CO2 and the Cloud - For Better or Worse
This article from Zone Leader Thomas Jardinet takes a look at three articles that should cause us to consider the environmental effects of our tech.
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When it comes to carbon emissions and the internet, we very often come back to data centers and streaming applications. But what is the situation and how can we improve it?
Being interested in Green IT and the CO2 emissions of our data centers, I've had the opportunity to read several very interesting articles that I'd like to share with you and give you my thoughts.
Among these articles, I would like to mention the following:
"Factcheck: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Video on Netflix?"
A very good CarbonBrief article that came out recently in reaction to a study by the thinktank The Shift Project. It says that the CO2 consumption of a 30-minute episode of Netflix was vastly overestimated. It indicated that the 30-minute series emits as much CO2 as a car traveling 4 miles. However, this would turn out to be more like driving 200 meters. This overestimate was partly due to errors, but also to projections that did not take into account the energy progress made by data centers, among others.
"Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks"
The curves are quite telling. As much as internet traffic is growing at an exponential rate, the energy consumption of data centers remains constant, even slightly decreasing. We can also see that the total consumption of servers is increasing, while the total consumption of data center infrastructure is decreasing. Compared to our exploding internet usage, this is a striking piece of information, because we can do a lot more with a little less.
"How Much Energy Do Data Centers Really Use?"
This article, which refers to this science article, is quite long, but we rediscover again that the network consumes almost nothing in proportion, but that on the other hand, the cooling and power supplies of the servers were particularly consuming, because they consumed nearly 43% of the energy of the data centers.
I will leave you to read these articles in detail, which will give you all the details of these studies. What is missing, in my opinion, is the emergence of the idea of a green web, whose energy efficiency would be guided by better energy efficiency of the equipment used. I can see several paths of improving this.
The Path to Real Decentralization
We all use a PC or a smartphone to access the Internet, but are we sure we need all the power, all the disk space, all the RAM of our PCs to watch Netflix videos? When I see people buying computers for 600 euros, with a Core I5 and 8 GB of Ram, do we all really need all that? All the time? Not to mention the fact that you don't need air conditioning and dual power on your personal computer. We should think about not "overloading" the cloud, but rather see how to "download" the computing power back to the personal devices. WebAssembly supported by recent browsers, as well as the principles of Fog Computing and P2P, should inspire us in establishing new architectures. It should be noted that the network consumes almost no energy, so we might as well use it sparingly!
The Path to A Good Measure of The Whole Energy Consumption
In fact, this is a real current problem for those who study the subject. A certain amount of data is missing, which makes it impossible to be as precise as desired in the studies. And as we cannot improve what we do not quantify, this has to be improved! Network equipment, servers, consumption of the actors of the internet cables, all the actors must make their consumption data available.
The Path to Cloud Providers
This is some of the data found in various studies. Cloud providers' data centers are unattainable in terms of energy consumption by a company that would like to use its own datacenter. So it's not a question of stopping the cloud, but maybe rather of reshaping it, to do what it does best, and delegate everything to personal computers as much as possible.
The Path to Challenging Our Habits
What is indicated in these studies is that a certain number of uses are likely to contribute to the increase in consumption. They talk about tripling or quadrupling. 5G, AI, autonomous vehicles, 8K televisions, are we sure that all this is really indispensable? This may lead to broader questions, but think about it when you want to do cloud gaming on your 8K TV. Your Xbox on your Full HD TV isn't enough for you?
All this is just food for thought, but it may lead us to rethink the architecture of our computer systems. It's time to think about it.
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