Saving the World though Cloud Sustainability with Aerin Booth

Episode Summary

Aerin Booth, Founder of Cloud Sustainably, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss how they were inspired to pursue a career in cloud sustainability, and the cloud sustainability conference they’re launching this year called The State of Open. In this conversation Aerin highlights the importance of creating boundaries in the cloud to promote innovation and efficiency, drawing interesting parallels between early video games and the current state of cloud. Corey and Aerin discuss the importance and shortcomings of AWS’s focus on sustainability, and Aerin reinforces the importance of doing work that you enjoy and makes a positive difference in the world.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Aerin

Aerin is a Cloud Sustainability Advocate and neurodiverse founder in tech on a mission to help developers understand the real impact that cloud computing has on the world and reduce their carbon emissions in the cloud. Did you know that internet and cloud computing contribute over 4% of annual carbon emissions? Twice that of the airline industry!
Aerin also hosts "Public Cloud for Public Good," a podcast targeted towards developers and senior leaders in tech. Every episode, they also donate £500 to charities and highlight organisations that are working towards a better future. Listen and learn how you can contribute towards making the world a better place through the use of public cloud services.

Links Referenced:


Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Uptycs, because they believe that many of you are looking to bolster your security posture with CNAPP and XDR solutions. They offer both cloud and endpoint security in a single UI and data model. Listeners can get Uptycs for up to 1,000 assets through the end of 2023 (that is next year) for $1. But this offer is only available for a limited time on That’s U-P-T-Y-C-S Secret Menu dot com.

Corey: Cloud native just means you’ve got more components or microservices than anyone (even a mythical 10x engineer) can keep track of. With OpsLevel, you can build a catalog in minutes and forget needing that mythical 10x engineer. Now, you’ll have a 10x service catalog to accompany your 10x service count. Visit to learn how easy it is to build and manage your service catalog. Connect to your git provider and you’re off to the races with service import, repo ownership, tech docs, and more. 

Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn and I am joined what feels like roughly a year later by a returning guest, Aerin Booth. How long have you been?

Aerin: I’ve been really great. You know, it’s been a journey of a year, I think, since we sort of did this podcast even, like, you know, a year and a bit since we met, and, like, I’m doing so much and I think it’s doing, like, a big difference. And yeah, I can’t wait for everything else. It’s just yeah, a lot of work right now, but I’m really enjoying it. So, I’m really well, thank you.

Corey: Normally, I like to introduce people by giving their job title and the company in which they work because again, that’s a big deal for an awful lot of people. But a year ago, you were independent. And now you still are. And back when I was doing my own consulting independently, it felt very weird to do that, so I’m just going to call you the Ted Lasso of cloud at this point.

Aerin: [laugh].

Corey: You’ve got the mustache, you’ve got the, I would say, obnoxiously sunny disposition. It’s really, there’s a certain affinity right there. So, there we go. I feel like that is the best descriptor for what you have become.

Aerin: I—do know what, I only just watched Ted Lasso over Christmas and I really found it so motivational in some ways because wow, like, it’s not just who we’d want to be in a lot of ways? And I think, you know, for the work that I do, which is focused on sustainability, like, I want to present a positive future, I want to encourage people to achieve more and collaborate, and yeah, basically work on all these problems that we need to be worked on. And yeah, I think that’s [laugh] [crosstalk 00:02:02]—

Corey: One of the challenges of talking to you sometimes is you talk about these depressing things, but there’s such a—you take such an upbeat, positive approach to it that I, by comparison, invariably come away from our conversations during, like, I’m Surly McBastard over here.

Aerin: [laugh]. Yeah, you can be the bad cop of cloud computing and I’ll try and be the good cop. Do you know, you say that the stuff I talk about is depressing, and it is true and people do worry about climate change. Like I did an online conference recently, it’s focused on FinOps, and we had a survey, “Do you worry about climate change?” 70% of the people that responded said they worry about it.

