GreenOps for sustainability must parallel FinOps for cost

Cloud customers are trying to make meaningful sustainability decisions. To really reduce carbon impact (or other types of environmental impact), they need the transparency to understand the impact of their architectural decisions. Just like they need to be able to estimate the cost of a solution, they need to be able to estimate its environmental impact. They need to be able to get an estimate of what the “environmental bill” will be based on the region (and maybe zone), services, and service options they choose. To the extent possible, they then need to see what impact they’re actually generating based on actual utilization.

In other words, they need “GreenOps” the way that they need “FinOps” (using FinOps as a generic term for cloud financial management in this context). And because sustainability is not just carbon impact, they’ll probably eventually need to see a multidimensional set of metrics (or a way to create a custom metric that weights different things that are important to them, like water impact vs carbon impact).

Cloud providers have relatively decent cost tools — cost calculators that allow you to choose solution elements and estimate your bill, cost reporting of various sorts, and so forth. Similarly, the third-party FinOps tooling ecosystem provides good visibility and recommendations to customers.

We don’t really need totally new dashboards and tools for sustainability. What we really need is an extension to the existing cloud cost optimization tools (and the cost transparency and billing APIs that enable those tools) to display environmental impacts as well, so we can manage them alongside our costs. Indeed, most customers will want to make trade-offs between their environmental footprint and costs. For instance, are they potentially willing to pay more to lower their greenhouse gas emissions?

Of course, there are many ways to measure sustainability and many different types of impacts, and not all of them are well suited to this kind of granular breakdown — but drawing a GreenOps parallel to FinOps would help customers extend the tools and processes that they already use (or are developing) for cost management to the emerging need for sustainability management.


Posted on March 13, 2023, in Governance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. adriancockcroft

    Yes, I agree with this and a few of us are working in this direction. I’m giving a talk at QCon London on March 29th specifically on this topic.


  2. Doesn’t less spend basically equate to less environmental impact?
    The cloud providers obsess about reducing their power consumption as it is such a high proportion of their costs.
    so therefore isn’t there a very close correlation between energy used and price?? Thoughts please.


  3. It’s mostly directionally correct that lower spend is lower carbon, however if you are choosing between cloud provider regions, lower carbon may be in a region that is higher priced for other reasons (e.g. Montreal). However the cost to carbon ratios are very different for compute vs. storage. Silicon and especially SSDs are very high manufacturing (scope 3) carbon. Spending the same amount of money on different storage options would get very different carbon profiles, and tape has very low carbon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: