Future of the cloud

Interesting column from John Naughton in today’s Observer on the potential issues of an increased focus on ‘cloud computing’ ie using online services like Google Docs, etc. Firstly he talks about the recent outages in Asia caused by the Pakistani authorities re-routing YouTube to nowhere – in other words, just how stable is the web? – and secondly he discusses the environmental issues.

A comprehensively networked world requires unconscionable numbers of ‘server farms’ – huge warehouses stuffed with computers consuming vast quantities of electrical power. We haven’t yet begun to think seriously about the environmental footprint of this kind of technology, but it’s clearly significant.

Some companies are already aware of the looming environmental issues. Google’s senior executives are reportedly obsessed with their company’s power consumption. And last week IBM launched a new mainframe which provides the computing power of 1,500 PC-based servers but with 85 per cent lower energy costs. Perhaps this is a token of what’s to come: the mainframe is dead; long live the mainframe!

Or, the network is the computer. Interesting, the green angle on this. I had always equated innovative methods of online working as being environmentally friendly. This aspect has taken me rather by surprise.

3 thoughts on “Future of the cloud”

  1. “We haven’t yet begun to think…. … Some companies are already aware…” Interesting contradiction there. I think the fact is that a number of companies are thinking pretty hard about this! Not to say that there aren’t broader implications, but it’s fairly bizarre to say that people aren’t thinking about it and then say exactly the opposite in the next sentence.

  2. So s the idea to use the slack capacity within the machines connected to the network. Will we all become web “render engines” for each other or am I just showing huge ignorance here?

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