So, we all know, it’s something we worry about and we care about. And, you know, I guess what I’m really trying to do is encourage people to care a bit more and start taking action and look after yourself. Because you know, when you do start taking action towards it, when you join those communities that are also working on it, it is good, it is helpful. And, you know, I’ve gone through some ups and downs and some of this, like, just do I throw in the towel because no one cares about it? Like, we spoke last year; I had attended re:Invent for the first time.

This year, I was able to speak at re:Invent. So, I did a talk on being ethical in tech. And it was fun, it was good. I enjoyed what I delivered, but I had about 35 people sign up to that. I’m pretty sure if I talked about serverless or the next Web3 blockchain product, I would have got hundreds more. But what I’m starting to realize is that I think people just aren’t ready to, sort of, want to do this yet. And yeah, I’m hoping that’ll change.

Corey: Let’s first talk about, I guess, something that is more temporally pressing than some other things. Not that it is more important than climate change, mind you, but it feels like it’s on a shorter timeline which is, relatively soon after this recording, there is a conference that you are kicking off called The State of Open. Ajar, Aerin. The State of Open is ajar. What is this conference? Is it in person? Is it virtual? Is it something where you and three friends are going to show up and basically talk to each other? How big? How small? What is it? What’s it about? Tell me more, please. I’m riveted.

Aerin: So, State of Open conference is a conference that’s been in the works now for maybe about two weeks, a little bit longer in the planning, but the work we’ve been putting in over the last two weeks. It’ll be on the seventh and eighth of February in London as a physical event in the QEII Conference Centre, but it will also be available online. And you know, when we talk about the State of Open, it’s that question: what is the State of Open? The state of open-source, the state of open hardware, and the state of open data. And it is going to be probably the first and hopefully the biggest open-source conference in the UK.

We already have over 100 confirmed guest speakers from Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, to many of our great guests and headliners who haven’t even announced yet for the plenary. So, I’m really excited. And the reason why I wanted to get involved with this is because one of the coolest things about this conference—compared to some others like re:Invent, for example—is that sustainability and diversity run through every single thing that we do. So, as the content director, I reviewed every single CFP for both of these things. I mean, you couldn’t get a better person than someone like me, who’s the queer person who won’t shut up about sustainability to sort of do this thing.

So, you know, I looked after those scorings for the CFPs in support of the CFP chairs. And now, as I’m working with those individual speakers on their content and making sure that diversity is included in the content. It’s not just the diversity of the speaker, for example it’s, who were the other people whose voice you’re raising? What other people if you worked on this? Are there anyone that you’ve mentored, like, you know, actually, you know, let’s have this as a wider conversation?

Corey: Thank God. I thought you were about to say diversity of thought, and I was about to reach through the screen to strangle you.

Aerin: [laugh]. No, no. I mean, we’re doing really well, so of the announced speakers online, we are 40% non-male and about 18% non-white, which to be honest, for a fair sheer conference, when we didn’t really do that much to specifically call this out, but I would probably raise this to Amanda Brock, who is the CEO of OpenUK, you know, she has built a community in the UK and around the world over the last few years which has been putting women forward and building these links. And that’s why we’ve had such a great response for our first-year conferences, the work she’s put in. It’s hard.

Like, this isn’t easy. You know, we’ve had to do a lot of work to make sure that it is representative, at least better than other conferences, at least. So, I’m really excited. And like, there’s so much, like, open-source is probably going to be the thing that saves the world. If we’re going to end up looking at two different futures with monopolies and closed systems and all the money going towards cloud providers versus a fair and equitable society, open-source is the thing that’s going to get us closer to that. So yeah, this conference will be a great event.

Corey: Is it all in person? Is it being live-streamed as well? What is the deal here?

Aerin: So, in person, we have loads of different things going on, but what will be streamed online if you sign up for virtual ticket is five different tracks. So, our platform engineering track, our security track, government law and policy, open data, and open hardware. And of course, the keynote and plenaries. But one of the things I’m also really proud about this conference is that we’re really focusing on the developer experience, like, you know, what is your experience at the conference? So, we also have an unconference, we have a sub-conference run by Sustain OSS focused on workshops related to climate change and sustainability.

