Dynatrace: How to measure cloud’s carbon conundrum


Cloud is efficient. But as much as cloud computing is designed to enable us to use compute, data storage and analytics functions more efficiently, it also creates wastage on a variety of levels.

But let’s be careful with that term wastage.

What we mean here is that not all cloud estates are used to the most efficient capacity (organisations typically have to over-provision and some are over-sold ‘reserved instance’ agreements for example), not all clusters spun up at any one time are usually needed to be in live production (one set of applications or data will always inevitably less mission-critical than another) and, crucially, every cloud server brought into being has a carbon footprint that we should be tracking in order to assess its impact.

Software intelligence company Dynatrace thinks we should be in greater control.

The company’s newly launched Carbon Impact app is designed to to deliver real-time insights into the carbon footprint of an organization’s hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystem, estate, stack (call it what you will) and provide precise answers detailing how to reduce its environmental impact it.

Dogfooding delight

They say a good company eats its own dogfood (they don’t say that in fact, the marcoms spin doctors have changed it to drinking your own champagne) and that’s what has happened here.

Dynatrace developed Carbon Impact using its own AppEngine, a new Dynatrace platform technology that enables software application engineers with a low-code approach to deliver custom-built, regulatory compliance-friendly data-driven apps for business, development, security and operations use cases.

As we know, organizations are increasingly prioritising sustainability as they work to meet environmental and regulatory requirements.

So then, why is it so hard to measure cloud carbon?

Cloud’s carbon conundrum

While cloud providers share carbon footprint data, this only covers individual SaaS services rather than complete hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystems.

Or to put that another way, cloud hyperscalers can give us a centralized but relatively singular view of their total service load’s impact on the planet, but they can not (and perhaps we should argue that it’s not their job too) give a customer an idea of the carbon impact of a cloud stack composed of public, private, hybrid multi-cloud resources, where some of the compute may even straddle ‘poly-cloud’ instances, where a single complex application workload is separated out across more than one cloud service, which may in itself also be multi-cloud.

The whole cloud carbon conundrum is made more difficult because even when we look at the environmental impact information that is available, this data is missing the insights teams need to drive action i.e. we need to know which hosted cloud servers, processes or applications are driving consumption if we are going to take action accordingly.

These deficiencies make reporting and compliance challenging and limit organisations’ ability to understand where and how to optimise their ecosystems to ensure minimal environmental impact.

Topology & dependency mapping

Dynatrace Carbon Impact promises to address these challenges by calculating, tracking and reporting the carbon footprint of Dynatrace-monitored hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystems. The Dynatrace platform uses Carbon Impact and its Smartscape topology and dependency mapping to provide process-level and app-level details for fine-grained optimisation insights.

With guidance from the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA) and leveraging formulas from Cloud Carbon Footprint, Dynatrace developed the Carbon Impact app to align key consumption metrics with their contribution to a carbon footprint.

“Understanding the environmental impact of digital products and services is vital to taking meaningful steps to reduce it,” said Daan Terpstra, CEO at SDIA. “Through its precise insights and broad context, Dynatrace Carbon Impact will allow organisations to better assess and optimise the environmental footprint of their hybrid and multi-cloud ecosystems. We are excited to partner with Dynatrace as we strive for a world with sustainable digital infrastructure.”

Underlining Terpstra’s call for a more sustainable digital future, founder and CTO at Dynatrace Bernd Greifeneder has said that understanding and minimising environmental impact is a critical component of organizations’ strategies as they work to meet the needs and expectations of their customers, employees, investors and the communities in which they operate.

“With Dynatrace Carbon Impact, our customers will be empowered with an easy-to-use solution to understand and optimise the carbon footprint of their cloud ecosystems. By making this available to all Dynatrace SaaS customers, we believe we can significantly improve our collective environmental impact,” said Greifeneder.

Carbon neutral normal

We are of course some significant way off being able to think about carbon neutrality as the new normal for organizations in every industry from aviation to entertainment to petrochemicals to cake baking.

But, despite the chasm that we have ahead of us and the chance that this generation of humans has to put things right, what’s happening here could be important from an infrastructure point of view.

With so many carbon initiatives designed to alert us to issues that are tangible and perceptible in human terms – like how many flights we take a year and whether or not we are using ecologically sound consumer goods – the fact that organizations might be able to use this type of technology to analyse their cloud stack’s impact on the planet and sharpen up its operational stance for the better, can only be good news.