The Cloud is Dirty…according to the NYT

A recent two-part series by The New York Times about the energy efficiency of data centers has caused a small stir and received a fair amount of criticism on the net. The gist of the reporting is that the cloud, or data centers, is not doing an efficient job of processing and storing all of the data that business, government and consumers use.

It’s a long article that probably tries to do too much. Explaining the inner workings of the cloud and its implications is an important story and should rightly be covered in depth and over a series of articles. Unfortunately, the introductory article is a bit of a mess. Instead of introducing the subject and laying a foundation of understanding, the author jumps immediately into the area of energy inefficiencies, citing low utilization rates and what appears to the reader as an overall massive waste of dollars and energy.

While I would rather start off with a firmer description of the data center as a business and critical component of our digital lives, if one is to dive into the energy topic then it would be helpful to provide greater context around the problem and also highlight how some are making efforts to improve the situation. There are some well-argued critiques of the reporting here and here. I am looking forward to more from the series as well as the forthcoming debate. The latter will likely have the effect of bringing nuance and action to the topic, whether intended or not by the Times.

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