According to KPMG’s “KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook”(2021), investor scrutiny of a companies’ ESG is intensifying with 58% of CEOs feeling stakeholder demands(investors, regulators and customers) for increased reporting and transparency on ESG issues.
For many companies, the sustainability goals are part of their ESG(Environmental, Social and Governance) goals as an important part of their companies’ strategy and operations. This is an additional lens by which companies are viewed as investible or suitable business partners.
In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”(UN, n.d.)
Many Fortune 500 companies are committing to become carbon neutral. AWS is no different by committing to power operations by 100% renewable energy by 2025. Amazon has a goal of making 50% of its shipments net-zero carbon by 2030. Other top companies are making similar goals as part of their corporate strategy.
This article will focus more on how to leverage AWS Well-Architected Framework’s Security Pillar to improve your organization’s sustainability posture.
AWS Well-Architected Review’s Security Pillar
Cloud Computing’s Overall Environmental Benefits
Cloud computing is already the environmental approach for IT Infrastructure. 451 Research(2021) states “that hyperscale cloud servers, as demonstrated by AWS are roughly three times more energy-efficient than those of average EU enterprises with a score of 20 compared to 6.9 in server efficiency”. This is in large part due to cloud servers being more highly utilized and the fact that more of them are using newer technology and are more energy efficient.
When taking into consideration facility -level infrastructure, AWS cloud infrastructure is “five times more energy-efficient than typical EU enterprise infrastructure”(451 Research, 2021)
It is further stated that applications running in AWS rather than on-premises can reduce “associated energy use by nearly 80% and carbon emissions by up to 96% for many businesses when AWS purchases 100% of its energy from renewable sources”(451 Research, 2021)
Organizations already benefit from AWS with a multitude of reasons including lowering costs, improved performance and operations. AWS can help contribute to an organization’s sustainability goals as well.
AWS Cloud Sustainability Shared responsibility
Some of the different areas AWS is working on to support sustainability include Energy Efficiency, measuring Customer Carbon footprints, tracking renewable energy in cloud computing, and water stewardship.
AWS improves Energy Efficiency by improving power efficiency and cooling efficiency. Power efficiency is improved through an investment in AWS-designed Graviton3-based processors. Cooling efficiency is continually innovating to optimize the longevity and airflow performance of the cooling medium in their data center cooling systems.
The AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool can help customers measure their carbon emissions from the use of AWS Services. This tool will provide simple visualizations to show customers their historic carbon emissions and estimate their emissions avoided by using AWS rather than an on-premises data center.
AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool
The remainder of this article will focus on how you can benefit from the Security Pillar of the Well-Architected Review to enhance your workloads to help reach our environmental goals.
Well-Architected Review’s Sustainability Pillar
Cloud infrastructure is now a key element of enterprise IT. Even though executive management and marketing may have emphasized their company’s position as a leader in sustainability, many within IT do not know how they can best support the corporate sustainability mission. AWS is targeting to run on 100% renewable energy and introduced the Sustainability Pillar for AWS Well-Architected Framework to assist with these efforts. The Well-Architected Tool is a no-cost tool which assists in building secure, high-performing and efficient workloads with a variety of pillars, domain-specific lenses.
The Sustainability Pillar helps you address the environmental impact that your cloud workloads may have. Although the sustainability aspect may seem like more work, much of it aligns with the existing Well-Architected pillars and concepts including Serverless Computing, AWS Graviton Processors, Auto Scaling and Spot instances.
An organization can benefit from having their AWS workloads contribute to an organization’s environmental initiatives which are becoming more and more important in today’s world. According to 451 Research(October 2019). AWS infrastructure is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median of the surveyed US enterprise data centers.
The 6 WAR Sustainability Best Practices
The AWS Well-Architected Review helps cloud architects build secure, high-performing, resilient, and efficient infrastructure for their cloud workloads. It initially contained 5 pillars(Key Architectural areas) and late in 2021, the Sustainability Pillar was added to help reduce the environmental impacts of running cloud workloads. We will now walk through the 6 best practices (or questions) that have been introduced as part of this pillar. We will look at each question within this pillar and see how to address the environmental impact from within the Well-Architected Review.
How do you select Regions to support your sustainability goals?
User patterns are important with respect to your workloads. In general you wish to reduce the distance between your workload and your users to reduce environmental impact.
