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Making Software and Data Architectures More Sustainable

Nikhil Srinidhi • Madeleine Malmsten | GOTO Aarhus 2023

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The rising threat of climate change is leading countries to commit to ambitious carbon-reduction targets. For example, more than 70 have made commitments to achieve net-zero emissions. The private sector has also made reducing carbon emissions a top priority; almost half of Fortune 500 companies have commitments to reduce emissions by 2030.

Technology represents a huge opportunity, but it has been largely overlooked to date. As digital continues to proliferate in all aspects of the human experience, software's energy consumption will grow significantly. Consider that every interaction between applications and devices requires energy to complete. Multiply that by billions of transactions and the footprint of software and data quickly adds up.

To date, sustainability in software and data architectures hasn't been a priority for companies, due in part to several misconceptions. Many IT leaders believe that software's energy footprint is somewhat negligible or already optimized, the development of energy-efficient software incurs more infrastructure costs, and the implementation of energy-efficient software increases costs through higher complexity and lower performance.

Making progress on sustainability requires action at multiple levels. Software developers can reduce the carbon emissions from software and data by being aware of the effects of their choices. CTOs can make environmental sustainability a nonfunctional requirement for software development. And companies can incorporate the environmental effects of software as a metric when gauging the quality of a solution. The goal is to cultivate a culture that embeds environmental sustainability into standard software and data engineering practices. Now is the perfect time to start.

Of course, improving sustainability in data and software alone won't solve climate change. But with an understanding of technology's contribution to carbon emissions, a focus on tech's foundational elements can pave the way for more substantial reductions in the future.

About the speakers

Nikhil Srinidhi
Nikhil Srinidhi

Passionate about sustainability and conscious design

Madeleine Malmsten
Madeleine Malmsten

Advocate for functional programming