How to design a carbon sustainable solution?

Latest predictions state that if we continue As-Is, our planet will have heated up by 1C-2C at the time we reach the turn of this century. In its fifth assessment report (2013) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated how much sea level is likely to rise in the 21st century based on different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The report noted that “…If countries make rapid cuts to emissions (the RCP2.6 scenario), the IPCC deems it likely that the sea level will rise by 26–55 cm (10–22 in) with a 67%  confidence interval. If emissions remain very high, the IPCC projects sea level will rise by 52–98 cm (20–39 in)”[1].

A half a meter sea level rise will affect all of us and there are a number of things we can do to minimize the impact ICT has[2]; sustainability must be a key consideration when we design (IT) solutions. 

Last year July we released our latest Integrated Architecture Framework Version 6.0 – The Sustainability Edition[3]. In the external post I noted that designing “…sustainable IT solutions can be complex, as there are many factors and aspects to consider…. Aspects like quality and value for money, sustainability and agility are key characteristics critical to any IT solution”. To successfully design sustainable solutions 4 main aspects should be considered: 

  1. By defining what sustainability means + set clear solution related principles 
  2. By ensuring that the entire architecture design process considers sustainability related artefacts 
  3. By ensuring that there is a balance between value for money, agility, compliance, and sustainability 
  4. By applying a design thinking approach 

Let’s consider the first point, which is defining what sustainability meansSustainability in an information technology context can be characterized by the application of IT practices and technologies for the benefit of customers and other stakeholders that ensure long-term well-being in economic, social, and environmental sustainability pillars [4] 

Broadly sustainability means that the sourcing, operation, and disposal of IT equipment does not directly or indirectly negatively affect economic, social, and environmental aspects.   

Sustainability in an IT context can be related to aspects such as electricity consumption, water usage as well as economic and social implications.   

The second point outlined the need for developing all sustainability related artefacts. We developed IAF V6 Sustainability with this aspect in mind; to ensure we consider all sustainability related artefacts when designing a solution. 

The Sustainability Perspective adds considerations and knowledge to any or all aspects areas in terms of context in Environmental, Social and Economic sustainability and considerations and measures of the sustainable context of the architecture and outcome. 

It considers resource sourcing, utilization and disposal, environmental impact, social impact and outcomes, and economic outcomes. 

For instance, to ensure that there is a / set of clear conceptual IS requirements: “a physical server must not consume more than 270Watt per h in peak” or a “the total CO2 footprint for a typical high volume 2U Server over its entire lifetime including the production, delivery (embedded carbon), operational and disposal footprint must not exceed 6tons CO2.” 

The third aspect relates to the fact that sustainability will have to be considered as part of the solution design process. A solution design process will follow a similar pattern to that of a creative technology design process[5]. First, the architect will combine and group the different components together according to stakeholder group and will, over a number of sessions, develop concept views related to key architectural components, establishing different options. Using an architecture framework like IAF (integrated architecture framework) will help with a pre-defined set of artefacts that are required to establish a logical design.  

Typical views that are being created during this process are for instance an integration view, deployment view, disaster recovery view, application view or an infrastructure view. Which view to create depends on the scope and context of the solution and IAF has a set of standard views as templates to use.  

The reason these views are being created is to establish options and to allow stakeholders to jointly come to a decision to what option is the best. Often will the Architect develop a number of views – one per option – and develop a clear set of pro and cons statements. 

Deciding the “right” option will mean balancing the various different criteria like functionality, value for money, compliance, quality, and sustainability. 

Design thinking is the fourth aspects: Design thinking refers to the process of developing a design concept that will result in a solution. It is a human-centered approach to innovation—anchored in understanding customer’s needs, rapid prototyping, and generating creative ideas—that will transform the way we develop products, services, processes, and organizations.  

Summary 

During certain stages, particular during the end of the conceptual phase and during the logical phase, various key design decisions related to the way to implement the right solutions to achieve the objectives and targets have to be made. As with other complex designs these decisions will have to be made in conjunction and coordination with other stakeholders. Also, can the subject be quite complex, and the activities and material needed to make the right decision might require a more elaborate approach. 

 

Driven by business impact, passionate about technology and focused on real outcomes, Gunnar Menzel has successfully led multiple €500m+ Global Accounts, Programs and Projects as CTO, Chief & Enterprise Architect as well as Head of Architecture. With a total of over 6000 Architects, he is one of only two globally certified Master Architect and IAF Master across Capgemini Group. Menzel works directly with customers, enabling business driven IT transformation, covering sales to delivery across multiple sectors and technologies. As a certified Master Architect and IAF Master, he is a member of Capgemini’s Global Architecture Board and as a senior leader within Capgemini’s Global Architecture Community, Menzel plays a key role in the direction of the architecture profession across the Group and developing its future talent. 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise

[2] ICT contributes 3% to the global CO2 emissions and consumes 10% of global electricity supply. However, ICT can help us to reduce our carbon footprint potentially by 30% by 2100

[3] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sustainability-ict-time-take-seriously-gunnar-menzel/

[4] https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5428622

[5] University of Twente, A Design Process for Creative Technology, https://research.utwente.nl/en/publications/a-design-process-for-creative-technology