Meet Red Hat’s green software guru
By Red Hat
In this interview with GovInsider, Vincent Caldeira, Chief Technology Officer, APAC, Red Hat, shares how organisations can ‘green’ their IT infrastructure and how open source is driving sustainable software and climate finance.
Red Hat's green software advocate shares with GovInsider how organisations can green their ICT infrastructure. Image: Canva
Red Hat’s Vincent Caldeira has become a green software advocate.
Over the past year, the company’s Chief Technology Officer for APAC spoke at COP28 to share on climate data management, partnered with Singapore’s IMDA to conduct technical sharings on sustainable software practices, or ‘green software’, and helped conduct green software training for organisations.
“I’m here to educate people on the responsible use of technology – in the long term, this is the right thing to do,” he says to GovInsider on his slew of voluntary climate education initiatives.
“The business case for this is not yet well-defined! One could argue that in the short term, we may be making less sales as a result of helping customers to optimise their infrastructure and reduce their overall consumption,” he laughs.
“However, as businesses become more aware of the impact of their technology on the environment, we see a trend in customers looking for technology partners that can help them measure and optimise their carbon emissions resulting from digital workloads.”
Caldeira explains that though the digital industry has become more efficient thanks to technical innovations, the increasing energy consumption still offsets these efficiency gains. According to a recent report by Allianz, the global ICT sector currently emits as much greenhouse gases as the aviation sector, and this will only grow with energy-intensive trends like cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence.
This is why the computing community has to embrace discipline when it comes to architecting and optimising software, he shares.
Sustainable software by design
First, leaders need to design their IT infrastructure to be sustainable from the ground-up, he says.
At the hardware layer of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, every decision a leader makes can determine their organisation’s overall power consumption profile. For instance, if an organisation hosts their workloads in a data centre in Finland, they will be able to tap on more renewable energy sources than in India, he explains.
Next, organisations can re-architect their systems to run cloud-native so that they are optimised for the cloud environment. This can let them tap on technologies such as serverless, which lets organisations scale their server usage as needed.
“In a traditional data centre, you have servers waiting for your workload on the cloud. With serverless technologies available on a cloud computing model, organisations can bring their processes down to zero utilisation if you anticipate there is going to be zero usage,” Caldeira explains.
Nowadays, developers can tap on generative AI to modernise older applications, as such tools can reduce development time to a fraction.
Software can even be designed to be energy efficient at the level of code, he says. Certain coding languages like C++ are more energy efficient, in terms of memory usage and energy consumption, than languages like Python.
Developers can also develop code more efficiently by writing code that is shorter and more optimised. There is a tendency for developers to overlook this when they have unlimited compute on the cloud, he says.
Sustainable by default
But people will only optimise their software when there is a feedback mechanism to alert them, he says. This is why observability systems that can alert developers to inefficiencies are critical.
IT leaders need to be able to consistently measure the energy footprint of their IT systems in real time to understand how specific operational decisions affect their consumption.
One open source project, Kepler, measures how much power applications consume at the process level in real time, provides a standardised measurement of power consumption for cloud-native software and helps leaders measure the impact of each decision, he shares.
“These standards can be leveraged by all the providers of cloud infrastructure globally, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google and IBM, to provide standardised and comparable measures of equivalent carbon emissions for IT workloads” he says.
Once observability data is available, standardised and reliable, organisations can also deploy AI to optimise energy profile consumption of processes continuously at the operating system level, he says. Such projects are already available in the open source community.
The next step will be to develop tools that can optimise the software supply chain to use power and carbon efficiency as indicators in the software quality management process and incentivise green software development, he says.
Digital tools to drive climate finance
Beyond his role at Red Hat, Caldeira is the Technical Advisory Council Chair at OS-Climate, an open source project that aims to direct global capital flows into climate mitigation and resilience efforts.
At OS-Climate, Caldeira works with financial companies and data scientists to build tools to support investors in better understanding climate data and allocating the right capital to the right projects, bridging the climate finance gap.
Rather than having hundreds of tools being developed simultaneously by different companies, the beauty of open source is that it brings together a single community to solve the same set of problems, shares Caldeira.
“The more we work together, the more we can develop industry standards, and the faster people can derive benefits and savings,” he says.
“The more things are proprietary, the less adoption you have and the more inefficiency you build,” he explains.