of the biggest sort of gaps out there right now is just sort of the cross functional collaboration tools that allow the different functions to not only track and sort of define their objectives in a more coordinated way, but to give executives sort of broader visibility, right? Across the entire business.


So, I think that there's an opportunity there and companies like ThoughtWorks definitely are trying to help businesses sort of unpack that and make those connections so that they can behave more as a modern digital business and really sort of have sustainability sort of built right into their core sort of technology strategy. I think that's critically important as we think about sort of what that maturity model looks like.


I think the sort of notion that companies have a digital carbon footprint that they don't even really understand is a huge area of opportunity to unpack. When I've spoken to executives across the spectrum that have said, "Oh, we're not worried about our digital carbon footprint. We are really focused on our supply chain because we're in this very energy intensive space and this is such a small percentage of our impact" yet they haven't actually done the work to really understand what that impact area looks like. Right? It's more of a hypothesis, because they're just sort of thinking about it in terms of people working on technology tools and not sort of thinking about some of the bigger picture impacts that Dan mentioned. But the digital carbon footprint of any company is something that we really need to sort of look at and understand not only from just day-to-day computing, but apps and sort of as more things come online for businesses, really what the carbon implications are for those.


Tania Salarvand:

That drives me to really start thinking about what it is that makes up the amount of carbon footprint we talk about. Dan, you referred earlier to the cloud and data centers that are really becoming a bigger part of carbon emissions and what we need to do to really think about those 98% reductions. Some of the models that we've seen, and I believe there's one even in our Looking Glass Report, really talk about that cloud could take up over 10% of the global electricity supply by the next decade. That sounds alarming to think about what that really means. How can clients, or what are really your thoughts on how clients can minimize their footprint in this area?


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

Sure. So, traditionally organizations would maybe look at their on-prem or co-located data centers and try and look at the energy source and the efficiency of those co-located or on-prem data centers because they were able to make choices around that, but with the shift to the cloud, this becomes a little bit more challenging to help to understand and quantify because the energy source and efficiency of the data center is really a responsibility of the cloud providers. Cloud for the energy efficiency, cloud providers want to optimize their power usage effectiveness or PUE. PUE is basically a ratio of the total energy required to power the data center, including things like lighting and cooling of server racks, over the energy required to provide the services to their customers. So, they really try to optimize that, and many cloud providers are also increasingly using more and more renewable energy to power those data centers having a better mix of grid.


So, that's not quite in control of our clients or customers, but what we do have control over is how we use those services, which services we pick and the utilization of those services. So, we work with our clients to understand the landscape of how you're using maybe a single cloud or multi-cloud and try to optimize various areas to not only reduce the energy that's produced, energy and carbon emissions from your usage of that cloud provider, but also reduce cost.


So, when I think about green cloud optimization, I kind of think of it as three things. One is just what I've said around optimizing to reduce energy and carbon emissions. Some examples of that, you want to try and reduce the number or minimize the number of virtual CPU's that you might have provisioned at a cloud provider and keep a good high level of utilization rates.


So, if you have a lot of virtual CPU's provisioned and they're not being utilized at a very high level, let's say only 10% we'd look to ways to reduce the number but increase the utilization rate because that'll actually reduce the energy usage, carbon emissions, and also be more beneficial to the bottom line.


Which leads me to the next point, which is around reducing cost and optimizing around cost. It's often true that reducing cost also reduces your energy and carbon emissions in the cloud, but it's not always the case. Let's say you have a really large dataset in Australia where I'm from, doesn't have a very clean grid as compared to maybe Belgium or Sweden. So, from an environmental perspective, it would be a good decision to move that data from the Australian region over to Europe. However, most cloud providers have egress costs associated with moving data sets and the larger the data set the larger the cost might be. So, it might not make sense from a business perspective. So, we're really trying to find the sweet spot where we can reduce energy and carbon emissions and also cost.


