Virtualization Technology News and Information
Reducing the environmental footprint with serverless blockchains

By Dr. Tim Wagner, Co-founder and CEO, Vendia

The signs of climate change are hard to miss these days and business leaders are under increasing pressure to address sustainability within their own organizations. And while Gartner predicts that by 2025, 50% of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to the sustainability of their IT organization, meaningful progress isn't happening fast enough.

Blockchains have been touted as one way for businesses to combat the climate crisis, both by tracking carbon emissions and carbon trades and also as a key IT technology that can solve problems of data sharing within and across businesses. But what if blockchains actually made the environment worse?

First generation blockchains were actually incredibly inefficient in their carbon footprints. Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, still employs a proof-of-work algorithm that consumes vast amounts of processing power, using around 136 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year - more than the entire regions of the Netherlands and Argentina. And despite migrating to a Proof-of-Stake approach, Ethereum remains many orders of magnitude more costly in terms of power consumption on a per-transaction basis than conventional databases, worsening the prospects for a company looking to improve their carbon emissions profile. Little known to the general public, behind the scenes Ethereum servers have been growing larger every year, increasing the cost per transaction as their "silicon footprint" expands in direct correlation with that network's carbon footprint. To make matters worse, Ethereum and most other first generation chains offered no solution for files, requiring yet more services and an even larger infrastructure footprint to handle.

More modern approaches, rely on vastly more efficient serverless technologies and sustainable public cloud services. By exploiting these cloud-native technologies, modern blockchains offer tight cost enveloping and a carbon footprint that is actually lower than conventional ("centralized") IT approaches to sharing data through hosted databases and APIs. Features designed to minimize file redundancy further enhance the ability of IT teams to improve storage efficiency without compromising functionality or security, and enable companies to target carbon reduction without increasing staffing or infrastructure spend.

Enterprises and companies of all sizes can benefit from both the speed of delivery and the improved cost and carbon footprint outcomes derived from SaaS-delivered blockchain capability using these newer approaches, allowing them to build cost-effective cross-cloud data fabrics and partner data sharing and operational data service solutions while simultaneously improving their carbon footprint stance.

Additionally, by leveraging the SaaS-style delivery of modern blockchains, companies can also dramatically reduce the levels of staffing required to both develop and then operate the resulting systems, effectively shifting much of that burden onto the public cloud and blockchain service providers themselves, lowering IT costs even further. Companies can also benefit from the massively multi-tenanted nature of the underlying cloud infrastructure, combined with the security and safety of having professionally managed fleets and software systems that are fully outsourced and staffed 24x7x365 around the globe.

Because blockchain technology ranges from the environmentally destructive to environmentally friendly multi-tenancy, IT professionals facing technology choices need to be careful to ensure they are adopting technologies that will be both cost-effective and present their companies in the best possible light when carbon footprint reporting goes fully into effect. The following list will help identify technologies that improve a company's carbon footprint stance, rather than damaging it:

Consider on-chain file management

Does the solution support on-chain file management with high availability and redundancy, low latency, and IT-ready redundancy controls? Files are a large portion of an IT organization's storage footprint; without a solution for managing and tracking content duplication and exchange, redundant file storage will quickly dominate attempts to share data effectively. Availability and redundancy should be built-in features, not client- or application-derived outcomes.

Serverless vs. servers

Is the solution serverless or "single server" in nature? Serverless solutions offer 100% application utilization by construction, in addition to offering built-in scaling and fault tolerance. Decentralized networks comprising single machines are not fault tolerant, cannot scale, and are "always on" solutions (aka "scale to peak capacity") that negatively impact a company's carbon footprint.

Strive for SaaS

Is the solution delivered as a SaaS offering? SaaS offerings not only dramatically reduce development and maintenance costs, they also enable multi-tenanted approaches that increase efficiency and lower aggregate costs and carbon footprint further.

In a few short years, saving the environment has gone from a fringe environmental awareness movement to one of the top concerns of nations, influencing domestic and international policy alike. With new reporting requirements already present and the high likelihood of increased corporate compliance and reporting requirements, now is the time for CIOs, CEOs, and others to evaluate their IT choices and put strategies in place to lower carbon emissions over the long haul.



Dr. Tim Wagner, CEO and Co-founder, Vendia

Tim Wagner 

Tim is the inventor of AWS Lambda and a former general manager of AWS Lambda and Amazon API Gateway services. He has also served as vice president of engineering at Coinbase, where he managed design, security and product management teams. Tim co-founded Vendia to help organizations of all sizes share data more effectively across clouds and companies. 

Published Monday, November 28, 2022 7:34 AM by David Marshall
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