We have loads of developer experience halls in the event itself. And throughout the day, over the two days, we have two one-hour blocks with no speaking content at all so that we can really make sure that people have that hardware track and are out there meeting each other and having a good time. And obviously, of course, like any good conference, the all-hands party on the first night. So, it really is a conference that’s doing things differently from diversity to sustainability to that experience. So, it’s awesome.

Corey: One of the challenges that I’ve seen historically around things aiming at the idea of open conferences—and when we talk open-source, et cetera, et cetera—open’ seems like it is a direction parallel to, we haven’t any money, where it’s, “Yes, we’re a free software foundation,” and it turns out conferences themselves are not free. And you wind up with a whole bunch of folks showing up to it who are, in many cases, around the fringes of things. There are individual hobbyists who are very passionate about a thing but do not have the position in the corporate world. I’m looking through the lengthy list of speakers you have here and that is very much not this. These are serious people at serious companies. Not that there are not folks who are individual practitioners and passionate advocates and hobbyists than the rest. This is, by virtually any way you look at it, a remarkably diverse conference.

Aerin: Mmm. You know, you are right about, like, that problem in open-source. It’s like, you know, we look at open and whether we want to do open and we just go, “Well, it won’t make me any money. I can’t do that. I don’t have the time. I need to bring in some money.”

And one of the really unique things, again, about this conference is—I have not even mentioned it yet—we have an entrepreneurship room. So, we have 20 tables filled with entrepreneurs and CEOs and founders of open-source companies throughout the two days where you can book in time to sit at that table and have conversations with them. Ask them the questions that you want to ask about, whether it’s something that you want to work on, or a company you want to found, and you’ll be able to get that time. I had a very similar experience in some ways. It was re:Invent.

I was a peer talk expert and you know, I had 15 or so conversations with some really interesting people just because they were able put that time in and they were able to find me on the website. So, that’s something we are replicating to get those 20 also entrepreneurs and co-founders out to everyone else. They want to be able to help you and support you.

Corey: That is an excellent segue if I do say so myself. Let’s talk about re:Invent. It’s the one time of the year you and I get to spend time in the same room. One thing that I got wrong is that I overbooked myself as I often do, and I didn’t have time to do anything on their peer talk expert program, which is, you more or less a way that any rando can book time to sit down and chat with you. Now, in my case, I have assassination concerns because it turns out Amazon employees can read that thing too and some of them might work on billing. One wonders.

So yeah, I have to be a little careful for personal reasons but for most people, it’s a non-issue. I didn’t get as much time as I wanted to talk to folks in the community. That is not going to repeat itself at the end of this year. But what was your take on re:Invent, because I was in meetings for most of them?

Aerin: So, comparing this re:Invent to the re:Invent I went to, my first re:Invent when we met in 2021, you know, that was the re:Invent that inspired me to get into sustainability. They’d announced stuff to do with the shared responsibility model. A few months later, they released their carbon calculator, and I was like, “Yeah, this is the problem. This is the thing I want to work on and it will make me happy.” And a lot of that goes into, you know, finding a passion that keeps me motivated when things aren’t that great.

When maybe not a lot of money is coming in, at least I know, I’m doing everything I can to help save the world. So, re:Invent 2021 really inspired me to get involved with sustainability. When I look at re:Invent 2022, you might have Adam Selipsky on the main stage saying that sustainability is the problem of our generation, but that is just talk and bluster compared to what they were putting out in terms of content and their experience of, like, let’s say the sustainability—I don’t know what to call it—tiny little square in the back of the MGM Grand compared to the paid hall in the expo. Like, you know, that’s the sort of thing where you can already see the prioritization of money. Let’s put the biggest sponsors and all the money that we can bring it in the big hall where everyone is, and then put the thing we care about the most, apparently—sustainability—in the back of the MGM.