The following are some key approaches to select regions to address the Sustainability Pillar for your AWS workloads:
- Utilize Regions close the the majority of your users
- Utilize CloudFront to speed up downloads and compress objects
- Utilize cross-region read replicas to allow users closer access to data
- Utilize DynamoDB Global Tables to alleviate network load and speed up performance
Additionally, you can select regions near Amazon renewable energy sources or with a reduced carbon footprint as can be viewed on the AWS Renewable Energy Map
How do you take advantage of user behavior patterns to support your sustainability goals?
User behavior patterns will support your sustainability goals by optimizing resource utilization to meet your users’ needs efficiently.
Common approaches approaches to address to sustainability with user behavior patterns:
- Utilize serverless(Lambda), EKS(Kubernetes) or autoscaling to remove excess capacity
- Define and update SLAs with respect to availability or data retention to minimize resources but still meet business needs
- Review Asset usage with the AWS Cost and Usage Reports to enable consolidation and decommissioning of under or not used applications
- Review network access patterns of users to decrease the required network resources
How do you take advantage of software and architecture patterns to support your sustainability goals?
An architecture pattern is a general, reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem in software architecture within a given context. Many software and architecture patterns can be viewed on the AWS Partner Network (APN) blog with respect to AWS implementations.
Some of the key approaches to this Sustainability Pillar’s best practices involving software and architecture patterns include:
- Use efficient software designs and architectures to reduce idle resources and minimize spike impacts
- Adjust architecture based on unused or no longer required components
- Implement new features using backward compatible code
- Select technologies that minimize data processing and storage requirements
How do you take advantage of data access and usage patterns to support your sustainability goals?
Data access and usage patterns are also key elements of the best practice to reduce environmental impact while still meeting customer needs. This involves understanding how the customer’s data needs to reduce environmental impact.
Common approaches/techniques involving data access and usage patterns:
- Classify data with respect to its significance to business outcomes (Knowing when it can be moved to more energy efficient storage(S3 Glacier) or even be removed
- Manage the lifecycle of all data with automatically enforced deletion timelines
- Avoid duplication of data and limit use of Redundant Array of Independent Drives(RAID)
- Only backup data that has business value or is required for compliance requirements
How do your hardware management and usage practices support your sustainability goals?
Hardware management is also a key best practice within the Sustainability Pillar. This usually involves making hardware current and reducing usage when not needed for your workloads.
Hardware management and usage practice approaches/techniques include:
- As workloads are updated ensure that the deployed components are updated(Removed when no longer used)
- Monitor the release of new instance types to take care of further energy efficiency improvements
- Only run GPUs(Graphical Processing Units) for the time required and decommission automatically as these are a source of high-power consumption
- Use of Managed services shift the responsibility from the customer to AWS to manage and distribute the sustainability benefits to all tenants of these services
How do your development and deployment processes support your sustainability goals?
How you develop and deploy your workloads is also important. Ensuring the underlying libraries are up to date can improve efficiency as is automating the deployment and tear down of environments.
Development and deployment approaches to support the sustainability goals include the following:
- Use up-to-date operating systems, libraries, and applications to improve workload efficiency
- Automation and infrastructure as code can bring pre-production environments up when needed and take them down when not used
- Managed device farms as an application testing service help spread the sustainability impact across multiple tenants
It is important for all organizations to consider their environmental impact. Information Infrastructure is a contributing factor to this impact. It has already been established that cloud computing is better than on premise computing. AWS is committed to improving their energy efficiency with improved computing, use of modern data centers operating with more renewable energy.
The Well-Architected Review including the Sustainability Pillar consisting of its 6 Best Practices. We have reviewed these 6 Best Practices and some common approaches to help customers meet their sustainability goals in a complementary manner to ensuring that their workloads are architecturally sound.
Reach out to us at Xerris.com for more information about your organization’s how we can help you with your cloud journey including your sustainability goals.
451 Research. (October 2019). The Carbon Reduction Opportunity of Moving to Amazon Web Services. Retrieved on September 15, 2022 from https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/carbon-reduction-aws.pdf
451 Research. (2021). Saving Energy in Europe by Using Amazon Web Services. Retrieved on September 17, 2022 from https://d39w7f4ix9f5s9.cloudfront.net/d1/80/283b833847df8ee4fe9661e0dd8f/11061-aws-451research-advisory-bw-cloudefficiency-eu-2021-r2-final-2.pdf
AWS. (2022). Sustainability in the Cloud. Retrieved on September 21, 2022 from https://sustainability.aboutamazon.com/environment/the-cloud
KPMG. (2021) KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook. Retrieved on September 21, 2022 from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2021/09/kpmg-2021-ceo-outlook.pdf
United Nations. (n.d.) United Nations.. Sustainability. Retrieved on September 23, 2022 from https://www.un.org/en/academic-impact/sustainability