Can We Afford The Resources We Spend on the Cloud?
We often think about the Cloud in terms of security, services provided, storage space and price so it is fairly easy to forget about the resources that are needed to keep the Cloud floating in the blue, virtual sky. And yet even our home computers are sucking enough power that if you did not use them for a month and you and would set in place green measures like auto sleep, you would see a significant improvement in your electrical bill.
So how much electricity does the Cloud eat up? It is nearly impossible for any one person or business to tell because the Cloud is made up of thousands of data centers and they are all owned by different entities. Even more significant is that one of the best ways to secure those data centers is to keep their physical location secret. Needless to say, the details about their makeup are closely guarded secrets.
Still there is one thing that can be said about how much power the least of these data centers consumes: it would be enough to power a medium-sized town.
The worst thing about it is that the priority of these data centers is to operate at peak efficiency. That means that they could save almost 90% of the energy that they currently use if they agreed to power down unused parts of the system until it is needed. But, since that would affect both the security of the system and its efficiency, the power keeps going in.
Yet we have never shied away from making great sacrifices when they were made for a good cause and, despite what some may argue, the cloud can be more than just a fad. There are more and more applications that are available for free or for a fraction of the cost it would take to buy them privately. And letting more people make use of them at any given time means that there are more chances for some fantastic works of art to be created or for some outstanding medical breakthroughs to be made.
Even as we speak the fantastic computing power that Watson, the Jeopardy winning super computer created by IBM, represents is being prepared to be uploaded on the Cloud. Watson is already using its 90 servers and 16,000 gigabytes of RAM to go through hundreds of peer-reviewed cancer research papers to become one of the best diagnosticians that oncologists can use.
The only problem is that we, as humans, already need to set aside our preconceptions about computers. There are doctors who will regard Watson as trustworthy as any other of their tools. Yet, since it does not merely provide a sharper hearing, but perhaps a broader knowledge of symptoms, there will undoubtedly be doctors who will feel threatened by it and reject it.
However, if history has thought us anything, is that we need to be flexible and learn to use the smarter tools at our disposal. So the Cloud is here to stay and Watson will certainly be just the first super computer to change the way specialists around the globe do things.
By Luchi Gabriel Manescu