And that in itself was annoying, but then you get there in the content, and it was like a massive Rivian van, like, an advert for, “Oh, Amazon has done all this to electrify Rivian and deliver you Prime.” But where was the people working on sustainability in the cloud? You know, we had a couple of teams who were talking about the customer carbon footprint tool, but there was just not much. And I spoke to a lot of people and they were saying similar things, like, “Where are the announcements? Where are the actual interesting things?” Rather than just—which is kind of what I’m starting to realize is that a lot of the conversations about sustainability is about selling yourself as sustainable.

Use me rather than my competitors because we’re 88% more, kind of, carbon neutral when it comes to traditional data centers, not because we are really going to solve these problems. And not to say that Amazon isn’t doing innovative, amazing things that no one else can’t do, because that is true, and cloud as part of the solution, but you know, sustainability shouldn’t be about making more sales and growing your business, it should be about making the world a better place, not just in terms of carbon emissions, but you know, our life, the tech that we can access. Three billion people on this planet have never accessed the internet. And as we continue to grow all of our services like AI and machine learning and new Web3, bloody managed services come online, that’s going to be more carbon, more compute power going towards the already rich and the already westernized people, rather than solving the problems we need to solve in the face of climate change.

So, I was a little bit disappointed. And I did put a tweet thread out about it afterwards. And I just hope it can be different next year and I hope more people will start to ask for this. And that also what I’m starting to realize is that until more Amazon customers put this as their number one priority and say, “I’m not going to do business with you because of this issue,” or, you know, “This is what we really care about,” they’re not going to make a change. Unless it starts to impact their bottom lines and people start to choose other cloud providers, they’re not going to prioritize it.

And I think up until this point, we’re not seeing that from customers. We’re kind of getting some people like me shouting about it, but across the board, sustainability isn’t the number one priority right now. It’s, like what Amazon says, security or resiliency or something else.

Corey: And I think that, at least from where I set, the challenge is that if you asked me what I got out of re:Invent, and what the conversations I had—going into it, what are my expectations, and what do I hope to get and how’s it going to end up, and then you ask you that same question—though maybe you are a poor example of this—and then you ask someone who works out as an engineer at a company that uses AWS and their two or three years into their career, why don’t you talk to a manager or director or someone else? And the problem is if you start polling the entire audience, you’ll find that this becomes—you’re going to wind up with 20 different answers, at least. The conference doesn’t seem like it has any idea of what it wants to be and to whom and in that vacuum, it tries to be all things to all people. And surprise, just like the shooting multifunction printer some of us have in our homes, it doesn’t do well with any of those things because it’s trying to stand in too many worlds at the same time.

Aerin: You know, let’s not, like, look at this from a way that you know, re:Invent is crap and, like, do all the work that everyone puts it is wasted because it is a really great event for a lot of different things for a lot of different people. And to be honest, the work that the Amazon staff put into it is pretty out of this world. I feel sorry though because you know, the rush for AWS sell more and do this massive event, they put people through the grinder. And I feel like, I don’t know, we could see the cracks in some of that, the way that works. But, you know, there’s so many people that I speak to who were like, “Yeah, I’m definitely not going again. I’m not even going to go anywhere near submitting a talk.”

And, sort of, the thing is, like, I can imagine if the conference was something different; it was focused at sustainability at number one, it was about making the world a better place from everything that they do, it was about bringing diverse communities together. Like, you know, bringing these things up the list would make the whole thing a lot better. And to be honest, it would probably make it a lot more enjoyable [laugh] for the Amazon staff who end up talking at it. Because, you know, I guess it can feel a bit soulless over time is all you’re doing is making money for someone else and selling more things. And, yeah, I think there’s a lot more… different things we can do and a lot more things we can talk about if people just start to talk about, like you know, if you care about this as well and you work at Amazon, then start saying that as well.

It’ll really make a difference if you say we want re:Invent to look different. I mean, even Amazon staff, [laugh] and we’ve not even mentioned this one because I got Covid straight after re:Invent, nine days and staring at a wall in hotel room in Vegas was not my idea of a good time post-conference. So, that was a horrible, horrible experience. But, you know, I’ve had people call it re:Infect. Like, where are the Covid support?

