Ever wondered what the Internet looks like? If so, you’re in luck: Google has drawn back the curtains of its data centers, the facilities that compute and store all of our gmail, youtube videos, and searches.
Google’s photos are beautiful. They express the amazing legacy of innovation that technology companies have built in data storage, a legacy we’re hoping they can apply to clean energy. They also convey the massive scale of the data that we’re increasingly sending to the cloud. For three years, Greenpeace has been drawing attention to the fact that all that data requires a massive amount of electricity, but also that companies have the potential to make sure that energy comes from clean sources.
The “fight club” credo of the data center industry, where the first rule is not to talk about data centers, is steadily changing, as is their public profile. Companies like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Google with a good story to tell about their data centers are the ones who are the most open, and it makes sense why.
Google has taken the lead on making sure the electricity powering those facilities comes from clean energy sources, like the wind power purchases it’s made for its data centers in the US Midwest.
Other companies, like Microsoft and Amazon, have not shown the same leadership to make renewable energy a priority as they grow, instead simply buying dirty energy off the grid from their local utility.
Let’s hope that Microsoft and Amazon start following Google’s lead, first by shedding some light on their data centers, then by powering them with clean energy.