The big dogs of the internet, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo, are stocking up in an arms race to power the future of information, according to the new issue of IEEE Spectrum. The companies are building gargantuan data centers, or “warehouse-sized computers,” that will theoretically create the backbone for the future of the information economy.
The data centers are designed to facilitate “cloud computing” where people will be able to store much of their private information remotely, rather than on a physical hard drive. Gmail or online banking are manifestations of this idea. In the future, people may be able to store much more.
Housing the servers that will store these massive troves of information is proving to be a challenge for electrical engineers. Microsoft’s datacenter in Quincy, Washington, for example is nearly 43,600 square meters in size, and consumes enough energy to power 40,000 homes. The article profiles some of the (rather complicated) steps that these companies are taking to control their energy usage, and cut down a bit on their carbon footprints.