What does the internet have in common with horse manure?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on February 19, 2002

What does the internet have in common with horse manure?

You could no doubt provide lots of interesting and clever answers to this headline, but I was thinking of a threat that has failed to materialise... yet.

I'm sure that most of us, at some time or other, have heard the old chestnut – usually when someone is explaining the effects of a paradigm shift – that goes something like this: "If, in 1888, the experts had possessed the computing power, they would have predicted that, due to the rapid increase in horse-drawn traffic in London, within 100 years the whole city would be twenty feet deep in horse manure." Fortunately, the car saved us and we can still walk around London wearing shiny shoes. 

Power crisis was feared I was reminded of this by a recent report from Platts, the energy information, research, consulting and marketing services unit of the McGraw-Hill Companies. The internet has been blamed for many things but, so far, I had not heard of it causing a power crisis. As recently as two years ago, US utilities feared that a surge of new data development centres – all those thousands of big servers that keep the internet going - would overwhelm the US electricity power supply. Again, fortunately, these fears weren't realised. The series of studies, Delivering Energy Services to Internet Hotels and other High Density Electronic Loads, explains why not.

New technologies According to Platts director, Jay Stein, "Many of the data centres that were planned for were never built. And those built and operating are running at low occupancy rates. Those that filled up drew much less power than anticipated." The city of Austin braced itself in early 2001 for 100 megawatts of new data centre load, but only six megawatts actually materialised. Now, with the power used by microprocessor chips continuing to rise, utilities are preparing for a future wave of demand. They are also encouraging data centres to use new technologies that would allow eight times as many internet servers with no increase in power demand.

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