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How Green is Your Data?

Words by CCA LiveE

The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.

By Gabriel Avila

Americans on average consume 34 gigabytes of data a day.

If you printed out a gigabyte of data that would equate to 50,000 pages of printed single space text. Now imagine 34 x 50,000 pages of paper and that's a lot of data. The average iphone user consumes 273 megabytes of data on their phone every day.

To keep it in perspective one megabyte of data printed out would be equivalent to 25,000 printed pages of single spaced text. Think about that for a second: every day you consume enough data to fill 680 boxes of single space typed text. Of course it comes in many forms; text messages, emails, flickr images, youtube vids, pandora songs, threaded discussions, but the common unifier is that it's all data. At the end of the day that data all travels through internet tubes and lives in data centers. Data centers are the quiet minions of the internet age, toiling about in upraised silence, always available, always servering requests and always consuming power.

I've worked for most of my life in Information Technology, I was recruited right out of college to work for a large financial corporation helping them become Sarbanes-Oxley compliant. Part of my job entailed going to data centers and rebuilding parts of the network infrastructure. I got to visit data centers around the country and first saw these stationary, always on, rows of servers, humming along and moving data around the world.  Rows of servers, all redundantly powered and kept in environmentally controlled climates for optimal performance were lined up as far as the eye could see.

Until recently, data center energy consumption was just accepted as a tithe that had to be paid to the gods of Internet Memes and Facebook Likes, but in the last 18 months, these practices have come to be reconsidered and optimized, largely as people start to appreciate the consequences of our reliance on energy. Amidst much surprise The University of Memphis FedEx center for technology has recently created one of the greenest data centers in the world;

In an effort to formalize this trend and develop a community around it, Facebook recently created the OpenCompute Project as a way to share information about the greening of data centers within the industry. Metrics like Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCIE) exist to guide these projects towards a unified understanding and to measure efficiency of existing data centers.

"Being Green" means leading a more eco-aware life. It means asking yourself about the origins of the products you consume. How did they end up in your hands? Was that process the most efficient use of resources? It applies to what you eat, what you wear, how you transport yourself. With the dMBA program at California College of the Arts, Sustainability and Social Marketing have become interesting topics to me. I've learned that an action as simple empowering consumers with knowledge about their choices can spark behavior modification. The intention of this article isn't to comment on any of the companies mentioned above, but to share with the reader the idea of being green in the consumption of data. Like the consumption of everything else being green requires asking what resources went into the production of this or any web page? Was it the most efficient use, and ultimately how green is my data?


These articles were created as part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for <a href="https://www.triplepundit.com/category/cca-livee/">The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts</a>. <a href="https://www.triplepundit.com/category/cca-livee/">Read more about the project here</a>.

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