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Cloud's Real Ecological Timebomb: Wireless, Not Data Centers

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A representation of a green network.

Australian researchers see trouble brewing in the continuing growth of cellular and Wi-Fi networks to access cloud services.

Credit: Computerworld Australia

Although environmentalists have criticized cloud service providers for a lack of transparency concerning their data centers' energy efficiency, a University of Melbourne report warns that the growing use of cellular and Wi-Fi networks to access cloud services is the real ecological threat.

Kerry Hinton with Melbourne's Center for Energy-Efficient Communications predicts that by 2015, data centers' energy consumption will be negligible compared to these wireless networks. The report points to an emergent convergence between cloud computing and wireless communication, one that will deliver consumer access "to a vast array of cloud applications and services with the convenience of anywhere, anytime, any network functionality from the device of their choice."

The study projects that within three years, wireless cloud energy consumption will reach 43 terawatt-hours, versus 9.3 terawatt-hours last year. "This is an increase in carbon footprint from 6 megatons of CO2 in 2012, up to 30 megatons of CO2 in 2015," the report notes. Wireless access will account for up to 90 percent of this higher consumption, compared to data centers' 9 percent.

"The very real message here is that the real bottleneck, looming sooner than we think, may be energy," the report concludes.

From Computerworld Australia
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