Like, there was hardly any conversation about that. It was sort of like, “Don’t mention it because oh, s”—whatever else. But imagine if you just did something a little bit differently to look like you care about your customers. Just say, “We recommend people mask or take a test,” or even provide tests and masks. Like, even if it’s not mandatory, they could have done a lot more to make it safer for everyone. Because, yeah, imagine having the reputation of re:Infect rather than re:Invent?

Corey: I can only imagine how that would play out.

Aerin: Only imagine.

Corey: Yeah, it’s it feels like we’re all collectively decided to pretend that the pandemic is over. Because yeah, that’s a bummer. I don’t want to think about it. You know, kind of like we approach climate change.

Aerin: Yeah. At the end of the day, like, and I keep coming across this more and more, you know, my thinking has changed over the last year because, like, you know, initially it was like a hyperactive puppy. Why are we caring about this? Like, yeah, if I say it, people will come, but the reality is, we have to blinker ourselves in order to deal with a lot of this stuff. We can’t always worry about all of this stuff all of the time. And that’s fine. That’s acceptable. We do that in so many different parts of our life.

But there comes to a point when you kind of think, “How much do I care about this?” And for a lot of people, it’s because they have kids. Like, anyone who has kids right now must have to think, “Wow, what’s the future going to look like?” And if you worry about what the future is going to look like, make sure you’re taking steps to make the world a better place and make it the future you want it to look like. You know, I made the decision a long time ago not to have kids because I don’t think I’d want to bring anyone into the world on what it might actually end up being, but you know, when I speak to people who are older in the 60s and they’re like, “Oh, you’ve got 100 years. You don’t need to worry about it.” Like, “Maybe you can say that because you’re closer to dying than I am.” But yeah, I have to worry about this now because I’ll still be eighty when all this shit is kicking off [laugh].

Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Strata. Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of managing and securing identity in your distributed enterprise IT environment? You're not alone, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back. With Strata’s Identity Orchestration Platform, you can secure all your apps on any cloud with any IDP, so your IT teams will never have to refactor for identity again. Imagine modernizing app identity in minutes instead of months, deploying passwordless on any tricky old app, and achieving business resilience with always-on identity, all from one lightweight and flexible platform.
Want to see it in action? Share your identity challenge with them on a discovery call and they'll hook you up with a complimentary pair of AirPods Pro. Don't miss out, visit That's Strata dot io slash ScreamingCloud.

Corey: That I guess is one of the big fears I have—and I think it’s somewhat unfounded—is that every year starts to look too much like the year before it. Because it’s one of those ideas where we start to see the pace of innovation is slowing at AWS—and I’m not saying that to piss people at Amazon off and have them come after me with pitchforks and torches again—but they’re not launching new services at the rate they once did, which is good for customers, but it starts to feel like oh, have we hit peak cloud this is what it’s going to look like? Absolutely not. I don’t get the sense that the world is like, “Well, everything’s been invented. Time to shut down the patent office,” anytime soon.

And in the short term, it feels like oh, there’s not a lot exciting going on, but you look back the last five years even and look at how far we’ve come even in that period of time and—what is it? “The days are long, but the years are short.” It becomes a very macro thing of as things ebb and flow, you start to see the differences but the micro basis on a year-to-year perspective, it seems harder to detect. So longer term, I think we’re going to see what the story looks like. And it’s going to be satisfying one. Just right now, it’s like, well, this wasn’t as entertaining as I would have hoped, so I’m annoyed. Which I am because it wasn’t, but that’s not the biggest problem in the world.

Aerin: It’s not. And, you know, you look at okay, cool, there wasn’t all these new flashy services. There was a few things are announced, I mean, hopefully that are going to contribute towards climate change. One of them is called AWS Supply Chain. And the irony of seeing sort of like AWS Supply Chain where a company that already has issues with data and conversations around competition, saying to everyone, “Hey, trust us and give all of your supply chain information and put it into one of our AWS products,” while at the same time their customer carbon footprint tool won’t even show the full scope for their emissions of their own supply chain is not lost on me.

