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A Thoughtworker’s experience with green cloud optimization

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges faced by humanity and the tech sector contributes an increasing amount of emissions. At Thoughtworks, we believe that issues like climate change can only be resolved through global solidarity, with businesses, government and individuals working together to affect change. We want to help our clients, partners and the broader industry drive toward a more sustainable future together.


In 2021, we launched Cloud Carbon Footprint, an open source solution that helps our clients understand the carbon footprint of their cloud computing. It’s the only open source multi-cloud carbon footprint calculator out there. Thoughtworkers partner with our clients to help them implement solutions and identify focus areas that will provide the highest returns in environmental and investment terms while looking for ways to reconfigure, optimize or re-architect their use of the cloud. 


Holaluz, a renewable electricity and gas company in Spain, has enlisted us to help them identify priorities for optimizing their operations in the cloud. Daniel Fratte, Green Tech Lead in Spain, shares his experience working with Holaluz on this climate-focused project. 


How would you describe your team’s dynamic? How did you work together and collaborate to make this solution possible? 


Team dynamics were agile, goal-oriented and fully collaborative. We had a pretty straightforward and concise backlog which we went through most of the time pairing or mobbing. There were times in which the local team would be able to work towards a concrete milestone, and then some regular checkpoints with client and internal stakeholders to get feedback, validate assumptions, and course correct if necessary. 


In terms of outcomes and deliverables, installing the monitoring tool and making it technically viable was one side of the equation. The other one entailed deeply understanding the sustainability metrics we were seeing in our dashboard and relating them to business context resulting in our identifying  specific recommendations that would result in tangible savings for the client.


This project was also a great example of having an outsourced team of developers in Spain working on daily progress throughout the sprint and then syncing with the Clean Tech SMEs playing an advisory role in North America to gain insights, direction and help debugging any problems that arose.


Can you describe a time when you all encountered a roadblock or had different opinions on how to proceed? How did you resolve the problem and what was the outcome?


We were fully aligned on what success looked like for this project since the beginning, thus our opinions weren't too divergent. Now, as for roadblocks we faced a couple. They were mainly technical in nature e.g. from not having enough privileges in the client's cloud to deploy resources at will, to not having enough time to implement some cool and innovative extras we came up with while implementing the scoped solution. In any case, we work those around by keeping a short feedback loop with technical stakeholders from the client, pairing with them, and constantly evaluating priorities as things pop up. We kept an agile and "fail fast" mindset all the time.


What was it like to work on this project for you as a technologist? What did you learn? 


I learned multiple cool things regarding technology e.g. boosted some programming skills with Typescript (the language of our tool), increased my knowledge about infrastructure engineering using Terraform and AWS, and more conceptually got a bit more understanding about billing and usage data of resources in the cloud. This last one in particular, has been a key component of a larger cultural and mindset shift in myself. As engineers, we should be aware of the impact (both in terms of money, but also carbon) of the products and services we develop and deploy in the cloud. Sustainability is definitely a new cross-functional requirement we should consider when architecting them.


How did it feel personally to work on a project that’s making a positive impact on the environment?


Personally this has been quite fulfilling. The climate emergency is a problem that is right in front of us and addressing it will need every actor in society to do their part. I'd argue that we as technologists are key in this joint effort, as we truly understand the impact of technology in society, the bits we see, but also the ones we don't yet as highly skilled workers recognize are there operating in the back.


Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.