As Internet pervades more and more into our personal lives, it is important to consider about happenings in the back-room of the internet.
Data centers sit at the core of the internet and will remain so for long time. As insatiable hunger of data grows bigger and bigger, we should expect data centers to grow in size (and so is their demand for an energy).
If you consider simple google search or streaming a video over netflix or youtube, it involves multiple data centers depends on the request. These data centers run on energy, so if you wish to consider specific energy impact of specific search or streaming, it is not just the electricity that powers your laptop.
Greenpeace raised similar points as early as 2011 when it started engaging with Technology giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Google. Initially it faced familiar resistance since all these data centers source energy from local utility companies. (In face one of key criteria of setting up the data center is lower cost of energy). It took famous incident at Quincy, Washinton involving Microsoft Data centers to shake up that perception. Microsoft was blamed for wastage of electricity as well as using diesel generators to power up further expansions in data centers. Later, Facebook becomes first company to commit to renewable energy in data centers.
Greenpeace published ‘Clicking Clean’ report in May-2015 on state of energy consumption for the internet, including data centers.
Greenpeace reports states that our digital footprint demands massive and growing amount of the energy. It estimates collective electricity consumption of our devices, networks and data centers would jump from 7.4% in 2012 to 12% by 2017.
Here is how leading internet companies stack up on Sustainability scorecard.
Greenpeace reports that video is going to be bigger consumption factor of the internet and expected to grow to account for 76% of internet traffic with 16% of web/email and 8% of file-sharing. Today, Netflix accounts for almost 32% of Internet traffic in US, while Google drives almost 22% with others (Apple,Twitch, Hulu etc.) driving rest of the traffic.
Interestingly, Netflix scores low in key parameters for sustainable internet as per the report.
While Google scores respectably , though it has long way to go in terms of full sustainability of data center operations.
While data centers remain critical backbone for the internet and expected to become one of the biggest energy consumers , it is not an easy way ahead as this report rightly mentions.
Meanwhile, check whether you clicking CLEAN, when you browse the internet.