Then thirdly, the last component of green cloud I like to speak about is ongoing reporting and metrics for your organization. So, sustainability leaders, maybe chief sustainability officers, might be interested in looking back over the last financial year or calendar year and understand what the energy and carbon emissions might've been over that period for reporting or for auditing purposes. We also want to provide these data or metrics for engineers and IT organizations because we've heard from many engineers and developers that they want to know if I deploy this application or this service, what is that going to mean in terms of the environmental impact of that? So, we want to provide this data on a slightly more real-time basis so organizations can make better decisions. As Elise said, ultimately factor in sustainability reporting metrics around energy and carbon emissions alongside other cross-functional requirements like performance, security, cost, and accessibility.


Tania Salarvand:

I appreciate you bringing that up, Dan, because I think a lot of people who generally think about carbon and/or what it means to have emissions don't really know what it comes down to. Don't really know how it looks, how it feels. It's a little intangible. So, it's very hard to really contextualize it for a lot of folks in general. So, with you being in this space and really understanding a lot of this, how can green cloud optimization actually produce real-world improvements to energy usage, to efficiency, to the bottom line of any organizations, especially with large data centers? What are your thoughts on that?


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

Yeah, for sure. So, I might start answering this question by sharing that we've just recently announced the open source launch of a tool called cloud carbon footprint that is open source with Apache License and the tool is designed to help individuals and organizations, large enterprises to monitor, track, analyze, and improve on both the energy and carbon emissions associated with their cloud, but also cost as well.


So, the application basically pulls usage data from cloud providers and then estimates energy and carbon emissions. There's a nice dashboard where you can view the data, or if you have your own data visualization tool, then you can just consume that data via the API that we provide that you could independently deploy. So, we're really excited to announce the launch of the software and we hope it can make both an impact for organizations and our clients, but also an impact in the IT sector more broadly.


So, specifically we're working with clients to leverage that open source software and extend it, update it in the context of our client's cloud environment, because not all cloud environments are the same or created equal. Then we work with our clients to set a baseline of carbon and energy emissions over a given time period. Let's say the last calendar year. Then with our experience and expertise, with regards to cloud modernization and cost optimization, we'll identify the lowest hanging fruit, just the place to start. Maybe you move one compute workload to a different region that has more renewable energy or one example I like is you might have some data, large data sets that are in readily available data services, but you don't use that data and don't have plans to, so you can move that to a long-term storage where it might take half an hour to get the data, but it's incredibly efficient when it comes to energy and carbon emissions.


So, we want to work with clients to ID the lowest hanging fruits to start with, but then in partnership also look at what could be the medium and longer term roadmap for optimizations and improvements that you can make to your cloud to reduce cost and reduce emissions as well. So, we work with organizations to do that.


The benefit of this is a couple of things or the outcomes of this would be a couple of things. One, first is just education and transparency. I think, as you said, Tania, knowing what the carbon emissions from your cloud usage can seem quite distant from real world or teams on the ground. So, bringing that transparency across the organization so people can be aware of it, teams can be aware of it, and start having a conversation about it really is the first step.


Second outcome of that is teams can make better and more informed choices. Once you can start seeing patterns with regards to your usage and small wins that you might have as you go along, teams can make more informed choices about the different services they use, the types of applications they deploy. Another example is if you can move a workload from an instance running or a virtual CPU running to a server-less function, that is going to use a lot less energy and produce less carbon emissions because it only utilizes the energy in CPU when it's required to be used. It's not running all the time. So, the next benefit would be yeah, making more informed and better decisions.


Another one is about reporting on an annual or an ongoing basis. As Elise spoke about shareholders, investors, customers, employees are all looking to companies to do better in this space and very few companies actually report on their cloud energy consumption and carbon emissions. This type of usage would fall under scope three emissions, which don't have any guidelines associated with it and no requirements, but our view or my view is that more and more organizations should be reporting on scope three emissions, just like they report on scope two emissions.


Etsy is a really good example of this. They, for the last couple of years have been reporting on their Google cloud energy consumption and estimated carbon emissions alongside their financial reporting. So, they elevate it to that level. So, there's a real benefit in being able to be at the forefront of sustainability when it comes from a reporting perspective, which obviously has other benefits around brand and recruitment and employee retention as well. So, those are some of the real world implications that we like to talk about.


