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Google Greenness Questioned

The world loves Google. Imagine, a huge company based purely on smart ideas, programming and leeching off all our intellectual property. To some, Google is a model of the new economy, a way to drive growth that doesn't involve smokestacks, toxins or dangerous work conditions.

But a Harvard physicist argues differently. Alex Wissner-Gross (sounds like a physicist to me!) says that two Google queries emit as much CO2 as heating up a tea pot. The problem is that Google servers are highly distributed so a single query can reach out to servers churning away thousands of miles apart.

I mentioned this to my kids and they asked what we should do. I suggested we get used to cold tea from now on.

Many Google searches are clearly non-essential (I fail to see the economic value of +"Pam Anderson" +"JPEG") But this doesn't mean that the type of cloud computing Google and others offer isn't green. If Google or Amazon or Microsoft or Sun or Oracle build massive datacenters, one would think these would be highly efficient. Compare this to having all enterprises cobble together and power their own server farms. For power savings, I'd go with the cloud every time.

Are you concerned about electric use and costs? What's your plan? Share your ideas by writing to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/19/2009 at 1:16 PM


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