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The future looks cloudy

31 March 2010
The future looks cloudy

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

Greenpeace today published their figures on the projected growth of data centres and telecommunications networks, based on the SMART 2020 research, and are calling for IT companies to support government policy for renewables.

Many IT and telecoms companies are very supportive of policies like these (BT is a clear example). But we should also be clear that we need to know more about the impacts of services 'in the cloud' such as social networking sites, and what their footprints are before we point the finger at companies like Facebook and Apple. The networking piece of SMART 2020 was the most difficult to analyse because it is unclear what services consume the most power and what methodologies should be used to assess their consumption.

There is no denying that Google, YouTube and Facebook are growing fast - they are some of the top internet companies in the world according to Alexa, up from just a few years ago.

But data centres and telecoms networks are growing not only due to cloud social media services. Governments, financial services are signifcant users. Akamai, which delivers over 20% of the world's internet traffic on it's platform, has customers such as anti-viral companies, life sciences, insurance, manufacturing and the public sector, along with the more visible business services, hotel, travel, social media or gaming industries.

I agree IT and telecoms companies should get behind renewable power. What is crucial is to understand the impact of their services in more detail, so that we can be clear about where the impacts are coming from, to take an informed approach to mitigating the impacts of data centre growth.

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