Environmental Group Targets Data Centers: Criticism Justified?

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Global environmental group Greenpeace issued a report alleging that the growth of cloud computing is resulting in large amounts of energy being gobbled up by growing data centers. "With the growth of the cloud ... comes an increasing demand for energy. For all of this content to be delivered to us in real time, virtual mountains of video, pictures and other data must be stored somewhere and be available for almost instantaneous access. That ‘somewhere' is data centers - massive storage facilities that consume incredible amounts of energy." The Greenpeace report said Facebook, for example, recently commissioned a data center that draws power from a utility using coal-fired plants. On the other hand, Yahoo! recently decided to build a data center in upstate New York, using hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls - therefore lowering its carbon footprint. Greenpeace estimates that data centers' share of carbon emissions will increase from 14% today to 18% by 2020. Data center energy consumption will also triple by that time. Of course, more study is needed on the ways e-business and virtual conferencing have cut energy consumption.

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