Elise Zelechowski:

So, I'd like to interject a point and sort of stress what Dan said about employee recruitment and retention. I think that the developers of today and of tomorrow are really looking for employers who care about sustainability. Millennials and the generation behind them really sort of understand technology way more than my generation does and really sort of I think, understands and appreciates the impact, right? That the digital carbon footprint of any company has. So, I think this is a really good opportunity, again, to really help build that kind of trust and engagement with the technologists working at your company so that they have an understanding and support to make better informed decisions about the types of products their companies building.


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

One specific example is we heard a company did a survey with their developers around motivating factors for cloud optimization and they found that sustainability and carbon emissions came up above cost when it comes to importance or motivating factors to optimize. So, teams on the ground are really passionate about looking into and improving in this area.


Tania Salarvand:

That's a very important point, because there's one thing to say there's a need, there's another thing to say there's a want, and then there's an expectation. To your point exactly Elise, there will be an expectation that this will be BAU, business as usual moving forward, that it will be top of mind, that it will be one of the main criteria an organization looks at or thinks about not just on paper, not just in a wild statement about a mission, but really focuses on it and can show it. I think it's great, Dan, that you just showcased Etsy as a great example of that for those that want to kind of dig into it and see what Etsy's doing, what they're reporting on. On that note, since you mentioned the open source solution tool, how would someone get access to that? Because it might be a great way for them to start measuring and monitoring their own carbon emissions.


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

Yeah. You could go to cloudcarbonfootprint.org and you can get access and try it out. It's got detailed documentation and you will get all the information you need with links to try out the code base, test it out yourself and get running. Also, a contact for them to reach out, for ThoughtWorks, if you want to work with us and partner, we're very excited to work with more and more organizations with regards to the software.


I also want to say that at ThoughtWorks, we really, really value open source and contributing to the open source communities. We welcome contributions to this software as well. We're very open to the fact that we might not have got everything right with the software and there's some assumptions in it. When you look at the code base, you can read through a detailed methodology write up on how we convert cloud usage into energy, but we really welcome contributions from all folks out there for improvements or suggestions on the direction we take it because we do see it as a real community driven project.


Elise Zelechowski:

Adding to that again, sort of in the vein of supporting employees and specifically technologists who are working on building these apps and products, I think connecting to coalitions like climateaction.tech, where some of the ideas, right, for the green cloud solution were born, I think it's a really great way to support your employees and sort of demonstrate that you are committed to this broader strategy around climate mitigation. I think, again, the workforce of the future expects it and demands it from employers, and I think beyond just sort of doing kind of base level work around your carbon footprint, I think going that extra step of helping your employees really connect, matters a lot.


Tania Salarvand:

Thank you so much for that Elise. So, one of the things that, of course we talked about throughout this conversation, but maybe you can help us summarize a little bit Elise, is really around what that true business case is. Because I think that many would agree, and you would probably see a lot of heads nodding when you talk about the impact to the environment, you talk about how we need to start thinking about sustainability, why it's important. However, I think there's also a case to be made for organizations to really own it and to make it part of their culture and DNA.


So, beyond the environmental impacts there are a few things that you mentioned. If you can just help us summarize into a checklist of what those other business case criteria are for green cloud that you've seen made, or that you would suggest organizations making.


Elise Zelechowski:

Yeah, Tania. I think definitely brand is up there along with risk mitigation, cost savings, really signaling to customers, employees, investors and stakeholders at large, that you are a company that understands that sustainability is a key component of your long-term viability as a business and frankly, your sort of maturity, right, and the modern digital business. Also app performance and customer experience, development speed, and just overall sort of thinking about kind of how technology really is the foundation of your business strategy, and increasingly recognizing that technology plays such a core foundation in your business. It's not something that we can cast to the side as an area of impact to evaluate. It really has to be something that is core to how we understand a company's total environmental footprint. I think that once a company has sort of accepted that as part of the overall sustainability strategy, I think it sort of really demonstrates again to all stakeholders that the company is at a point of maturity, where they've established themselves as a sustainability leader.


