Enterprise Architecture and Environmental Sustainability
This blog is going out to the Enterprise Architecture (EA) community.
With this week being Earth Week, I thought that EA could also mean Environmental Architecture or Earth Day Architecture. We all make choices about our carbon footprint as individuals and organizations and this blog covers this across the various disciplines in enterprise architecture. This is not intended to be a web link-fest but links are included to supporting information to back up the claims that are made in this blog. Many people do not know where to look for more information on this subject so the intent is to provide just a few of the links. People can comment below with their own sources and links to information that others might find userful.
Business Process, Data, Applications and Technology are the generally accepted domains of enterprise architecture. This blog will offer some suggestions in how we, as enterprise architects, can be sustainably responsible in these areas.
Before diving into sustainable EA practices I want to mention that SAP has also announced in 2021 their goal to accelerate their sustainability goals and has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2023. You can read about that here.
As part of the Business Architecture domain, most companies have processes around their supply chain that have implications in their product carbon footprint. Responsibly sourcing from sustainable vendors play a part in the overall carbon footprint of an organization. Process simplification can also impact the amount of energy consumed in any given process. Knowing your process details and tracking the carbon impact of these decision points are all be part of the workflows that we design as architects.
For example, sustainability will increasingly be reflected in business planning. SAP’s vision is to support standardized metrics around processes, analysis, and reporting to enable companies to embrace sustainability in all business functions. At SAP, we strive toward running a more sustainable business. For more information see Sustainability, Health and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at SAP.
As Enterprise Architects, we are responsible for assembling and integrating applications across the organization. SAP as a company has sustainability goals and also products and services that will help companies track their carbon footprint throughout the value chain. The SAP Climate 21 initiative along with existing SAP applications can be used to track the information needed to inform decision makers. For many years now, SAP has had their Environment Health and Safety application that can track Green House Gas emissions which is used by many companies.
As part of SAP Climate 21, SAP continues to deliver on their announcements around helping organizations with their sustainability profile and helping to track the carbon product footprint through the digital supply chain. The Climate 21 podcast by Tom Raftery, Global VP, Futurist and Innovation Evangelist at SAP and also Digital Supply Chain expert, supports this initiative at SAP that allows customers to calculate, report and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This podcast showcases best practices and thought leadership by SAP, its customers, partners and competitors. Go here for more information.
How applications are programmed, algorithms and images used all impact the amount of data that is transmitted over the internet. There are many websites that can help you evaluate how your website contributes to carbon emissions. One such website is https://websitecarbon.org where you can see the estimated carbon emissions of a webpage. Sites like this attempt to assess the data transmitted and the source of datacenter energy to calculate the carbon footprint of a webpage. It all adds up over millions and billions of website views so as architects we can make an impact at the application architecture level.
The amount of data that we transfer over the internet networks, or through the air wirelessly, all have energy impacts. Did you know a png image file uses 50% less energy than a jpeg? Did you know the Internet has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry? See BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) who study things like the energy consumption of different image types. We also live in a time where we have Data lakes and “Oceans” of information and data. Only store what you need and don’t add to the build up of digital waste.
The Hasso Plattner Institute is currently running a free course on environmental responsibility in information Technology – Clean-IT: Towards Sustainable Digital Technologies. In this free course, they share some of the environmental and energy impacts of the application and infrastructure decisions that we make. For Example, the choice of search or machine learning algorithm that you use can have an impact on the processing required to provide answers in an application. The amount of processing being done directly impacts the amount of electricity that is consumed.
Organizations have choices to make around how they run their computing environment. With the focus many business have on moving to the “Cloud”, you need to evaluate if your “Cloud” is an environmentally responsible one. Cloud providers work on economies of scale and much shared infrastructure that most organizations cannot duplicate at scale. A 2018 study found that using one hyperscalers cloud platform can be up to 93 percent more energy efficient and up to 98 percent more carbon efficient than on-premises solutions. (Link)
As we design solution architectures, we can make choices that have real environmental impacts. The Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance or SDIA has a mandate and roadmap on how infrastructure providers can work towards a more sustainable digital economy. SDIA Website.
All of the hyperscaler cloud providers have statements around their sustainability and carbon footprints. SAP’s own data centers are run on renewable energy. You can check out the details with each of them.
- SAP – Link – Powering SAP data centers with green energy since 2014.
- MicroSoft Azure – Link
- Amazon AWS – Link
- Google Cloud Platform – Link
This blog post is just an introduction to how the decisions or recommendations we make as enterprise architects can directly impact corporate sustainability. I welcome comments on what areas you want to dig into more.
Know your environmental and sustainable architecture options and their mpact. We also make individual choices that impact our personal carbon footprints. Everyday can be #EarthDay.
Thanks Martin for this great outline. It is just to easy to not think about the impact we can all make through conscious design decisions, every day. Let's think twice !