Our increasingly digital lifestyles have led ICT to become a surprisingly large proportion of our energy consumption globally. Running large server farms in concentrated data centres requires us to expend massive amounts energy just to cool down the servers. Lots more energy is then required to send data across nations and internationally. We can reduce the carbon emissions associated with this by using smart technologies and more efficient cooling, but it’s an energy-intensive set-up by design.
What if we could process and send data in ways that simply don’t require all that power in the first place?
My research at Kings College London is asking how we might decentralise data centres themselves, as a way of reducing the total energy required for computation. By distributing data centres closer to where they’re needed, data traffic wouldn't have as far to travel and communities could work together to manage their local need for computation and the energy demands associated with this. For example, by using micro-servers in homes and organisations, it might one-day be possible for neighbours to trade and share their own processing capacity.
I wonder what we can learn from the intelligence of living systems to help us lead more efficient, intent-driven and local, digital lives than we do today? I'm keen to hear your thoughts.
If this strikes a chord, you might be interested in reading:
- IT now 10 percent of world’s electricity consumption, report finds
- The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy
- Here’s How Much Energy All US Data Centers Consume
- Data centres to consume three times as much energy in next decade
- The Problem of Inefficient Cooling in Smaller Data Centers
Nishanth Sastry is Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Telecommunications Research at Kings College London
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