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GreenOps 101

Join us as we explore what is Green Ops?

Green Ops is how we measure impacting sustainability in everything we do in an organisation, anything operational. Green Ops is bigger than just the workplace for some of us, because it's all around sustainability in general, and we can be looking at how we run our businesses, but also how we run our lives, our purchasing choices, our supply chains, our detergents we use at home, all these kind of things. And GreenOps is how, in the same way in FinOps, we create a cultural practice to make sure that we're getting the best value out of our spend on cloud. GreenOps is about how we get the best value for the amount of emissions we're creating and specifically generally we're looking at our emissions from our cloud or IT usage when people talk about green ops, but it is definitely broader than that. A lot of us who are in this world from the FinOps space, obviously come from the IT and cloud background.

So how do GreenOps and FinOps align and differ?

Well, as stated in my recent blog around Ferno Vogel's conversation about cost being a good proxy for green, in some cases, it can be.

When you're looking at usage optimization in the cloud, where you're reducing usage, it can be said that you're aligning to the reduction in carbon that's being used to manage or to create your infrastructure. While there are other types of FinOps activities that have no impact at all on GreenOps, like rate optimisation, such as RIs and savings plans, it's hard to prove any real link to reducing the amount of carbon or CO2e, which we'll describe in a little bit as to why that might have an impact. When we think about it as a cultural practice though, there are more areas where it can align. So where we're trying to get people's buy-in to act in a way that's more efficient for CO2e in their organisation. That's very similar to how we're trying to get more cost efficiencies as an organisation in FinOps as well where we're trying to get people to understand, visualise the data and make better data driven decisions. That is very similar for both FinOps and GreenOps. So in a lot of ways they do align, but in some cases the actions you take in FinOps aren't necessarily going to have any GreenOps impact.

Greenhouse Gas Protocol

The next thing to talk about is the principles from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which I think is a really useful way of learning about or looking at what we need to consider in our GreenOps practices and what we do. There are five key principles in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This is specifically around accounting and reporting principles, relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency and accuracy.

So for relevance, what we want to do is ensure that the inventory for our greenhouse gases appropriately reflects the real emissions of the company so that it's useful data.

We want to, with our completeness, account for and report all of the emissions and activities within the chosen boundary and justify the specific analysis we've made.

We want it to be consistent (Consistency). We're following the same methodologies to get meaningful comparisons over time. So the check you do in month one isn't principally different to how you've done it in month six and therefore you can't align the data together to make a real comparison.

Transparency, you need to address all relevant issues in a factual and coherent manner and basis on something that can be clearly audited much like how we do in our financial world. You need to disclose any assumptions you've made and make the references as to where you've made calculations etc. Same as you do in accountancy.

And accuracy, we need to ensure that the quantification of missions is systematically not over or under estimated. So something to avoid is to make a decision to say anything below x doesn't count because it's the long tail and too hard to calculate. Actually by doing that you're automatically going to be underestimating, so therefore systematically underestimating your emissions.

Scopes - Scope 1, 2 and 3 explained

To help us calculate our CO2e usage, we have quite a task on our hands, to help split this task up, GHG has 3 “Scopes” that cover any gases in the Kyoto Protocol.

Scopes are used for many reasons, but one of the main reasons cited in the GHG protocols is to stop anything being double counted, or being ambiguous as to where it should be calculated. These scopes then help us define action plans that work for those scopes to be more specific than something general for all emissions.

The three scopes are defined as follows

Scope 1 - Direct GHG emissions - Owned and controlled by the company in question, such as factory equipment that’s used to manufacture goods, or the vehicles used to transport goods (or people).

Scope 2 - Electricity indirect GHG emissions - emissions generated by the production of the electricity (also steam and heating/cooling) that has been purchased/consumed by the company. While the emissions may physically occur where the electricity is generated, they must be included in the company emissions.

Scope 3 - Other indirect GHG emissions - Considered optional in the GHG protocols, scope 3 is likely the largest and most important set of emissions that impact an organisation. They are emissions created as a consequence of the activities of the company, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the company - excluding scope 2. This even includes employees business travel (in non-company owned vehicles), assets that are leased, SaaS and many more things. So you can see why people don’t want to do it, because it’s complex, but you can also see why it’s the biggest and most important number.

Some statistics shared on LinkedIn by a friend Mark Butcher suggests that companies like Dell, Microsoft and Google who've done real scope 3 reviews 90% plus of their emissions are found in scope 3 and I think that's really interesting when you have providers not demonstrating their scope 3, you know that the numbers aren't really reflective of the realities.

CO2e - Explained

So we've talked about CO2e. Why do we talk about CO2e? CO2e is carbon dioxide equivalent. As the guardian describes it, it's “a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. The idea is to express the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of CO2 that would create the same amount of warming. That way, a carbon footprint consisting of lots of different greenhouse gases can be expressed as a single number.” (Source

Hopefully that makes sense. It allows us to use one single unit even though there are seven greenhouse gases in the Kyoto agreements which are worth just contemplating and discussing another time but this allows us to have a single unit.

Other things to consider

There are a lot of different methodologies and metrics out there at the moment, so I won’t bore you with them all. Three of the main ones that people are using to specifically work out cloud sustainability are things like power usage effectiveness, PUE, carbon usage effectiveness, CUE and energy reuse factor, ERF. And here's a brief description of the three

There are 3 key indicators that need to be integrated into your sustainability strategy in order to make demonstrable progress:

• Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)

• Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE)

• Energy Reuse Factor (ERF

Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) Ratio of total energy consumed by a data center vs energy used specifically by computer equipment. The lower the score the better.

Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) Evolution of PUE, measures total CO2 emissions from total energy consumption of a data center. Tailored to data centres, so a better metric of environmental impact.

Energy Reuse Factor (ERF) Ratio of reused energy vs total energy consumed in a data center – this should be as high as possible indicating a higher rate of energy recycling.

When you're looking at these numbers, it's also worth considering things like locational versus market-based in terms of the electricity (grid data) you're using. I think that's really important. And the locational data around where your data centre may be is really important to give you a realistic impact for your usage. Just because you buy or pay for energy that is from renewable sources doesn't mean that you're using electricity from renewable sources at the time and to be realistic in your carbon impact that needs to be assessed. Here’s a great link to explain more.

So where can you get your data?

Well, it's challenging at the moment and even Werner Vogel admits that. He said in his speech that in the absence of giving the information of milligrams of CO2 used by your services, you can use cost as a proxy, as mentioned earlier in the blog. And that is really around the fact that they maybe haven't looked at scope three or the fact that the breakdown of the data isn’t great in their tooling.

There are tools out there now that allows you to get a better idea of this. And if you would like any more information on those, feel free to contact me. One of the things I think is really worth looking at is something like Cloud Jewels by Etsy, which has a principle on how to look IT/server consumption and you can build upon that. Also, there are now tools that have been in the FinOps space that are building out green ops capabilities and sustainability reviews. And there are tools that have been built out in the market for GreenOps specifically, some are even open source ones as well.

So it's really the right time to start having a look into this world. And hopefully now you have a basic understanding of what people are talking about when they talk about Green Ops.


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