Wednesday, October 29, 2008

internet energy consumption

Two years ago I blogged on the energy consumption needs of the Internet, making the point that if African countries truly wanted to compete, how were they to do so if they (more than others) lacked scarce energy and water resources. My thinking then had been prompted by an article on massive server farms /data stores in the August 28, 2006 issue of Fortune magazine (European edition). Of interest still are the questions I´d posed in my 1-Sept-2006 posting, which rang as follows:

Okay, so, the article "The future of computing (part one)". Some excerpts:

"Most people don´t think of it this way, but the Information Age is being built on an infrastructure as imposing as the factories and mills of yore....To handle this change [of software becoming webified], Internet companies are building their own [data] centers..."

And what data centers need are:

  • ground, acres and acres of it
  • electricity, not only to operate the servers but also to cool all those processors chugging away (e.g. "...for every dollar a company spends to power a typical server, it spends another dollar on a/c [air-conditioning] to keep it cool.")
  • water, for cooling purposes, as increasingly alternative means are being explored to keep server farms cool.
moral of the story?

  1. even in the information age, we come back to the same basic ingredients for the infrastructure needed at base.
  2. seriously, where does this leave Africa in the race to be part of the Info Age?

greater moral of the story?

we are running low on fossil fuels, and water, on the planet (among other things, admittedly). the info age was supposed to signifiy a reduction in the demand for either of the two. instead, demand is only increasing. so, where does that leave us, after all?

It seems that my parting question of the energy-hungry Internet is to be addressed in this evening´s (Wed 29 Oct 2008) edition of Newsnight (a BBC current affairs programme). Susan Watts, the Science correspondent of said programme has blogged on the matter in anticipation of tonight´s episode. Reading the blog, it seems there is no clear answer as yet to how Internet companies expect to "go green", her having consulted IBM, Cisco, and Google. Thát, or maybe she´s saved the full answers for her broadcast... Once I´ve watched the episode on energy-hungry iplayer, I´ll let you know.

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