And you do say, “Maybe we should start seeing things at a macro level,” but unless Amazon and other cloud hyperscalers start pulling the finger out and showing us how they have got a vision between now and 2040, and now in 2050, of how they’re going to get there, it kind of just feels like they’re saying, “It’ll all be fine as long as we continue to grow, as long as we keep sucking up the market.” And, you know, an interesting thing that just kicked off in the UK back in November was the Competition and Markets Authority have started an investigation into the cloud providers on how they are basically sucking up all these markets, and how the growth of things that are not hyperscale is going. So, in the UK, the percentage of cloud has obviously gone up—more and more cloud spending has gone up—but kind of usage across non-hyperscalers has gone down over that same period. And they really are at risk of sucking up the world. Like, I have got involved in a lot of different things.

I’m an AWS community builder; like, I do promote AWS. And, you know, the reason why I promote cloud, for example is serverless. We need serverless as the way we run our IT because that’s the only way we’ll do things like time shifting or demand shifting. So, when we look at renewable energy on the grid if that really high, the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, we want more workloads to be running then and when they’re tiny, and they’re [unintelligible 00:21:03], and what’s the call it serverless generally, uh—

Corey: Hype?

Aerin: Function as a Code?

Corey: Function—yeah, Function as a Service and all kinds of other nonsense. But I have to ask, when you’re talking about serverless, in this context, is a necessary prerequisite of serverless that scale to zero when it’s [unintelligible 00:21:19].

Aerin: [laugh]. I kind of go back to marketing. What Amazon releasing these days when it relates to serverless that isn’t just marketing and saying, “Oh, it’s serverless.” Because yeah, there was a few products this year that is not scaled to zero is it? It’s a 100-pound minimum. And when you’re looking at number of accounts that you have, that can add up really quickly and it excludes people from using it.

Corey: It’s worse than that because it’s not number of accounts. I consider DynamoDB to be serverless, by any definition of the term. Because it is. And what I like about it is I can have a separate table for every developer, for every service or microservice or project that they have, and in fact, each branch can have its own stuff like that. I look at some of the stuff that I build with multi-branch testing and whatnot, and, “Oh, wow. That would cost more than the engineer if they were to do that with some of the serverless offerings that AWS has put out.”

Which makes that entire philosophy a complete non-starter, which means that invariably as soon as you start developing down that path, you are making significant trade-offs. That’s just from a economics slash developer ergonomics slash best practices point of view. But there’s a sustainability story to it as well.

Aerin: Yeah. I mean, this sustainability thing is like, if you’re not going to encourage this new way of working, like, if you’re not going to move everyone to this point of view and this is how we need to do things, then you kind of just propagating the old world, putting it into your data center. For every managed service that VMware migrated piece of crap, just that land in the cloud, it’s not making a real difference in the world because that’s still going to exist. And we mentioned this just before the podcast and, you know, a lot of focus these days and for a lot of people is, “Okay, green energy is the problem. We need to solve green energy.”

And Amazon is the biggest purchaser of power purchase agreements in renewable energy around the world, more than most governments. Or I think that the biggest corporate purchaser of it anyway. And that all might sound great, like, “Oh, the cloud is going to solve this problem for me and Amazon is going to solve it for me even better because they’re bigger.” But at the end of the day, when we think about a data center, it exists in the real world.

It’s made of concrete. You know, when you pour concrete and when you make concrete, it releases CO2. It’s got racks of servers that all are running. So, those individual servers had to be made by whoever it is in Asia or mined from rare earth metals and end up in the supply chain and then transported into the data centers in us-east-1. And then things go wrong. You have to repair you have to replace and you have to maintain them.

Unless we get these circular economies going in a closed system, we can’t just continue to grow like this. Because carbon emissions related to Scope 3, all those things I’ve just been talking about, basically anything that isn’t the energy, is about 80 to 90% of all the carbon emissions. So, when Amazon says, “Oh, we’re going to go green and get energy done by 2030”—which is seven years away—they’ve then got ten years to solve 90% of the problem. And we cannot all just continue to grow and think of tech as neutral and better for the world if we still got that 90% problem, which we do right now. And it really frustrates me when you look at the world and the way we’ve jumped on technology just go on, “Oh, it must be good.”

