The rise of sustainable DevOps

by Oseloka Obiora

The IT industry has evolved an unimaginable amount since I began my career almost 25 years ago. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in recent years is the way we think about the broader effects of our IT operations.

Technology has transformed the way we live and created incredible opportunities, but at the same time, we must not shy away from discussing the adverse impact it can have on our planet.

In the past, conversations around sustainability have often focused on tangible, environmental concepts—the things we can see and feel. But today, we’re also thinking about how more immaterial processes consume resources and impact sustainability.

Increasingly, organisations are beginning to recognise the importance of integrating sustainability principles into their operations and processes. This growing awareness is giving rise to new, greener ways of approaching procedures like software development.

DevOps is one particular area where efforts are being made to develop more environmentally friendly processes. The idea of integrating sustainability into DevOps practices began gaining traction in the mid-to-late 2010s. While the efficiency and optimisation that form the basis of DevOps align well with sustainability goals, the DevOps community recognised that there was clearly more to be done.

What resulted was a rise in the use of sustainable practices. Often referred to as green or sustainable DevOps, these techniques aim to reduce energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions generated by this software development and delivery method.

In this article, I’d like to share some of these practices with you, so that you can reduce the environmental impact of your own DevOps practice—and improve efficiency and agility in the process.

What is green DevOps?

Green DevOps is a concept that combines the principles of DevOps with a focus on sustainability, incorporating practices that minimise the environmental impact of software development and deployment processes.

These practices cover a range of key sustainability concepts, including:

Energy efficiency: Green DevOps aims to optimise infrastructure and resource usage to help teams use as little energy as possible while still delivering high-quality work quickly. This might involve using energy-efficient hardware, virtualisation, or cloud computing services that are powered by renewable energy sources.

Waste reduction: Green DevOps encourages teams to reduce waste in their software development processes. This can be achieved by optimising code to minimise resource usage, streamlining unnecessary build processes, and fine-tuning deployment pipelines to avoid excessive resource consumption.

Environmentally friendly practices: Green DevOps promotes the embedding of environmentally friendly practices into software development processes. That means teams should adopt (and evangelise for) sustainable development methodologies and the use of eco-friendly tools and technologies.

Monitoring and reporting: Continuous improvement is a big part of DevOps and can also be applied to sustainability. Green DevOps incorporates the use of monitoring and reporting systems to track environmental metrics related to software development processes, like energy consumption, carbon emissions, and resource usage. This data can then be used to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time.

Education and awareness: Just like in traditional DevOps practices, green DevOps practices are all about collaboration and knowledge sharing. In this case, that means promoting awareness and education among both development and operations teams about the environmental impact of software development processes and the importance of adopting green practices.

Why sustainable DevOps matters

The importance of considering sustainability in everything we do should be clear to everyone by now, no matter what industry you’re working in. Every organisation has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint—and DevOps can account for a significant percentage of emissions.

DevOps processes can consume a lot of resources if they are not properly optimised and efficiently managed. Take CI/CD pipelines, for example. Pushing code through these pipelines involves spinning up and tearing down virtual machines and containers, which consumes energy and computing resources. But if businesses put in the work to adopt more sustainable practices, they can take a significant step towards minimising their environmental impact and contributing to a greener future.

However, the long-term health of our planet isn’t the only benefit we can gain from integrating sustainability into our DevOps practices.

Cost savings
DevOps processes can eat up a lot of resources if not managed effectively—resources like the energy that powers servers and infrastructure and the materials required to create and maintain hardware. By optimising resource usage and adopting sustainable practices, businesses can cut their energy bills and overall operating costs.

Better regulatory compliance
Many regions have started implementing regulations and standards to help businesses achieve greater environmental sustainability—and create consequences for those who don’t put in the effort. By adopting sustainable DevOps practices, businesses are more likely to be compliant with these regulations, therefore avoiding the potential penalties or reputational damage that come with them.

Greater competitive advantage
Sustainability is an increasingly major consideration for both customers and stakeholders when it comes to choosing where they spend their money. People want to see businesses doing better by our environment, and they’re voting with their wallets. By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability by improving their DevOps practices, businesses can build a responsible brand, mark themselves out from their competitors, and attract environmentally conscious customers and investors.

Resilience and longevity
Sustainability is not just about meeting current environmental standards; it’s also about ensuring the long-term viability of businesses in a world where both environmental and consumer needs are always changing. By adopting sustainable DevOps practices now, businesses can future-proof their operations by reducing dependency on finite resources and minimising environmental risks.

Who’s leading the way in sustainable DevOps?

The green DevOps movement is growing rapidly, with businesses of all shapes and sizes adopting sustainable practices and fighting back against climate change. Those considering implementing sustainable DevOps practices will join a group of innovative, socially responsible organisations that already includes some of the biggest names in tech.

E-commerce platform Etsy has long been a pioneer in implementing sustainable DevOps practices, focussing on reducing its carbon footprint by optimising its cloud infrastructure and adopting energy-efficient technologies. Etsy has also developed tools and practices to enable continuous deployment while minimizing resource consumption and waste.

Streaming service Netflix has optimised its cloud infrastructure and data centres to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Using automation and containerisation technologies, Netflix has also created ways to streamline its deployment processes and minimise resource consumption.

Google, meanwhile, has incorporated green DevOps practices into its cloud platform and infrastructure services. The company aims for energy efficiency and sustainability in its data centres, using advanced cooling technologies, renewable energy sources, and efficient hardware designs to reduce resource consumption.

And Microsoft has integrated green DevOps practices into its Azure cloud platform and development tools. Like Salesforce, it has invested heavily in optimising energy efficiency across its many data centres, while also issuing services and tools like Azure DevOps and GitHub Actions to help customers build and deploy sustainable applications.

RiverSafe’s commitment to green DevOps

Adopting green DevOps practices is a win not just for the planet, but for your business.

By optimising your DevOps processes with sustainability in mind, your organisation can minimise your resource consumption and operate more sustainably—while still enjoying the speed, agility, and innovation that DevOps so effectively delivers.

At RiverSafe, we’re committed to bringing all the benefits of DevOps to our customers in a sustainable way.

Find out more about our DevOps services here.

By Oseloka Obiora