2023 was a big year for sustainability. More and more tech teams are realizing that sustainability is not a nice to have but a strategic priority for businesses. This conviction extends from leadership through to developers.

I have been blown away by developers leading the charge to create innovative new tools for accountability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These tools and metrics are essential in establishing how their algorithms are having a green impact - tracking these and then using these to make your company more sustainable. Many are looking to answer the following questions: where are your workloads running, and how can we move these to carbon-neutral spaces?

At this year’s COP28, the annual meeting of the world’s economies to discuss climate change, the near complete absence of discussion about cloud and compute’s impact on the climate was striking. Yet recent data showed data centers produce 3% of global carbon emissions, roughly 1.5% of the worldwide electricity demand. This figure is only set to grow as demand for cloud computing requires more and more compute infrastructure to run.

Creating a greener cloud

We need new solutions. The hyperscalers need to think bigger. This year, Google admitted that just 6% of the water consumed at its data centers and offices in 2022 was replenished. Meanwhile, Microsoft announced that it was investing in ‘green’ concrete for building its datacenters.

Both of these show a failure of imagination from the hyperscalers. They are still relying on traditional approaches to compute infrastructure, putting all the resources in prominent central locations, and not thinking about new technologies and structures that would be more sustainable.

One of the big unsolved problems in data centers is managing the waste heat created by all the servers. This year, I was proud to be part of a solution to tackle this problem. Through our partnership with Deep Green, we are making cleaner cloud computing available to our customers. Deep Green’s solution dramatically reduces energy bills and environmental costs for organizations that require significant amounts of heat, such as swimming pools, food manufacturers, and textile firms. Using a small-edge data center, or a ‘digital boiler,’ the system immerses computers in mineral oil to capture the generated heat; this is then passed through a heat exchanger to heat the water.

We must build on this work into 2024 and focus on delivering a fairer, more sustainable tech space. To that end, here are my five key predictions for 2024:

1. Shift left on sustainability

2023 was the year sustainability and ‘going green’ continued to lead conversations in tech. While industry experts led previous conversations, developers are starting to ask questions about sustainable coding practices. In 2024, I think this will accelerate further, with more developer communities meeting, discussing, and agreeing on how they speed up the delivery of tools to aid green practices in 2024 - a ‘shift left’ on climate and technology.

2. Sustainable tech becomes a more urgent priority

Legislation in the UK and the EU around greener computing is on the horizon, which will drive IT decision-makers to look at how they can stay ahead or in line with these initiatives. Larger infrastructure companies may be unable to move quickly to comply, so a major catastrophe related to data centers' overuse of non-renewable energy could finally force the issue. But until then, sustainability still feels like ‘someone else's problem’ rather than an urgent priority for most companies.

3. Escalating scrutiny over AI

In 2024, I expect growing legal scrutiny around AI-generated content, especially regarding the training data sources and the licenses behind that content. Developers are excited about AI but unaware of these potential compliance risks. With the wider adoption of AI-generated code, a major cyber security incident is now a matter of when, not if, it will occur.

4. More proactive education about using AI by developers

Leaders need to ensure their teams have proper oversight and understanding of the licensing implications of generated code. Developers are embracing AI like never before. A significant survey this year from GitHub found that 92% of developers are using AI coding at work. According to the study, a lot of this uptake was motivated by improving day-to-day tasks and enabling upskilling opportunities.While these tools allow all developers to generate more and more code, training and education around responsible and ethical AI development practices will be crucial.

5. More sustainable development

2024 will require tech leaders to look hard at their development practices involving AI and cloud infrastructure. Leaders must focus more on governance, ethics, security, and sustainability while ensuring rapid innovation to keep up with competitors.

Looking ahead

We all have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint. I am thrilled at Civo that we are showing the way forward here, entering 2024 with a clear plan to reduce our emissions and move towards a climate-positive future. With our friends at Deep Green, we are driving meaningful change in our industry, building a fairer and more sustainable future for the cloud.

If you want to read more about our predictions for 2024, Josh Mesout (Chief Innovation Officer at Civo) and Saiyam Pathak (Field CTO) have reflected on AI and WebAssembly and given their thoughts on the future of these developments: