I’m still mulling the in-depth investigative report last week in the NYT about data storage server sites. It’s main point concerns the huge amounts of data we generate and the huge amounts of electricity needed not only to store the data and to cool the data (as it were), as well as the energy held in reserve without ever being used lest a mishap equal to a hundreth of a second crash an entire system.
While I’m sure there are server sites that follow ecological best practice, I’m sure there are many more that don’t. And there are thousands of these sites across the US alone. The internet is not clean and efficient. It’s big and fast, and also hot, and dirty too if you consider the diesel generators that back up the sites.
My own take is this. For all the talk about the internet being “placeless,” this article is an eye opener, and should change the way we think and talk about the internet. The internet is very much bound to and dependent upon real space and places. And it extracts a toll. The idea that we have somehow transcended terrestrial space was just a lot of blow. Instead of computing “clouds,” which is patently disingenuous, maybe we should refer to computing pools, bogs, or pits. As it turns out, data actually exist somewhere.
You can find the articles here. The talk-back from industry promoters and apologists is nothing if not “hysterical.”