Microsoft, Accenture, and Goldman Sachs have announced they’re teaming up with nonprofits like the Linux Foundation and climate groups. The partnership aims to develop and share ways to build software that produces fewer carbon emissions when run in data centers.
Currently, data centers account for about 1% of global electricity demand, and forecasts suggest that this will rise to 3% to 8% in the next decade.
The Green Software Foundation was announced at Microsoft's annual Build developers' conference and will be administered by open-source firm, the Linux Foundation. It aims to bring software into line by encouraging developers to write leaner and more efficient code so fewer processor cycles will be wasted. This aims to help the industry meet its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Green Software Foundation, whose founders also include GitHub, which is a Microsoft-owned software-maker, and software consultancy ThoughtWorks, is planning to build instruments and design standards for measuring the climate impact of software. The Foundation will also work on training for software engineers who want to go green and learn how to build programs that consume less energy.
“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, Chief Operating Officer at GitHub.
While it is not possible yet to determine exactly how much carbon is emitted by individual software programs, metrics are being examined by groups like the Green Software Foundation. Metrics include whether microprocessors are being used efficiently, how much electricity is needed, and the carbon emitted in networking.
The foundation plans to look at curricula and develop certifications that would give engineers who study the field expertise in this space. As with areas like cybersecurity and data science, there will be an opportunity for engineers to specialize in green software development, but Jeff Sandquist, a Microsoft Vice President for Developer Relations, said that everyone who builds software will need at least some background in it.