The hidden energy costs in the wireless cloud

In the next three years, energy use by the wireless cloud could increase 460 percent.

In recent years environmental groups like Greenpeace have campaigned major tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft to clean up the cloud by focusing on using renewable energy to power data centers that house the servers that store much of our digital information. But a new white paper says that data centers should be the least concerning energy drainer when it comes to the "wireless cloud ecosystem."

Researchers at The University of Melbourne calculated the energy consumption of the different components that are used to support cloud services accessed through wireless networks. What they found is that energy consumption by the wireless cloud will be massive, and data centers are only a fraction of the problem. Take a look:

As the trend toward wireless-enabled personal devices grows worldwide, the biggest energy drain in the wireless cloud will clearly come from mobile 4G LTE and wireless networks in general which are expected to account for 90 percent of energy use by 2015 compared to 9 percent by data centers. All together, the amount of energy used by the wireless cloud could increase by as much as 460 percent between 2012 and 2015. According to the report, that's the equivalent of putting 4.9 million cars on the road.

"Finding solutions to the ‘dirty cloud’ at the very least requires a broader acknowledgment of the cloud computing ecosystem and each components’ energy requirements," the report says. "There needs to be a focus on making access technologies more efficient and potentially a reworking of how the industry manages data and designs the entire global network."

Read the full report.

Photo: Flickr/macwagen

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