Like Bitcoin, for example. Bitcoin has released 200 million metric tons of CO2 since its inception. And for something that is basically a glorified Ponzi scheme, I can’t see how that is making the world a better place. So, when cloud providers are making managed services for Web3 and for blockchain, and they’re selling more and more AI and machine learning, basically so they can keep on selling GPU access, I do worry about whether our path to infinite growth with all of these hyperscalers is probably the wrong way of looking at things. So, linking back to, you know, the conference, open-source and, you know, thinking about things differently is really important in tech right now.

And not just for your own well-being and being able to sleep at night, but this is how we’re going to solve our problems. When all companies on the planet want people to be sustainable and we have to start tackling this because there’s a financial cost related to it, then you’re going to be in the vogue. If you’re really good developer, thinking about things differently can be efficient, then yeah, you’re the developer that’s going to win in the future. You might be assisted by ChatGPT three or whatever else, but yeah, sustainability and efficiency can really be the number one priority because it’s a win, win, win. We save the world, we make ourselves better, we sleep better at night, and you just become a better developer.

I keep monologuing at this point, but you know, when it comes to stuff like games design, we look at things like Quake and Pokemon and all these things when there’s like, “How did they get these amazing games and these amazing experiences in such small sizes,” they had boundaries. They had boundaries to innovate within because they had to. They couldn’t release the game if they couldn’t fit into the cartridge, therefore, they made it work. When the cloud is sold as infinitely scalable and horizontally scalable and no one needs to worry about this stuff because you can get your credit card out, people stop caring about being innovative and being more efficient. So yeah, let’s get some more boundaries in the cloud.

Corey: What I find that is super helpful, has been, like, if I can, like, descri—like, Instagram is down. Describe your lunch to me style meme description, like, the epic handshake where you have two people clasping hands, and one side is labeled in this case, ‘sustainability advocates,’ and the other side should be labeled ‘cloud economists,’ and in the middle, it’s, “Turn that shit off.” Because it’s not burning carbon if it’s not running, and it’s not costing you anything—ideally—if it’s not running, so it’s one of those ideas where we meet in the middle. And that’s important, not just because it makes both of us independently happy because it’s both good for the world and you’ll get companies on board with this because, “Wait. We can do this thing and it saves us money?” Suddenly, you’re getting them aligned because that is their religion.

If companies could be said to have a religion, it is money. That’s the way it works. So, you have to make it worth money for them to do the right thing or you’re always going to be swimming upstream like a depressed salmon.

Aerin: I mean, look at why [unintelligible 00:27:11] security is near the top: because there’s so many big fines related to security breaches. It will cost them money not to be secure. Right now, it doesn’t cost companies money to be inefficient or to release all this carbon, so they get away with it or they choose to do it. And I think that’s going to change. We see in regulations across you’re coming out.

So, you know, if you work for a big multinational that operates in Europe, by next year, you’ll have to report on all of your Scope 3 carbon emissions. If you’re a customer of AWS right now, you have no ability to do that. So, you know, this is going to be crunch time over the next 18 months to two years for a lot of big businesses, for Amazon and the other hyperscalers, to really start demonstrating that they can do this. And I guess that’s my big push. And, you know, I want to work with anyone, and it’s funny because I have been running this business for about, you know, a couple of years now, it’s been going really well, I did my podcast, I’m on this path.

But I did, last year, take some time, and I applied into AWS. And you know, I was like, “Okay, maybe I’ll apply for this big tech company and help Amazon out.” And because I’ll take that salary and I’ll do something really good with it afterwards, I’ll do my time for three years and attend re:Invent and deliver 12 talks and never sleep, but you know, at the end of it, I’ll say, “Okay, I’ve done that and now I can do something really good.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get the role—or fortunately—but you know, when I applied for that role, what I said to them is, “I really care about sustainability. I want to make the world a better place. I want to help your customers be more sustainable.”

