Cyberspace is getting crowded

SOURCE: Ken Taylor ( SUBHEAD: Requirements for energy and cyberspace bandwidth is threatening internet service. By Claire Ellicott on 4 May 2009 in London Daily Mail Image above: YouTube logo in flames illustration by Juan Wilson Ever-increasing internet use is causing a drain on energy resources and threatens the future of Google and YouTube, according to experts. They warn that as people become more reliant on computers and search engines, more power will be required to run websites which could lead to power cuts which cost millions of pounds in lost business every hour. Scientists estimate that with more than 1.5 billion people online around the world, the energy demands of the internet are increasing by more than 10 per cent each year. girl on laptop With more than 1.5 billion people online around the world, the energy demands of the internet are increasing by more than 10 per cent each year And with the recession taking its toll on the computer industry through falling advertising revenues, many online companies will not be able to cope with the extra costs. 'In an energy-constrained world, we cannot continue to grow the footprint of the internet … we need to rein in the energy consumption,' said Subodh Bapat, vice-president at Sun Microsystems, one of the world's largest manufacturers of web servers. He said that the costs of running the web servers and data centres that store online information are rising during a time when the industry's profits are suffering. 'We need more data centres, we need more servers. Each server burns more watts than the previous generation and each watt costs more,' he told the Guardian. 'If you compound all of these trends, you have the perfect storm.' One website which is thought to be suffering the most is YouTube. Now the world's third-biggest website, it offers online videos, but it requires a heavy subsidy from its owner Google. A recent report by Credit Suisse suggested that it could lose as much as £317 million this year, due to the cost of providing live videos which are incredibly energy-intensive to run. Figures show the power usage of the computer industry has gone from being relatively small to overtaking other sectors like the airline industry. However, tracking the growth of how much power the internet uses is difficult, since internal company estimates of power consumption are rarely made public. A study commissioned by Rich Brown, an energy analyst at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, showed that US data centres used 61 billion kW of power in 2006, which is enough to supply the whole of the UK with energy for two months and accounts for 1.5 per cent of the electricity used by the US. He said that despite the industry's efforts to become more efficient, internet usage was increasing so quickly that companies could not make technical improvements quickly enough to keep up. 'Efficiency is being more than overwhelmed by continued growth and demand for new services,' he told the Guardian. 'It's a common story … technical improvements are often taken back by increased demand.' He estimated that the power required to run the internet in the US could grow to 80 billion kW hours this year.
Beware: cyberspace is filling up By John Harlow on 26 April 2009 in the London Times - ( Internet users face regular “brownouts” that will freeze their computers as capacity runs out in cyberspace, according to research to be published later this year. Experts predict that consumer demand, already growing at 60 per cent a year, will start to exceed supply from as early as next year because of more people working online and the soaring popularity of bandwidth-hungry websites such as YouTube and services such as the BBC’s iPlayer. It will initially lead to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes at a time. From 2012, however, PCs and laptops are likely to operate at a much reduced speed, rendering the internet an “unreliable toy”. When Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist, wrote the code that transformed a private computer network into the world wide web in 1989, the internet appeared to be a limitless resource. However, a report being compiled by Nemertes Research, a respected American think-tank, will warn that the web has reached a critical point and that even the recession has failed to stave off impending problems. “With more people working or looking for work from home, or using their PCs more for cheap entertainment, demand could double in 2009,” said Ted Ritter, a Nemertes analyst. “At best, we see the [economic] slowdown delaying the fractures for maybe a year.” In America, telecoms companies are spending £40 billion a year upgrading cables and supercomputers to increase capacity, while in Britain proposals to replace copper cabling across part of the network with fibreoptic wires would cost at least £5 billion. Yet sites such as YouTube, the video-sharing service launched in 2005, which has exploded in popularity, can throw the most ambitious plans into disarray. The amount of traffic generated each month by YouTube is now equivalent to the amount of traffic generated across the entire internet in all of 2000. The extent of its popularity is indicated by the 100 million people who have logged on to the site to see the talent show contestant Susan Boyle in the past three weeks. Another so-called “net bomb” being studied by Nemertes is BBC iPlayer, which allows viewers to watch high-definition television on their computers. In February there were more than 35 million requests for shows and iPlayer now accounts for 5 per cent of all UK internet traffic. Analysts express such traffic in exabytes – a quintillion (or a million trillion) bytes or units of computer data. One exabyte is equivalent to 50,000 years’ worth of DVD-quality data. Monthly traffic across the internet is running at about eight exabytes. A recent study by the University of Minnesota estimated that traffic was growing by at least 60 per cent a year, although that did not take into account plans for greater internet access in China and India. While the net itself will ultimately survive, Ritter said that waves of disruption would begin to emerge next year, when computers would jitter and freeze. This would be followed by “brownouts” – a combination of temporary freezing and computers being reduced to a slow speed. Ritter’s report will warn that an unreliable internet is merely a toy. “For business purposes, such as delivering medical records between hospitals in real time, it’s useless,” he said. “Today people know how home computers slow down when the kids get back from school and start playing games, but by 2012 that traffic jam could last all day long.” Engineers are already preparing for the worst. While some are planning a lightning-fast parallel network called “the grid”, others are building “caches”, private computer stations where popular entertainments are stored on local PCs rather than sent through the global backbone. Telephone companies want to recoup escalating costs by increasing prices for “net hogs” who use more than their share of capacity. see also: Island Breath: Data's Carbon Footprint 5/12/09 .

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