4 July 2023

Five Cost Optimisation Practices Which Also Reduce Carbon Emissions

Common FinOps practices often inadvertently promote carbon efficiency as well as cost savings. Many companies, however, remain unaware of these "GreenOps" advantages, missing out on vital environmental, business, and financial benefits.

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By Ben Price
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FinOps x GreenOps: Five Cost Optimisation Practices Which Also Reduce Carbon Emissions

The FinOps-GreenOps Intersection

While thousands of cloud teams are implementing cost optimisation strategies (FinOps) to reduce their cloud spend, many of them are missing the fact that these practices are also a significant source of carbon reduction.

If only these companies were to increase their awareness of “GreenOps” (cloud optimisation for sustainability) they might achieve a number of quick wins;

First, they would be able to quantify their current successes in cloud carbon reduction, enabling them to accurately report emissions and chart their progress towards net zero goals.

Next, they could set about communicating these environmental victories – one of the single most important C-suite KPIs today – to stakeholders.

And, finally, businesses could improve their bottom line by using GreenOps as inspiration for FinOps teams to accomplish even more (research shows ‘getting engineers to take action’ is one of the main obstacles to FinOps implementation).

Five examples of common FinOps practices which also save carbon emissions.

Right-sizing (GreenOps impact - High)

Right-sizing involves understanding precisely what applications need to run and choosing the correct server type and size for the job its required to do - as opposed to making assumptions. Incorrect sizing carries more than a financial cost; it leads to inflated monthly bills, reduced capacity for other customers, unnecessary electricity use and ultimately unnecessary carbon emissions.

Terminating unused and zombie instances (GreenOps impact - High)

This involves identifying and terminating unused instance that are no longer being used or necessary. Neglecting to delete resources after deleting a Virtual Machine means those resources continue to run, impacting both the monthly bill and the carbon footprint. Shutting these down is a primary strategy for carbon and cost efficiency. You’ll find many FinOps tools that can automate this, but none will tell you the carbon savings.

Make use of auto-scaling and scheduling (GreenOps impact - High)

This practice involves leveraging the capabilities provided by the cloud provider to scale resources up or down based on demand, and to schedule resources to run only when needed. By closely aligning resource usage with demand, you can avoid paying for idle resources during low-demand periods. This can have a huge impact on not only costs, but your cloud emissions as well.

Compressing raw data buckets (GreenOps impact - High)

By compressing data, you can decrease the amount of storage used, which can lead to significant cost savings, especially when dealing with large volumes of data. Reducing volumes also reduces the compute power required to process and index the data, reducing your emissions.

Switch Storage Tiers (GreenOps impact - Medium)

This means moving data between different storage classes or tiers provided by a cloud service provider depending on how often it needs to be accessed. Data that is rarely accessed could be stored in a high-performance (and high-cost) tier when it could be moved to a cheaper, lower-performance tier, saving your compnay money, but also reducing the compute power and energy required to keep that data readily accessible at all times.

If any of these are familiar practices to your business, but you are unfamiliar with GreenOps, you are missing out on the environmental, business and financial benefits mentioned above.

So, how to capitalise on this win-win intersection between GreenOps and FinOps and achieve more?

The essential first step is to integrate granular cloud emissions data into your workflows, allowing the same level of detail and analysis as in FinOps. Currently the cloud experts at Greenpixie are the industry leaders for supplying this integration with zero disruption to your current workflow, whether you are an enterprise or a consultant.

Integrating cloud emissions data grants businesses transaction-level sustainability data for all of cloud use, empowering them to analyse the environmental impact of their cost optimisation, and accurately quantify the carbon they are saving.

The FinOps-GreenOps Disconnect

However, as will be discussed in Part 2 of this article, not all FinOps practices equate to carbon savings, and even for those that do, the environmental impact they have can be significantly different to the financial. These are further reasons why accurate cloud emissions data is needed to understand the relationship between FinOps and GreenOps - and to get most value out of both.

Despite the intersection between FinOps and GreenOps, it is a critical error to assume that FinOps simply takes care of carbon as well as cost.

For more on this, check out the follow-up piece to this article, Cost Optimisation Practices Which Do NOT Reduce Carbon Emissions, which includes specific examples where FinOps practices do not lead to carbon reduction.