Code lean and keep it green?

Being green doesn't mean waiting for efficient hardware. When every wasted CPU cycle counts is it time to re-evaluate efficient coding techniques?

Each year in the IT business there is always something coming out bigger, better, faster than the previous year. Whether it is new computer hardware, a new operating system, gaming console, mobile device or other gadget, users crave these new products. And I keep buying them.

The downside of technology having the lifespan of a banana is that programs and the code that run on more power hungry devices are often bloated. On top of this there is the extra layers between code and hardware taking up more processing power for applications - think about the spaghetti JavaScript code being used for AJAX applications at the moment.

The more CPU cycles coders waste or don't optimise is actually damaging the environment by increasing power consumption, which, in Australia, is mostly generated by fossil fuels.

Think I am being melodramic? Consider this: "ilisys hosts Web sites and e-mail for over 18,000 Australian businesses which uses more than 200,000 KWh of electricity each year. However, because ilisys uses 100% renewable solar and wind energy to power its headquarters and data centre, it negates the equivalent of over 140,000Kg of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere". That's a lot of carbon.

Like other forms of trying to be a tree hugging greenie, changing ways don't come cheap. Being lean and green is inefficient in today's programming environment. It takes longer to develop programs, will cost your customers more money to buy a green solution, the skill sets needed are more complex to develop optimise code, and of course it's not what all the cool kids are doing.

With public opinion getting behind being green and slowing down global warming, more efficient hardware has started to appear in the market. This will take a while to filter down into businesses, and longer for many companies to realise IT-related pollution and monitoring to appear. However, it is developers today who can start to make a difference through better code.

The question is, can we afford to?