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

One benefit I want to underscore is the improvements that green cloud optimization can make to the software development life cycle and delivery speed. One example I like is an organizations build times for one of their applications were growing increasingly large, about 30, 35, 40 minutes and it was slowing everyone down and they realized it was a simple configuration option to delete old builds because they have hundreds and thousands of them. So, after a few days, delete all the previous builds. Significantly improved software development, speed and delivery, and go to market time, but also significantly reduced the energy consumption and carbon emissions. So, just wanted to under underscore that value.


Tania Salarvand:

That's a great thing to actually highlight, because I think there are so many elements of this ecosystem that would benefit from this thinking that the more you recognize all the touch points and all the various areas that play a part, and an integral part, in making sure that you're really being thoughtful and mindful about what you're doing in this space is really important. Which leads me to my next question. Dan, maybe we can start with you. What are some of the misconceptions, the myths that you've heard around green cloud and how would you advise leaders within the organizations in getting past those myths, past those misconceptions and then being able to help get their executive teams on board?


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

Totally. So, one thing that I've heard come up quite a few times is that "Well, we're a hundred percent with our cloud provider and they purchase offsets to make them a hundred percent renewable. So, it's all renewable energy. What is our job? What do we need to do?" That's not quite the full story. So, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud purchased energy attributes to match a hundred percent of the dirty energy that powers their data centers on an annual basis, which is really great. Amazon Web Services do that in five of their specific regions that you can look up. So, moving to one of those regions would be more renewable for you as a company, but the carbon emissions created from the more dirty energy for those data centers is still created in the first place.


So, by optimizing your use of all major cloud providers, big or small, you're avoiding some of those emissions to be created in the first place. So, our ambition at ThoughtWorks is to really go further and not just leave it in the hands of cloud providers, but to continue optimizing on a continual basis to avoid those emissions being created in the first place.


Another thing I might want to highlight is that you might've noticed I used the word offset there. These carbon emissions, as I said before, are part of scope three. You can't actually purchase offsets to match the energy produced. Offset are purchased at scope two and they vary in quality and reliability. An offset is basically a guarantee that carbon is removed from the atmosphere and the quality of that guarantee varies place to place.


So, when it comes to scope three emissions, our goal is to not only optimize, but report on scope three, like we would as scope two emissions, which you report two numbers. The location-based metric, which is the emissions generated and created in the first place, and then the market based metric that takes into account energy attributes, like renewable energy credits, purchasing power agreements that those cloud providers do purchase that I mentioned earlier. So, where we're really looking and where cloud carbon footprint, our open source tool, is looking at, is quantifying the location-based emissions that are created in the first place because we'd love more organizations to report on both numbers.


Tania Salarvand:

Elise, from your lens. Is there anything you'd like to add in terms of how to really get support and rally some of your executive team members to get on board with this thinking?


Elise Zelechowski:

I think executives need to look at their business holistically, and that includes their digital carbon footprint. I think that there is still a long road ahead to sort of understanding the impact in this space, but hopefully with tools like green cloud, a solution that ThoughtWorks has built and so many other great solutions out there that are being developed, that executives can start to get a better understanding with data, what kinds of impacts, right, their business is having so they can start to act on that.


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

One other thing I might add to that question, Tania, is what we found through conversations with client is that if you're working on a cloud optimization or cloud migration effort and it's underway, it's hard to achieve buy-in about green cloud optimization work because it just comes across like a new thing that I have to do and it's additional to my existing way too big amount of work that I already have. So, what I like to think of, or try to advise in those cases is it's far easier to bake in green cloud optimization from the start and to start small. So, maybe you have a new project coming up over the next quarter or various projects to look through. Could one of those projects be suitable to bake in green cloud practices from the start of that project and then slowly bake those into more and more projects over time rather than it seeming like a whole new piece of work that needs to be done with all my existing portfolio of work.


Tania Salarvand:

One of the things I'm curious about is we've seen a lot of industries take the forefront. Since you mentioned Dan, you know, of something that they feel like they have to do because it's the new thing to do. We've seen a lot of industries take the forefront in managing and/or putting together sustainability efforts around carbon footprint. Travel, for example, is a good one. Whether it's through the new cars that are being developed and designed or airlines making it a mission of theirs and really putting it on the forefront. Have you seen any industries do that from a cloud or green cloud lens yet?

