April 12, 2022 • 3 min read

Carbon footprint monitoring for your cloud project!

Rédigé par Guillaume DELEPOULLE


The Paris agreement aims to limit the increase of global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector already represents 4% of the carbon footprint on a global scale and this is the sector with the most growth ! Likewise 2% of the carbon footprint is related to the usage of data-centers.

In the light of this huge challenge, Artificial Intelligence engineers like me should consider what is the impact of big data projects. Nowadays, a major problem is that we don’t know.

In my opinion, the first step to learn that impact would be to measure for each project the carbon intensity. It will help to give us insight and build knowledge on the best ways to build sustainable application regarding climate change.

In this article, I will specifically talk about cloud projects because cloud providers are now a standard in the data industry. To achieve simple and efficient carbon footprint measures, I discovered a brilliant tool Cloud Carbon footprint. It is a little software to visualize different KPIs on the carbon footprint of your cloud project. Coupled with the fact that less cloud usage means less CO2 consumption but also less costs for your projects, you should take a look !

Awesome features with Cloud Carbon Footprint

Carbon intensity map

Carbon Intensity Map for the 3 mains cloud provider

First, the Carbon Intensity Map gives a quick overview of the different servers with a carbon intensity value. This carbon intensity value depends of the cloud provider and the location. So, you can select a cloud provider and a server and take into account the associated emissions.

Cloud Usage Graph

monitor carbon footprint
Follow your carbon footprint and cost across one or more projects

Second, the cloud usage graph will be your best ally in the monitoring both cost and carbon emissions on a graph. You can quickly understand the impact of the latest release of your project!

Recommendations to reduce your carbon footprint

reduce carbon footprint
Optimize your cloud usage and carbon footprint by using recommendations !

To end this presentation of features, I want to show you a really cool feature of the tool : recommendations. Indeed, you can have a quick analysis of your cloud usage. Given that, you can see oversized tools and where you lost money.

How are these estimations made?

But you may ask yourself what are the computations behind this brilliant tool ?

In Cloud Carbon Footprint, estimations are based on the billing of your account. But cloud providers don’t directly link this information or make calculations for this measure. Instead Cloud Carbon Footprint uses the Cloud Jewels method to estimate a conversion between cloud usage and power estimation.

They made estimation of the average power usage for the different types of cloud usage (CPUs, GPUs, storage, networking, Lambda...) to be able to take into account each cloud feature into one of these categories for the estimation.

Then they convert this energy consumption into greenhouses gas by multiplying with a grid carbon intensity factor. This factor depends on how the data center is provided in electricity. However, it can be an approximation because all the electricity of the data center doesn’t come from the grid. This is the reason why selecting a data center can have an impact on your carbon footprint.

To look more into the details, I recommend you read this very complete page about the methodology and a summary of the comparative results they made for each provider.

Monitor your own project

Now that you know if you’re interested by this tool, let’s see how to install it to monitor your project. To illustrate that, I will take the example of an AWS project.

For prerequisites you will need node.js, yarn and aws-cli (if you’re using aws) and setup your AWS project with AWS Athena to enable the tool to query your billing and usage report ! If you don’t know how to do it, checkout this page or this video.

First, install the software

git clone --branch latest https://github.com/cloud-carbon-footprint/cloud-carbon-footprint.gitcd cloud-carbon-footprint

cd cloud-carbon-footprint

yarn install

Let’s setup

yarn guided-install
  • Enter your AWS informations as requested
  • Specify the setup of your AWS Athena
  • And tada ! You’re ready to go

Launch the application :

yarn start

Now you are set up, you should see on the Cloud usage graph data points from your own project. But there is a lot more to discover on monitoring your carbon emissions.

Thanks a lot for reading this.

The subject of monitoring carbon emissions in IT projects is not currently a standard but just knowing it is possible and that some people did an amazing job to make it happen is a small step. Also, I really hope it can become a key metric to monitor in my future projects at Sicara.

Additionally, you need to know that cloud providers are now launching their own monitoring tools which is a big step to respect carbon reductions.

Don’t hesitate to share with me additional knowledge on the subject as I’m eager to learn more !

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