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The Cloud: Thousands of Overheated, Polluting, Power-Hungry Data Centers

Go ahead, buy it.

Add to Cart. Proceed to Checkout. Enter Payment Info. Place Order.

A nice, clean transaction in cyberspace, right? No need to consume fossil fuels driving to an actual store, which in turn must be electrified, heated, and stocked with not-quite-right products and pesky salespeople trying to sell warranties. Besides the costs and byproducts of the delivery process, the online transaction seems pretty innocent, environmentally speaking. Right?

But the data from your purchase, the store’s inventory control, the product shipping, and each confirming email, are all stored somewhere in “the cloud.” Despite the ethereal name, the ever-growing cloud consists of massive numbers of computer servers in tens of thousands of data centers around the country and around the world, all sucking massive amounts of power, absorbing numerous citations for air pollution, and searching for more efficient cooling. This phenomenon is the subject of a recent article in The New York Times, a funny, seven-year-old video produced by The Kenwood Group for Sun Microsystems, and an article I wrote for Kenwood’s blog.

In the video, “More is More,” directed by Randy Field, a fictitious IT company expands to the frozen North in search of more space, cheap power, and cold weather to help cool their hot servers. Now, years later, real Silicon Valley companies are building data centers in northern climes like Norway, Finland, and Minnesota.

Read my full article and see the video on Kenwood’s blog:

Server Farms: Early Kenwood Video Foreshadows Big Data’s Impact on the Environment, by Bill Zarchy

 

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