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Data Center Overload

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data center

As servers become more powerful, more kilowatts are needed to run and cool them. Data centers worldwide now consume more energy annually than Sweden.

Credit: Simon Norfolk / The New York Times

It began with an Xbox game. On a recent rainy evening in Brooklyn, I was at a friend's house playing "Call of Duty: World at War." Scrolling through the game's menus, I noticed a screen for Xbox Live, which allows you to play against remote users via broadband. The number of "Call of Duty" players online at that moment? More than 66,000. Sixty-six thousand is the population of a small city. What infrastructure was needed to create this city of ether?

Much of the daily material of our lives is now dematerialized and outsourced to a far-flung, unseen network. The stack of letters becomes the e-mail database on the computer. The tilting CD tower gives way to the MP3-laden hard drive which itself yields to a service like Pandora, music that is always "there," waiting to be heard. But where is "there," and what does it look like?

"There" is nowadays likely to be increasingly large, powerful, energy-intensive, always-on and essentially out-of-sight data centers. These centers run enormously scaled software applications with millions of users.

From The New York Times
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