Microsoft Announces The Green Software Foundation

Microsoft, Linux and others come together to form The Green Software Foundation. The focus is carbon reduction in software development, specifically within code.

The environment is an increasingly important topic of discussion. Our energy needs are using up valuable finite resources that can’t be replaced once they’re gone. Coal is a big one, natural gas, oil, even water isn’t infinite. All of these resources are used to bring us electricity, heat, air conditioning and more. The technology we have created uses this energy at an exponentially higher rate than any other industry. Researchers worldwide are searching for solutions, and big tech is not exempt. Earlier this week, Microsoft, in conjunction with Linux and others, announced the formation of The Green Software Foundation in an effort to reduce the carbon output of software.

Big tech companies are already trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Google claims carbon neutrality since 2007, and other companies are headed there if they aren’t there yet. Cloud data centers are known to consume massive amounts of electricity, something people can tangibly understand. What is less tangible and more convoluted to understand is how the code that underpins cloud infrastructure, the code behind an application or even programming languages impact the carbon footprint of the hardware on which it runs.

For example, Python is an incredibly popular language among developers, especially for AI and ML coding. Python requires high-powered CPUs and GPUs to run code for processing scientific data. It generally will not work on mobile devices because it uses too much battery life and memory. And there are hundreds of programming languages, all of which use varying amounts of power.

In order to combat this problem, Microsoft teamed up with Accenture, ThoughtWorks, the Linux Foundation and GitHub to launch The Green Software Foundation, which was announced at Microsoft’s Build 2021 conference. The goal of the foundation is to promote green software engineering, which looks to make code more efficient and reduce the carbon emissions coming from the hardware it runs on.

In order to accomplish this goal, the foundation wants to set standards. It wants to create best practices and patterns for building green software. It wants to essentially create a green version of GitHub, which will be open-source. There will be open-data projects and support for academic research. The ultimate goal is to create and grow an international community of green software ambassadors.

“We envision a future where carbon-free software is standard – where software development, deployment, and use contribute to the global climate solution without every developer having to be an expert,” said Erica Brescia, COO of GitHub.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said, “It will take all of us working together to create innovative solutions to drastically reduce emissions. Microsoft is joining with organizations who are serious about an environmentally sustainable future to drive adoption of green software development to help our customers and partners around the world reduce their carbon footprint.”

Aside from the aforementioned companies, Goldman Sachs and non-profits like Leaders for Climate Action, Watt Time and The Green Web Foundation have joined The Green Software Foundation. The collaboration of organizations and developers in this foundation hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the ICT sector by 45% before 2030.

The coronavirus pandemic saw a global increase in technology use. Employees were sent home to work, students were sent home to learn. Those who already had machines simply increased their use. Those who didn’t have machines either had to procure one or have one provided by an employer or school. It means that there are more machines in use today than there ever have been, which only increases the carbon footprint of our technology.

This is yet another step taken by tech companies to increase environmental awareness and attempt to reduce the industry’s impact on the planet. Other companies continue to work on sources of renewable energy so we can move away from using our finite resources. Hopefully, with a combination of attacks and strategies, we can come up with a way to prolong our resources and continue our technological advancements without a negative impact on the Earth.

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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