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.