It's no secret that the Internet is immensely huge -- 2.4 billion users strong, in fact -- and it's still growing extremely fast: Pike Research estimates that by 2016, the Internet will contain 4 times as much data as it does today.
But far too many people are simply missing the fact that the Internet is power hungry and actually fairly ungreen. Last year alone, the Internet industry used more power than the auto-manufacturing industry. In total, it consumes the approximate output of 30 nuclear power plants annually.
Combine this level of power consumption with the projected growth of the Internet and a scary picture begins to emerge. It's just as frightening to consider that most of the data centers housing all of the Internet's information only use about 10 percent of their power for actual calculations. The rest is used while they stand idle, essentially wasting all that power. If that same ratio continues, then the rapid growth of the Internet could come with exponentially larger power consumption.
In the meantime, however, the industry isn't standing idle. It's working to solve the problem, with large investments in green data centers that could dramatically cut energy consumption and increase efficiency. Green data center investment is projected to grow by 164 percent over the next 4 years. But only time will tell if this will be enough to offset all the growth coming over the horizon.
What do you think? Will the industry move fast enough to reduce consumption or will energy usage -- and waste -- continue to grow? Continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Image of modern interior of server room, above, by Oleksiy Mark via Shutterstock. Infographic, below, reprinted with permission from the Wireless Satellite Internet site.