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An interesting Wall Street Journal (subscription required) article explains one aspect of tech growing pains. According to Debra Chrapaty of Microsoft, data-center power consumption at Microsoft has roughly doubled over the past four years and is predicted to triple or more over the next five. Yahoo’s Susan Decker explains that roughly 20% to 50% of the total cost of running a data center is now represented by electricity costs. Google’s Urs Hölzle discusses the inefficiencies of networking and computing equipment and explains that if not changed, it will represent a huge cost concern for Google within 5-10 years. This is all due to what the article calls the Internet’s “ambitious new offerings” citing video as the leading culprit.
So now these companies (and others like them) are on a nationwide search for cheap electricity. After all, the need to add thousands of servers here and there is quite normal. But with Internet content changing and becoming much more robust, any given data center now consumes enough power to run a small city of 30,000 to 40,000 people! Thus, even a penny’s savings per kilowatt-hour can quickly add up to yearly savings of millions.
The situation is causing some companies to get more creative in their search. Possibilities range from using former defense bunkers to building around a nuclear-power plant. For whatever reason, Microsoft even explained that it has looked at a former urinal warehouse and underground caverns two miles below the earth, all in the quest for inexpensive power.
As is often the case, only time will tell how this might trickle down and affect you or me…