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The evolution and impact of power

January 13, 2014

John Hayduk   

Blog Contributor

This blog is the second in a two parter; you can read the first instalment, Self Driving Cars here. To provide some context, in mid-November I had the opportunity to attend a few days of training from Singularity University.  The training was a rather intense 3 days, with a substantial amount of information conveyed in a short period of time.  This is the second part of my key learnings.

The second “aha moment” I had from the training was around alternative power sources.  Given how much power a service provider consumes both for network resources, but also for running their data centers, it’s always one of the single largest cost items in a service providers cost profile.  Most service providers have continually worked to optimize power usage, and also employ alternate energy sources.  However, what I didn’t realize is how quickly solar power has been improving, and following Moore’s Law.

According to futurist Ray Kurzweil, solar power, driven by exponentially-increasing nanotechnology, will satisfy the entire world’s need for energy by 2027.  Currently, solar power has somewhat been disregarded for its future significance, however what people have failed to understand is the exponential nature of technology: Just like computer processing speed (which doubles every 18 months in accordance with Moore’s law) – the nanotechnology that drives innovation in solar power progresses exponentially and has been doing so for the past 20 years already.

I used to think that until climate change pushed the world to a crisis point, the real steps necessary to curb energy usage and CO2 emissions wouldn’t be taken.  However, after going through how quickly this technology is improving, there is actually a light at the end of the tunnel – no pun intended.  It’s very good news for the environment, but also for a service provider’s future cost profile by taking advantage of alternative energy sources.  In fact, for future data centers, designing this into the infrastructure will absolutely be required to remain competitive.  Today, up to 70% of the costs for running a data center are power for the compute equipment and power related to the equipment for cooling.  And these costs are not a one-time capex investment, but for the entire life of the data center.  Any future investment in data centers must consider how to plan for this technological advancement since it will materially change the cost profile and power consumption for the data center which can lead to a much stronger competitive position.

I wish everyone a prosperous, happy, and successful 2014.