The data center is the new factory of the digital age. And like any factory, it poses a paradox: A data center pollutes but it also powers the servers that we use to connect.
People use the cloud for apps, for computing, storage and any number of other uses. The cloud is convenient, helps get our work done and is increasingly important in our culture.
These factor also drove the industrial age. Cars made our lives convenient. So did televisions and airplanes. We built factories to provide us with these aspects of modern life.
The difference today is how we view data centers and the way they pollute. Greenpeace is pushing this conversation with its campaign directed at Facebook to make its data centers greener.
But what do you think?
Data center pollution raises questions for us about cloud computing and what the abundance of media means for our environment. More photos, more apps and more video means higher demand for data centers. Those data centers consume power that is often multiple factors higher than what the community uses. For example, in Oregon, the community of Prineville is getting a new substation to handle the amount of electricity Facebook is expected to generate with its new data center.
It's also creating a new awareness about the impacts these data centers have on the environment. With that awareness is coming a new generation of green and LEED certified data centers.
eBay opened a new data center in Utah last May that now has LEED Gold certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. There are a number of data centers that are starting to use LEED as a guide.
According to eBay, Topaz won the award for having the following characteristics:
- The collection of rainwater to offset city water use.
- The ability to use low outside air temperatures to reduce electrical costs for cooling our servers.
- The use of low emitting materials throughout construction.
- The use of over 20% recycled and regional building materials in the facility construction.
- The use of a chemical-free water treatment system.
- Best practice heating ventilation design for office space comfort.
Data center construction will not stop. How we manage data centers will determine the amount of pollution we actually create as we go about taking advantage of the conveniences the Internet offers.