Interesting article in this morning’s FT (requires subscription) about the amount of energy used to power data centers. According to the author, Izabella Kaminska:
The information and communications technology (ICT) sector absorbs up to 10 per cent of the power resources of the UK’s National Grid. Of that, one-third of the power goes to supporting the network, one-third towards supporting our devices and the other third goes towards supporting data centers.
The solution, according to Kaminska is for data which is unstructured, not classified and not revisited after uploading to be deleted in the same way our brains forget things which are no longer important to us. The main offenders, she argues, are all the funny cat videos uploaded to YouTube and other sharing sites. Apparently, a few years ago it was pornography that was clogging up the internet but now it is more innocent content.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) starts to permeate our lives we can expect data storage to be an even greater issue. While much of this data will be structured and not have the storage requirements of large video files, it will be the sheer quantity of data flowing through the network that will challenge data center operators. However, I feel this is an issue where technology will solve the problem it has created. More efficient storage and access methods, greater energy efficiency of the servers and renewable energy sources will make incremental but important contributions. It is not clear that a system of better classified cat videos is practical at either the production or consumption ends of the chain.