Companies that collect Big Data for marketing purposes rely on colossal data centers placed all around the globe. These centers run on massive amounts of power and electricity; so what are companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft doing to keep their data centers environmentally friendly?
Just How Big is Big Data? 35 zettabytes
Data generated annually by 2020
90% of the data in the world today was created in the past two years.
Compiling all this data requires massive amounts of energy. Consider:
- Large data centers can use as much electricity as some small U.S. towns.
- Many data centers have the power density of nine Walmart stores put together.
- 17% of technology’s overall carbon footprint is due to these massive data centers.
- Any data center that is older than seven years is considered out of date.
Some of the largest data centers
Digital Realty: Chicago, 1.1 million square feet, 53 generators
Quality Technology: Atlanta, 990,000 square feet, 80 megawatts of power capacity
Microsoft Chicago: Chicago, 700,000 square feet, 224,380 running servers
How Big Data Centers Impact the Environment
Using all of the energy and space that they do, it would be virtually impossible to run a data center that had little to no impact on the environment. But concerns are growing about just how much surrounding areas are affected by these massive structures.
On average, the world’s data centers use 30 billion watts of electricity. This is equal to the output of 30 nuclear power plants. And because these servers are run on maximum capacity all day long, they waste 90% of the energy they take in.
Data centers are growing in servers and in size. They sit on, in some cases, hundreds of acres of land. The liquid and solid waste these facilities produce makes up for a considerable percentage of local waste.
Data centers are like massive computers stacked on top of and next to each other: they get unbelievably hot. Most data centers are cooled with energy using the burning of fossil fuels.
What Are Companies Doing?
Though exactly how many data centers these technology giants run are unknown, the general locations for these centers can be estimated. With so many massive centers popping up around the globe, how do Google, Facebook and Microsoft keep them from heavily impacting the environment?
Google: 13 global data center locations
- 34% of Google’s data centers now operate on renewable energy.
- $1 billion is being put into renewable energy.
Facebook: 5 global data center locations
- Facebook is building new data centers with the capability to run on wind energy alone.
- Old data centers also have shifted to hydroelectric power.
- New hardware designs eliminate the use of unnecessary metals and plastics to cut down on solid waste.
Microsoft: 7 global data center locations
- Microsoft now recycles 99% of the waste produced by its European data centers.
- Efficient and non-polluting water cooling systems have been installed.