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Report Workshop Green Software Architecture

June 23, 2011
Tuesday 7 June, Green IT Amsterdam Region and SIG organized the first event of the Green Software Community: the workshop Green Software Architecture. The 22 participants from 14 organizations set out to take the collective first steps in greening software by exchanging information on the status and history of energy efficiency efforts on a software level in their respective organizations.

Jan Willem Tellegen, director of Green IT Amsterdam, set out to introduce how stacking energy losses in the complete IT infrastructure introduces the need to consider energy efficiency at all layers, from electrical transport to the application layer. Efficiency gains in software development accumulate gains in all the other layers, thus offering large opportunities. During the previous workshop, the need for cooperation between representatives of universities, research organizations, ICT suppliers, and ICT users was established. This workshop sets out to start with this cooperation by discussing needs, expectations and perceived difficulties of organizations that have already started to make their software design strategies more energy efficiency oriented.

Paul Klint from the national research centre CWI (Centre for Mathematics and Informatics), who hosted the workshop, sketched a history of computing and software algorithms, demonstrating that the Science Park knows a high profile past of developing hardware and software infrastructures according to highly complex functional and technical needs. The expertise of the CWI is applied in new and old business, and by public and private institutions alike, and ranges from developing domain specific languages for smart buildings and more, through running projects on smart grids and on energy efficient computing, through serving as incubators for spinoffs, such as the Software Improvement Group (SIG).

Joost Visser from SIG presented a taxonomy of green IT that includes green software, focusing on ‘greening of IT’ efforts. The taxonomy opens the way towards working on focus areas such as 1) energy efficiency while developing software, 2) making sure the software is running efficiently, and 3) inviting software users and designers to display responsibility in their feature requirements.

Miguel Ferreira from SIG presented results of the Green Software Awareness Survey. This survey, which at this moment can still be taken by going here, helps to determine current levels of environmental awareness in general and in relation to software related matters, and people’s action readiness. It concludes that the respondents are interested in environmental issues, especially when there are proposed solutions with high impact. The potential of green software is recognized, but people need more input on what solutions work in specific situations, coupled with devices and services that are demonstrated to make a difference. It is noted that especially the perceived impact is of importance, and that this perception depends amongst others on trust and the quality of implementation.

Workshop Software Architects

Kay Grosskop from SIG discussed the difference between optimizing for performance (focusing on high load situations) and optimizing for energy efficiency (focusing on low load situations), where the latter should focus on minimizing energy spoil of system components that are not performing tasks. A discussion sparked, where the effects were mentioned of programming heuristics such as limiting memory usage to prevent cache misses, of resource management at the operating system levels and the opportunities of tweaking performance mechanisms to become efficiency mechanisms, and of resource management tactics that require higher.

Meindert Jebbink has, with the Rabobank, been involved in green software efforts for several years. These efforts would have benefited a lot of a more mature environment, including green labels, widespread green coding principles and opportunities for green software reuse. Current coding platforms are not inviting their users to mind their energy footprint; similarly to how fast cars invite their drivers to drive fast, powerful systems invite their users to consume a lot of energy. Jebbink explained that when the environment becomes more favourable, however, it becomes easier for business such as the Rabobank to become green and energy efficient within the business environment constraints of the rules of profitability.

Patricia Lago from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) discussed their proposed approach for valorising real costs of energy consumption resulting from software design strategies, in a way that these costs can be linked to marketing strategies. Concluding that for proper labelling, we need to draw lines between parts of ICT systems (based on for example functionality or design patterns) that are significant in some way, creating a starting point that is ‘good enough’, and continue from there. A first step to work towards that goal is to gather best practices on how to directly optimize software energy consumption, how to create software solutions that invite organizational processes that use energy efficiently, and how to create the needed mindset. These best practices should at least include the goals the organizations intend to achieve and the measures they take to achieve them, and their mapping to their respective software designs.

Next steps
Organizations that are interested in participating in collecting such case studies in cooperation with the Green IT Amsterdam Consortium, the VU, and the Software Improvement Group, are invited to express their interest by emailing to . Please include in your email a response to the following questions:
  • What would you like the network to achieve, and what do you expect the network to achieve?
  • What expertise do you need from the network?
  • Do you expect the expertise to be available in the network, and if not, where or how should we get it?
  • What can you contribute to the collection of this expertise?

Presentations
The presentations can be found at:
http://www.greenitamsterdam.nl/2011/06/report-workshop-green-software-architecture/

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