And they didn’t want me to join. So, I’m just going to continue doing that but from the outside. And whether that means working with politicians or developers or anyone else to try and make the world better and to kind of help fight against climate change, then, yeah, that’s definitely what I’m doing.

Corey: So, one last question before we wind up calling it an episode. How do we get there? What is the best next step that folks can take? Because it’s easy to look at this as a grand problem and realize it’s too big to solve. Well, great. You don’t need to solve the entire problem. You need take the first step. What is that first step?

Aerin: Individuals, I would say it’s just realizing that you do care about it and you want to take action. And you’re going to say to yourself, “Even if I do little things, I’m going to move forward towards that point.” So, if that is being a more sustainable engineer or getting more conversations about climate change or even just doing other things in your community to make the world a better place than it is, taking that action. But one thing that I can definitely help about and talk a bit more of is that at the conference itself, I’ll be running a panel with some great experts called the, “Next Generation of Cloud Education.” So, I really think we need to—like I said earlier in the podcast—to think differently about the cloud and IT.

So, I am doing this panel and I’m bringing together someone like Simon Wardley to help people do Wardley Mapping. Like, that is a tool that allows you to see the landscape that you’re operating in. You know, if you use that sort of tool to understand the real-world impact of what you’re doing, then you can start caring about it a bit more. I’m bringing in somebody called Anne Currie, who is a tech ethicist and speaker and lecturer, and she’s actually written some [laugh] really great nonfiction books, which I’d recommend everyone reads. It starts with Utopia Five.

And that’s about asking, “Well, is this ethical? Can we continue to do these things?” Can’t—talks about things about sustainability. If it’s not sustainable for everyone, it’s not ethical. So, when I mentioned 3 billion people currently don’t use the internet, it’s like, can we continue to just keep on doing things the same way?

And then John Booth, who is a data center expert, to help us really understand what the reality is on the ground. What are these data centers really look like? And then Amanda Brock, from OpenUK in the conference will joining as well to talk about, kind of, open-source and how we can make the world kind of a better place by getting involved in these communities. So, that’ll be a really great panel.

But what I’m also doing is releasing this as an online course. So, for people who want to get involved, it will be very intimate, about 15 seats on each core, so three weeks for you to actually work and talk directly with some of these experts and me to figure out what you want to do in the world of climate change and how you can take those first steps. So, it’ll be a journey that even starts with an ecotherapist to help us deal with climate grief and wonder about the things we can do as individuals to feel better ourselves and be happier. So, I think that’d be a really great thing for a lot of people. And, yeah, not only that, but… it’ll be great for you, but it also goes towards making the world a better place.

So, 50% of the course fees will be donated, 25%, to charity, and 25% supporting open-source projects. So, I think it kind of just win, win, win. And that’s the story of sustainability in general. It’s a win, win, win for everyone. If you start seeing the world through a lens of sustainability, you’ll save money, you’ll sleep better at night, you’ll get involved with some really great communities, and meet some really great people who care about this as well. And yeah, it’ll be a brighter future.

Corey: If people want to learn more, where can they find you?

Aerin: So, if you want to learn more about what I’m up to, I’m on Twitter under @aerincloud, that A-E-R-I-N cloud. And then you can also find me on LinkedIn. But I also run my own podcast that was inspired by Corey, called Public Cloud for Public Good talking about cloud sustainability and how to make the world a better place for the use of public cloud services.

Corey: And we will, of course, put a link to that in the [show notes 00:32:32]. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it, as always.

Aerin: Thank you.

Corey: Aerin Booth, the Ted Lasso of cloud. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this episode, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an angry and insulting comment that I will immediately scale to zero in true serverless fashion.

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit to get started.

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.
Newsletter Footer

Get the Newsletter

Reach over 30,000 discerning engineers, managers, enthusiasts who actually care about the state of Amazon’s cloud ecosystems.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sponsor Icon Footer

Sponsor an Episode

Get your message in front of people who care enough to keep current about the cloud phenomenon and its business impacts.