Could the Growth of the Internet be stymied by a scarcity of electricity?

Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2012 in Online, Mobile & IT by Eric Castain

How IT will evolve to Photonics

Ran across this article.  Never thought about the amount of energy being consumed in the network but once you start thinking about it, this issue starts to make sense. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/26/interview_rod_tucker/

We’ve done quite a lot of modelling at the University of Melbourne – a detailed energy model of the global Internet. There’s good data out there about how many new users each year are connecting in developing countries. The current traffic load is growing at about forty percent, per annum. At the moment, the network uses between one and two percent* of the world’s electricity, and if we don’t do anything, it could become ten percent between 2020 and 2025. The question then becomes ‘could the growth of the Internet be stymied by the availability of electricity?’ Cost will become a real issue. Already, telcos are discovering that the cost of energy for their networks is becoming a significant part of their opex, when only a few years ago, they didn’t even record what they spent and would have had trouble telling you their electricity bills.

1 comment


  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on November 27, 2012 at 1:17 a.m.
    Thanks, Eric!

    I personally think photonics will have its biggest impact, mid-term, in chip-to-chip interconnects, peripheral interconnects and in on-chip buses.  Photonic structures are very bulky but the parallelism you get by running multiple "colors" through them, each carrying many Gbps, starts to become compelling vs. really wide conventional buses, with all the parasitics that start to apply.

    Intel seems quite serious about this. If they're smart, they'll put the pedal to the metal with their photonics technology.

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