Why Green Innovation in Hardware and Software Must Go Faster

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Fossil fuel, contamination, and humanity’s impact on Earth’s climate is a problem. And energy, which gets us through the day, is also part of the same problem.

But what is an open secret in the industry is that innovation, new critical materials, and hardware and software technologies — already available — can drive faster progress toward true carbon neutrality.

Techopedia sat with experts in different fields to talk about green hardware and green software. What we discovered was inspiring, yet in places alarming, leaving us with the question of why green innovation is not moving faster.

Key Takeaways

  • Despite its potential, green software development remains largely ignored by organizations worldwide, with Gartner projecting slow adoption rates.
  • Embracing virtualization can streamline global infrastructures, cut costs, and pave the way for carbon zero.
  • The surge in demand for critical materials for green technologies presents opportunities for sustainable industrialization but underscores the need for sustainable mining practices.

Green Software: A World-Saving Tech in The Blind Spot

On May 16, Gartner identified the top five strategic technology trends in software engineering gaining strength in 2024. Green software development — identified by Gartner as a top trend — hides enormous undeveloped potential. However, most organizations around the world are blind to the green software big picture.

Gartner predicted that by 2027, only 30% of large global enterprises will include software sustainability in their non-functional requirements, up from less than 10% in 2024. Gartner also warns that artificial intelligence and its intense compute demands increase carbon footprints.

“Generative AI-enabled applications are especially energy-intensive, so implementing green software engineering will help organizations prioritize their sustainability objectives.”

Green software — coded to be carbon-efficient and carbon-aware — can do much more than that. Greg Rivera, VP of CAST Highlight, a software developing company, told Techopedia that data centers that run software systems account for about 4-5% of global CO2 emissions. This accounts for the same amount as the airline, rail, and shipping industries combined.


“Software applications can be engineered or modified to be more efficient and use fewer resources with ‘software intelligence.”

Rivera explained that for example, running a database query inside of a loop means that the data access command is running many times unnecessarily. “There’s an alternate way to engineer the system so that this query occurs outside of the loop and only runs when it’s needed,” Rivera added.

“Imagine this type of thing (looped commands) happening in a massive enterprise software application or a big public commerce system with thousands or even millions of users a day.”

Unlooping commands have the potential to create a huge impact on carbon emissions automatically once software is updated. While recoding large infrastructures is no easy feat, compared to the benefits to be gained, it’s cents on the dollars.

Riviera explained that green software can help organizations understand how to make their software greener and the effort required, and estimate the potential savings in CO2 emissions and energy consumption if deficiencies are removed from the original software.

In one engineering case, CAST Highlight managed to potentially reduce annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 400 kg, while using the optimized version of the application showed a 5% improvement in execution duration compared to its original state.

The Future Where Virtual Machines Do the Heavy Lifting

The concept of virtual machines, which only gained popularity in the past two decades, is already being used to replace traditional global infrastructures reliant on outdated and costly physical hardware. An industry that is taking virtualization to the limit is the Telco sector with 5G — representing a significant shift in how communication networks are built.

Virtualization allowed Telcos to streamline the global deployment of 5G, expand the supply chain of providers, and decrease costs. While standards, best practices, and cultural resistance are challenges they face, virtualization is the future of communications, with 6G expected to be a full cloud operation.

Large Telco companies like NTT Docomo are partnering up with big cloud providers like Amazon Web Services to build nationwide 5G Open RAN networks.

What Can Green Virtualization Do?

Lars Nyman, CMO of CUDO Compute — a high-performance GPU cloud — told Techopedia that virtualization of green hardware is “pivotal in reaching carbon-neutral goals”.

“It makes the most of the existing hardware and lowers the demand for new hardware production, which in turn reduces the energy and raw materials used.”

Kjirstin Breure, President and Interim CEO at HydroGraph Clean Power, an advanced materials and clean energy company, told Techopedia that virtualization, by allowing for multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical server, physical hardware run more efficiently by increasing their utilization rates.

“This, in turn, enables VMs to load balance, or dynamically allocate energy, as well as significantly decrease heat generated by powering the systems as there are far fewer systems performing the work.”

Breure explained that moving towards VMs is also inherently more scalable, as fewer resources are required to achieve the same performance, and deployment is then expedited.

Green Hardware: Enhanced Performance, Critical Materials

On May 24, the World Economic Forum released a new white paper to help countries and organizations deal with the demand-supply gap and the problems of critical materials.

Soaring demand for critical raw materials is being driven by the global green energy shift, presenting significant opportunities for green industrialization, especially in developing countries.

The report calls for sustainable processes throughout the supply chain that could lead to sustainability and economic gains.

Ian Timis, energy and natural resources specialist, and director and founder of Eco Future Metals (currently in stealth mode) told Techopedia that metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, silver, and copper are indispensable for green technologies.

These metals can drive advances in battery storage, electrical conductivity, and overall device efficiency. However, Timis emphasized that the scarcity of these metals is becoming a pressing concern, underscoring the need for sustainable mining practices.

Breure from HydroGraph Clean Power Inc. said that graphene can have a massive impact on hardware improvements. With every stage, from producing the graphene to integrating it into various hardware components (semiconductors, batteries, antistatic packaging, and more), graphene can impact material performance in terms of strength, conductivity, and thermal transfer.

“These gains add up to faster batteries, more powerful chips, and stronger, more sustainable components. Then, at the end of life, these components can be more easily recycled and upgraded with graphene and other nanomaterials.”

Nyman from CUDO Compute added that new trends toward developing more energy-efficient GPUs are not just about the bottom line. NVIDIA’s chips are a good example of just that; energy efficiency means green, and it’s something manufacturers are starting to emphasize.

Other key advancements are those in liquid cooling technologies. “They show great promise in reducing energy consumption and heat waste,” Nyman said, adding that deploying green hardware-software solutions is becoming increasingly streamlined, with many companies offering plug-and-play solutions.

The Bottom Line

We are getting there, but the world could move quicker in either innovation or adoption of new technologies as they come out.

Green software, virtualization, and new hardware are today´s road to progress, but their potential seems undeveloped.

The combination of the different technologies could reshape, modernize, and reduce carbon emissions in all industries and sectors.

One issue might be that re-engineering a company stack might help the planet but be a cost to a company without massively helping the financials — and not everyone is a Samaritan.


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Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist
Ray Fernandez
Senior Technology Journalist

Ray is an independent journalist with 15 years of experience, focusing on the intersection of technology with various aspects of life and society. He joined Techopedia in 2023 after publishing in numerous media, including Microsoft, TechRepublic, Moonlock, Hackermoon, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and ServerWatch. He holds a degree in Journalism from Oxford Distance Learning and two specializations from FUNIBER in Environmental Science and Oceanography. When Ray is not working, you can find him making music, playing sports, and traveling with his wife and three kids.