Rust Never Sleeps: How a Programming Language Enables Green Tech Initiatives

Environmental impact may not be anyone’s first reaction to the growing adoption of a programming language. Yet the focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives in business and government has prompted many IT professionals to think about how the Rust programming language can not only contribute to faster and more secure, but also to more ecological products.

Rust is gradually finding its way into the open source Linux kernel. According to an April post from the Google Security Blog, Android now supports the Rust programming language for developing the operating system. Google also rates Rust as a supported programming language for the Linux kernel.

For some developers and service providers, the environmental benefits of this growing acceptance are on par with its more obvious programming benefits.

This aligns with interest in ESG at the federal and state levels (as well as in the private sector). At state and local levels, the concept is being implemented by adopting ESG objectives in government operations and services, in new policies and regulations, and in decisions about government assets and liabilities.

The federal government has also taken an active interest in ESG initiatives, as indicated by a White House executive order issued on May 20, 2021 regarding climate-related financial risk.

“In this effort,” the order states, “the federal government should lead by example by appropriately prioritizing federal investments and conducting prudent fiscal management.” Federal agencies’ major procurements should “minimize climate change risk, including…preference for bids and proposals from suppliers with lower social cost of greenhouse gas emissions.”

So how does this relate to a programming language? It starts with data centers.

In February, Amazon published a blog titled “Sustainability with Rust”. They noted that data centers are responsible for 200 terawatt hours of energy consumption per year worldwide, or about 1% of all energy consumption. And yet, they also showed that demand remained essentially flat until 2010, despite growth in cloud-based storage and computing capacity over the same period.

Widespread adoption of Rust could reduce the power consumption of compute requests by a conservative estimate of 50%, Amazon wrote. Rust offers the energy efficiency of the C programming language, “without the risk of undefined behavior”, according to the blog. “We can cut power consumption in half without losing the benefits of memory security.”

This is important not just for a cloud services company like Amazon’s AWS, but for the many software companies that use the cloud to deliver and maintain their products. It’s so important to AWS, in fact, that it equates shared responsibility for energy efficiency with its similar shared responsibility approach to security.

“AWS customers are responsible for energy efficiency choices in storage policies, software design, and compute usage, while AWS owns the efficiency of hardware, usage features, and systems. cooling,” the Amazon blog post explained.

From an entrepreneur’s perspective, this is important for a variety of reasons. Let’s face it: most defense technology contractors don’t really have an ESG story. By incorporating Rust into their products and services, these companies can preempt a White House mandate to give preference in procurement to companies that can demonstrate socially and environmentally responsible efforts.

For developers, the vector to ESG starts with speed. The cloud tax model is based on metered billing – enterprises pay all their compute instances by the hour, which makes it preferable to building an enterprise server farm. With a metered billing system, if a company running software to process data 365 days a year could save five seconds or more using a programming language like Rust, the savings add up quickly.

For small businesses, this transition is likely to have an almost immediate impact on their bottom line. For a company like ours, it can take 10 seconds to process a complex file in Python, or four seconds in Java. It can take a single second with Rust. Thus, a company may be able to process 10 more files with Rust than with Python.

For large companies, the advantage is even more telling, especially from an environmental point of view. Not only are these companies realizing the same kind of benefit explained above, but that benefit also means less energy consumption and a lower overall carbon footprint. For a company of the size and scale of Amazon, with all its data centers, less energy needed to serve its customers means a significantly reduced level of carbon emissions.

These benefits don’t even take into account the third way Rust will help the contracting industry, which is memory security, as Amazon mentioned earlier. Rust was designed to prevent programmers from creating dangerous software. It is ranked annually as the most popular development language.

But it’s also ranked among the most difficult because it forces developers to write secure software. It will not allow developers to create software with security, bugs and exploits. So far, no other programming language has tried to enforce this, even at this lowest level. So while software development with Rust can take longer, it is inherently more secure.

All this to say that there is an important story to tell with Rust – not just from the standpoint of better, faster, safer and more affordable products, but also from the standpoint of more eco-friendly business practices. environment. The effort put into using Rust to develop products will be more than offset by the business benefits it will bring.

Dave Hirko is founder and director of Zectonal. He can be reached at [email protected]

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