web 2.0 and energy consumption

6 April, 2007

During the O’Reilly Radar Briefing at Etech 2007, there was a short but thought provoking discussion about energy. The discussion was with Alec Proudfoot, a co-chair of the Energy Innovation Conference 2007, Paul Kedrosky and Rich Miller. The interesting point that came up when web2.0 came up. Basically, web2.0 is all about centralization of computing, applications move from PCs to the web. At the other side of a network connection the computing is taking place, instead of on the desktop. This has a great influence on where electricity is consumed. Already it is know that processors for datacenters cost more in their energy consumption than their upfront cost price.

The result is that data centers are moving to places where energy is more ‘abundant’, for example central Washington state. It’s like going back in time to the industrial revolution, where factories were build close to the necessary resources. Now the compute farms are moving to rural areas where green electricity (hydropower) is available. Another interesting piece of information is that the current backlog for ordering backup diesel generators is about 14 months. Amazing.

It will be interesting to see what happens if services like google applications or the online photoshop application really take off.

update: Nicholas Carr also makes the same point today in his blog post ‘the real web2.0

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