Dan Lewis-Toakley:

So, as Elise mentioned earlier, it can sometimes be more challenging to consider a green green cloud strategy or adoption when you have a already large existing physical supply chain. You might be producing products, physical products to sell. We'll have physical retail stores or have physical... You know, banks and finance. So, where we've seen more traction is in digital native, scale--ups, startups and scale-ups as we like to them because when your supply chain is entirely digital, it's more likely that this will become a priority. So, we've definitely seen people at digital natives very interested in starting to test and try out some of these techniques and practices.


I will also say that it's still very nascent as Elise mentioned earlier, that it's early days and there's a bit of a lack of standards. There's different tools exist and there's no quite clear clarity. So, it's really going to be an industry effort to first understand what best practice looks like in this space and build out standards and create tooling around doing better.


Tania Salarvand

From your lens, if an organization has already migrated to cloud or is really knee deep in the process, is it too late to start thinking about this, take a step back, reevaluate and measure or no, it's never too late. What are your thoughts?


Dan Lewis-Toakley

I would say it's definitely not too late. So, whether you are a hundred percent on-prem or co-located or at the other end of the spectrum, a hundred percent cloud, like we are ThoughtWorks internally, there's definitely scope to consider green cloud optimization. I think one bit of advice, which is similar to what I said before, is that we try to take like a thin slice approach. So, how can you provide minimum value with maybe just a particular team. You know, just focus on one team and look at the entire tech stack that they're working on, whether that's on-prem or in the cloud, and provide value to that team and sort of go from there across different teams and increase adoption.


Dan Lewis-Toakley:

I will note that the software solution, the open source software solution that we've built currently supports three major cloud providers, Amazon Web services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. However, we have structured the code base and designed the code in a way that it's very extensible for additional data sources. So, you might have a different cloud provider that you could add in as an open source contribution or we could partner with ThoughtWorks on adding support for that. Or if you wanted to add CSV files or PDF documents from your energy bill, from your on-premise data center, and also do carbon estimations from that, it's fairly clear where you would add that into the software. So, regardless of where you are on the journey, I think there's a path forward to optimize with green cloud.


Tania Salarvand:

That's great to hear and it's also good that there's no excuses. There really is an opportunity to look at it across the board. Elise, before we end our chat here today, if someone is eager to learn more about this space, obviously there's a lot of things that they can look up, but can you tell a little bit about some of the resources you would recommend?


Elise Zelechowski:

Yes. So, I really hope that this has been an informative conversation for our listeners and we're here to be a resource, to bounce ideas off of, questions. We have a great community of developers and technologists that have worked on this green cloud tool that we're just launched open source. But if you want to find out more about it, you can go to the ThoughtWorks website and search green cloud and connect with us there initially, or always feel free to reach out to any of us on the clean tech team and we'll be happy to talk to you more about it.


Tania Salarvand:

Thank you both so much for this time. I personally took a lot of great nuggets away and I'm really excited to see the tool being used and see how people are starting to report and track. And to your point, Dan, provide feedback on what's working, what's not working.


A couple of key things that I think are good takeaways is just if you're taking the first starting point steps in the process, as was mentioned by both Dan and Elise, first and foremost, you talked about transparency. Have the conversations across the board, not just with executive team members, but with your organization at large. Educate. Educate to whatever extent you can as to what is and isn't part of carbon emissions and that way it can create some visibility to something that's intangible and also to track in order to see patterns so that you can make informed decisions and that will also support lastly, your reporting. Being able to report on it helps you then evolve it and continue to improve it.


So, very helpful. Thank you both so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Thank you all so much for joining us for this episode of Pragmatism in Practice. To Learn more about green cloud, as was mentioned, please visit our website ThoughtWorks.com and search green cloud. If you enjoyed the show, please rate us on your preferred podcast platform and help spread the word using #pragmatisminpractice. Thank you both.



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