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AWS Sustainability Pillar

Introduction

Sustainability in the cloud is primarily about implementing environmental best practices for cloud computing. Reducing carbon emissions, optimizing energy consumption and enabling all components of your workloads to be more efficient is the key to building energy-efficient ecosystems. Sustainability is an ongoing effort focused on maximizing profits while optimizing the number of resources being utilized. It is a collective effort that involves –

the initial selection of efficient programming languages, introduction of modern algorithms, use of efficient data storage techniques, provisioning of efficient, right-sized computing infrastructure and strong end-user hardware requirements to name a few.

AWS well-architected framework – Sustainability Pillar

AWS well-architected audit (WAA) framework is based on the pillars of operational excellence, cost, security, performance efficiency and reliability that details concepts, design and architectural principles and best practices to orchestrate and run workloads on the cloud. Sustainability is the additional pillar incorporated into the well-architected framework that enables cloud architects and developers alike, to create a cloud infrastructure that is not just secure, effective, resilient and efficient, but now, also more sustainable with emerging green computing practices. Organizations will be able to reduce their carbon footprint while balancing cost, security, agility, reliability, and operational excellence by adhering to the six pillars of the AWS WAA principles. 

As the world steps forward to reduce carbon emissions through efficient use of resources, AWS is committed to using energy-efficient resources and providing best practices as an ongoing practice for all its customers. The new sustainability pillar is designed to help organizations learn, measure, and improve their workloads using environment-friendly cloud practices with energy-efficient resources from AWS cloud and customers effectively utilizing resources from their side. 

Like the other pillars of WAA, the sustainability pillar evaluates your implementation to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. The new sustainability pillar is designed as a tool to help you track your journey towards go-green best practices that support a sustainable future for your cloud workloads.

There are six design principles identified by AWS that organizations can apply to their cloud workloads to maximize sustainability and minimize impact. 

  • Analyze your impact

Measure the impact of your current cloud workloads, including all sources of impact (customer use, decommissioning, retirement), evaluate the required resources and emissions per unit of work, and compare it to productive performance. You can use this data to identify areas that can help improve productivity while reducing impact.

  • Set sustainability goals

Set long-term objectives like lowering the amount of computing and storage resources needed per transaction now that you are aware of what must be improved. Goals also assist you in tracking your advancement over time and determining any areas that require prioritization. Consider how your objectives can contribute to the organization’s overall sustainability mission.

  • Efficient resource utilization

The beauty of the cloud is that you can increase your workload anytime, anywhere. However, underutilized workloads can lead to increased energy consumption. For example, two hosts running at 20% are less efficient than one host running at 40%. Eliminating unnecessary resources reduces the energy required to run your workload.

  • Integrate new and efficient hardware & software technologies

You can reduce the impact of your cloud workloads by choosing more efficient hardware and software. However, due to existing infrastructure, adapting new software may not be easy. Implement flexible workload design as a best practice to enable speedy adoption of new efficient hardware and software options on a regular basis.

  • Use of Managed Services

Using AWS Managed Services allows customers to share resources. Make optimal use of resources and reduce the infrastructure required for your workloads. You can use Lambda and Fargate services to scale your workloads, Amazon S3 lifecycle configurations, and autoscaling groups to reduce overheads.

  • Reduce the downstream impact of cloud workloads 

Minimize energy consumption, end the need to upgrade devices in order to use AWS services and improvise time and energy efficiency by utilizing resources effectively.

How do we achieve sustainability?

AWS-recommended best practices for sustainability in the cloud are detailed and comprehensive. They cover a wide range from user behavior patterns, location selection, development/deployment procedures, and data, hardware, software, and architecture patterns. AWS recommends organizations to support and motivate their team members on adopting sustainability as a continuous process while developing functional requirements.

Implementation of some recommendations requires advanced cloud engineering skills. For example, once you identify the most resource-consuming application component, you can optimize the code within those components to maximize performance while minimizing usage. By understanding how data is used within your workload, you can choose technologies that minimize data processing and storage requirements. This would require database expertise to manage indexes and ensure their design supports efficient query execution.

Another practical way to enhance sustainability is to make better utilization of the built-in environment. Using automation and infrastructure as code, you can boot your pre-production environments when you need them and shut them down when you don’t. The available hours can be coordinated with the working hours of the development team. Putting instances to sleep when they are not needed is also an effective way to optimize resource usage.

Conclusion

The sustainability pillar is a new addition to the existing five pillars of the well-structured framework. With its massive infrastructure, AWS is focusing majorly on improving energy usage, infrastructure cooling, and network efficiency. It is always prioritizing and moving towards creating sustainable services from a strategic point of view. Sustainability goes hand in hand with optimizing costs, improving resource efficiency and minimizing resource usage, thereby reducing CO2 emissions, encouraging direct cost savings and generating a greener environment. By administering sustainability into cloud migration & modernization practices, enterprises can derive maximum value from the cloud. 

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