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Sustainable software products - towards assessment criteria for resource and energy efficiency


Kern, Eva; Hilty, Lorenz; Guldner, Achim; Maksimov, Yuliyan; Filler, Andreas; Gröger, Jens; Naumann, Stefan (2018). Sustainable software products - towards assessment criteria for resource and energy efficiency. Future Generation Computer Systems, 86:199-210.

Abstract

Many authors have proposed criteria to assess the “environmental friendliness” or “sustainability” of software products. However, a causal model that links observable properties of a software product to conditions of it being green or (more general) sustainable is still missing. Such a causal model is necessary because software products are intangible goods and, as such, only have indirect effects on the physical world. In particular, software products are not subject to any wear and tear, they can be copied without great effort, and generate no waste or emissions when being disposed of. Viewed in isolation, software seems to be a perfectly sustainable type of product. In real life, however, software products with the same or similar functionality can differ substantially in the burden they place on natural resources, especially if the sequence of released versions and resulting hardware obsolescence is taken into account. In this article, we present a model describing the causal chains from software products to their impacts on natural resources, including energy sources, from a life-cycle perspective. We focus on (i) the demands of software for hardware capacities (local, remote, and in the connecting network) and the resulting hardware energy demand, (ii) the expectations of users regarding such demands and how these affect hardware operating life, and (iii) the autonomy of users in managing their software use with regard to resource efficiency. We propose a hierarchical set of criteria and indicators to assess these impacts. We demonstrate the application of this set of criteria, including the definition of standard usage scenarios for chosen categories of software products. We further discuss the practicability of this type of assessment, its acceptability for several stakeholders and potential consequences for the eco-labeling of software products and sustainable software design.

Abstract

Many authors have proposed criteria to assess the “environmental friendliness” or “sustainability” of software products. However, a causal model that links observable properties of a software product to conditions of it being green or (more general) sustainable is still missing. Such a causal model is necessary because software products are intangible goods and, as such, only have indirect effects on the physical world. In particular, software products are not subject to any wear and tear, they can be copied without great effort, and generate no waste or emissions when being disposed of. Viewed in isolation, software seems to be a perfectly sustainable type of product. In real life, however, software products with the same or similar functionality can differ substantially in the burden they place on natural resources, especially if the sequence of released versions and resulting hardware obsolescence is taken into account. In this article, we present a model describing the causal chains from software products to their impacts on natural resources, including energy sources, from a life-cycle perspective. We focus on (i) the demands of software for hardware capacities (local, remote, and in the connecting network) and the resulting hardware energy demand, (ii) the expectations of users regarding such demands and how these affect hardware operating life, and (iii) the autonomy of users in managing their software use with regard to resource efficiency. We propose a hierarchical set of criteria and indicators to assess these impacts. We demonstrate the application of this set of criteria, including the definition of standard usage scenarios for chosen categories of software products. We further discuss the practicability of this type of assessment, its acceptability for several stakeholders and potential consequences for the eco-labeling of software products and sustainable software design.

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Additional indexing

Contributors:Future Generation Computer Systems
Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Informatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
Uncontrolled Keywords:Computer Networks and Communications, Hardware and Architecture, Software
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:22 May 2018 13:30
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 15:45
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0167-739X
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2018.02.044
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:16377

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