|Googleplex, Douglas County Georgia with banks of servers|
But there is a dark side to technology and energy: big data centres consume about 2% of all electrical energy in the US in order to deliver us the instant response and vast storage we consider part of our Internet entitlement. Google alone uses the equivalent of one quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant in its data centres around the world.  Most of that goes not to powering the computers but cooling the environment they run in.
This makes electric power - and its cost - a strategic consideration for these companies. For instance, Google locates its data centres largely based on the adequacy, reliability and cost of electricity. Iceland and the Canadian North are making pitches as locations for such data centres, so as to use 'natural cooling'. Not surprisingly, Google has invested $1B in green sector ventures.
You may wonder why I am suddenly writing about this topic now, especially after an astonishingly long silence on this blog. Well, a friend forwarded me some photos taken in various Google data centres, or Googleplexes as they're known. The pictures show incredibly well organized technology, but they look like abstract art and they are just too beautiful not to share.
|The back of servers in Oklahoma, where hundreds of fans (re)circulate cooled air|
|Server racks in Oklahoma with their cables, tidily coloured|
|Back-up tape library in South Carolina|
|Water tanks in South Carolina hold up to 900,000 litres|
And my favourite pic of all:
|Colourful water pipes in Georgia|
Having started out in the business in 1970, I can remember big data centres, holding a laughable amount of data and computing power compared to today. My personal back-up system can hold as much data those old huge farms of disk drivers. And none of them were painted pretty colours either!
 Again from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/technology/google-details-and-defends-its-use-of-electricity.html