This year, the Green IT conference organized by EPITA concerned software ecodesign. While computer hardware is becoming more and more efficient in terms of performance and more and more ecological, software paradoxically requires ever more resources, which results in an ever-increasing ecological footprint. What are the issues involved in developing lighter software? How to achieve it? Those are the problems that were covered during the conference held at EPITA on October 25, 2012.
Frédéric Bordage, the Green IT expert who led the debates, was the first speaker. He presented an initial assessment of the issues of ecosoftware development. He emphasized the paradox between Koomey’s law, which states that the quantity of energy required for machines to run is halved every two years, and Wirth’s law, which establishes that the speed of software decreases more rapidly than the speed of hardware increases. But this process is not inevitable: software can be developed intelligently, with the aim to find a balance between the level of performance to achieve and the resources required for the software to run properly. IBM, Microsoft, Facebook… are examples of companies that have made significant savings by establishing ecodesign systems.
What life cycle for ecodesigned software?
In order to be efficient, ecodesign has to apply to all phases of the software life cycle. Erwan Bouvier, co-founder and technical manager of Blueight, went back over the different stages, from design to end of life. The first phase, functional and technical design, is also the most important. At this stage, engineers need to define as well as possible the functionality to be included in the applications to be developed and the technical choices to make. They then need to make maximum reuse of existing resources (in order to avoid redundancy), to optimize the use of new resources and to define sustainable solutions. During the development phase, developers will reduce their resource requirements and will establish methodologies to perpetuate their work. During the operation phase, users will need to respect the software’s logic by using all of its abilities (to date, about 45% of the capabilities of software applications are not used). In parallel, developers in charge of updating the software will continue to apply the principles adopted during the development phase. And at the end-of-life stage, care must be taken to make the close-down of the application definitive (for example by deleting servers to gain space) and to reuse hardware and technical infrastructures.
The Green Code Project
Thierry Leboucq, founder of KaliTerre, joining forces with the Green Code Lab, formed the Green Code Project, which aims to list and validate good practices for ecodesign. The application “Green Pattern” was developed for that purpose: it takes into account a dozen (out of around 200) rules to measure, it checks the quality of the code of any given piece of software and assigns a grade to it. According to the result, the application may then be modified in order to make it faster and more ecological.
What new management?
Pierre Carrio and Yann Azoury, of BeVeod, looked into the matter of people and skills. The increase in skill requirements related to the large number of computer languages has resulted in an increase of the number of dedicated servers. This escalation of needs has led to a slowdown and a certain rigidity of the development chain. Thanks to FaVeod, BeVeod’s application creation tool, writing and maintaining code can be automated, and hardware requirements are therefore much lighter, with a much lesser impact on the ecological footprint of companies. Developers thus have more time to create new algorithms, and therefore added value.
What market for ecodesign?
The day ended with a round-table talk on the market for ecodesign. Since it is an emerging practice, all participants recognized that there are not many clients for the moment, all the more as clients do not necessarily like to lose control of the development process. Companies are however beginning to show some interest as they realize that ecodesign can be a factor of differentiation on the market. In addition, while there are not yet any strong rules and regulations to promote software ecodesign, texts are being written to encourage companies to adopt it.
Finally, each speaker insisted on an essential point concerning ecodesign: the need to give serious thought to the requirements specification before embarking on actual development; the need for assessment before taking action and to put oneself in the position of users (for example by using hardware considered to be obsolete); the need to fight against planned obsolescence and to put engineering back at the heart of development. And all participants concluded that software ecodesign is a way to the future.
Green IT is the annual event at EPITA which combines sustainable development and IT. After looking in turn into green computer hardware, software to support sustainable development, and the required behaviour for an ecoresponsible use of ICT, the seminar focused this year on software. Run by Frédéric Bordage, an expert in Green IT, the conferences bring together specialists in this field who share their knowledge with the students.