Server farms have become just like any valuable piece of modern infrastructure. Faceless, hidden and under appreciated.
Unlike the miles of water pipelines and treatment plants–which form the foundation of our communities–these new server farms are more like power plants. They are located based on available resources. Their product can span vast distances more easily than water. These server farms require low-cost reliable power, a supporting community, and available water. I blogged about how much water was used in a Google search a couple of years ago which tried to illustrate the individual impact of these farms.
I was reminded of this blog post this week when the NY Times had a special series of articles detailing the impacts from these data centers. Some of their major statistics included:
- There are more than three million data centers widely varying in size worldwide.
- Electricity used in global data centers likely accounted for between 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent in 2010.
- Worldwide data centers use about 30 billion watts of electricity equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.
- Federal data centers grew from 432 in 1998 to 2,094 in 2010
Why are these server farms mushrooming? According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. Vast server farms host a majority of this data. I don’t need to tell you that we are drowning in visible and invisible data. Invisibile data? Some have referred this type of data as “shadow data” or “digital exhaust.” This data is all of the transactional data that is created in the background as we lead our increasingly digital and mobile lives; Siri logs back to Apple, web history, search history, etc. Some have claimed there is roughly a 1:1 ratio between the amount of user-generated data and invisible or shadow data produced, per individual, per year.
It is absolutely a race between our ability to create data and our ability to store and manage data,” - Mr Jeremy Burton, EMC
We had a great example this week of the importance of data servers. Apple is facing major problems with their Map App. In fact, yesterday Tim Cook issued an apology. The App is picture perfect. Personally I have not had any issues with it. Apple’s problem is a data problem that Google has had five years to refine based on everyday user transactions with their map. Apple still has to refine their map based on the millions of daily transactions with the map and their data server farms. They (and we) need their data server farms more and more.
It was not easy trying to find these server farms. Only Google really publishes their locations, but here are some server farms I found near me.
View Southeast Data Server Farms in a larger map
This morning I realized all my mobile photos were not only in the iCloud, but were also being backed up on Google+. Who knows what else is scattered across different servers. Tonight I am going to give my regional server farm a break. I am going camping. I am turning off the mobile phone. I’ll be data free for just a day, unless I get lost, at which point I’ll thank whatever data server farm gets my map request.