By George Trujillo, Principal Data Strategist, DataStax
Web3 is now firmly established as the technology ecosystem that lets developers build decentralized applications. But its reliance on blockchain technology has also raised concerns about its ecological impact.
The process of verifying transactions on blockchain requires a huge amount of processing power and consequently lots of electricity. A single Bitcoin transaction consumes an estimated 635 kWh of power, or the same amount of electricity used by 21 US households a day.
Blockchain is a critical part of Web3, but to fully leverage what this new decentralized world provides, the data running Web3 applications will have to be gathered, processed, and analyzed in real time, outside of blockchain. To be as energy conscious as possible, enterprises need to pay particular attention to how they handle all the real-time data off blockchain.
Here are some ideas about how to manage the real-time data that supports your Web3 apps in a sustainable way.
Where and how you store your data matters
Blockchain is the fundamental building block of Web3: it creates a distributed ledger and acts as the system of record for transactions that occur in this brave new world. But the data that’s running Web3 applications is gathered, processed, analyzed, and stored outside of the blockchain.
That’s a good thing for a couple reasons. The performance of blockchain isn’t nearly fast enough to build engaging, real-time applications that consume the data (and the highly responsive dashboards, recommendation engines, digital wallets, and analytics required to support these applications). Even if blockchain was responsive enough to handle this kind of data, the amount of processing power required would be extreme.
One smart way to ‘decarbonize’ your Web3 applications is to be hyper-aware of the resources all of your data requires.
The hyperscalers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google – the tech titans that manage massive compute infrastructure to enable the rest of us to build virtualized computing environments) all have plans to reach a goal of running their data centers on 100% renewable energy within the next decade.
This is great news, but there’s still work for you to do. You need to ensure that you are using the least amount of compute and infrastructure yourself. For one thing, you should take advantage of tools that employ AI to help identify ‘abandoned projects’: provisioned infrastructure that’s sitting idle.
Having your own teams focusing on optimizing cloud usage is another simple but important part of this approach. Facebook, for example, managed to reduce compute and storage by 25% just by optimizing WhatsApp, without any loss of performance. Bottom line: only use what you need and hunt for the savings in your usage.
Focus on consumption-based services
Another important way to reduce the impact of your Web3 data that resides off blockchain is to use products and services that reduce the amount of capacity required. The move to serverless architectures is a critical part of reducing resource consumption and therefore emissions. It’s estimated that the utilization at the hyperscalers is still below 50%. Procuring services based on infrastructure units or with pricing models that are fixed on nodes or servers is a main cause of this idle consumption.
Over-provisioning and dedicated instances make the problem worse. It’s the same pattern that existed when we shifted from physical machines to virtual machines and to containers: the utilization improved a bit, but it wasn’t radically different. To decarbonize cloud services, it’s critical that any cloud service used is based on a serverless architecture, where you pay for consumption that is more closely correlated to your actual usage – and therefore your carbon impact.
For example, DataStax Astra DB, the serverless database-as-a-service built on Apache Cassandra®, scales elastically to peak workloads. This autoscaling capability also reduces database resources when they aren’t needed, automatically eliminating wasteful processing power usage.
Take a good look at yourself
It’s important to have clear visibility into the carbon impact of your cloud usage. This means all services used, across all hyperscalers, need to be consolidated in a way that your organization can instrument, inspect, analyze, and report against your corporate goals. Any cloud services you use from third parties also need to integrate into this reporting. Under a recent SEC proposal, organizations would be required to report their greenhouse emissions – along with those of their supply chains. This is another reason to integrate your cloud service usage into your corporate environment, social, and governance (ESG) reporting.
Don’t be a Web3 carbonivore
In the rush to build Web3 applications, it’s easy to overlook the responsibilities and stewardship required to deploy this stack in a sustainable and ecological way. Knowing how best to use blockchain will deliver the modern, real-time experiences and value your customers expect, while minimizing ecological impacts as much as possible.
Learn more about DataStax here.
About George Trujillo:
George is principal data strategist at DataStax. Previously, he built high-performance teams for data-value driven initiatives at organizations including Charles Schwab, Overstock, and VMware. George works with CDOs and data executives on the continual evolution of real-time data strategies for their enterprise data ecosystem.