Why Google Needs its Own Nuclear Plant

Indexing the world’s information and making it accessible takes a lot of people, a lot of machines and a lot of energy.

I was talking to a good friend recently and reported some hearsay about how a server now costs more in its useful life than it costs to buy. I found that amazing, but his response was even more astounding. “Well, we should put them in poor people’s houses to give them heat,” he quipped.

It sounds dumb at first, but really, it’s pure genius. If that much energy is being used, and half of that energy is used for cooling, we could put those servers to work as electric heaters. The “host families” could also get some broadband access, and institutions would save on data center build-outs. It’s a shame that our culture and the technical practicalities of distributed computing make the idea impractical.

But it got me thinking. How much energy really is burned in those big data centers? What follows next is guesstimation and inference based on popular opinion and, er, Google search returns ( I may appear to pick on Google, but it’s just because it happens to be a convenient example…)

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