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Power Wireless Networking

Energy Use From Wireless Networks Will Dwarf Data Center Use By 2015 42

angry tapir writes "New research (PDF) from an Australian university argues that increased carbon emissions from powering data centers aren't the biggest environmental threat from the growth of cloud computing. Instead, the problem is the Wi-Fi and cellular networks increasingly used to access cloud services. By 2015, the energy used to run data centers will be a 'drop in the ocean' compared to the energy used to power wireless access to services. By 2015 the energy consumption associated with 'wireless cloud' will reach 43 terawatt-hours, compared to 9.2 terawatt-hours in 2012 (an increase in carbon footprint from 6 megatons of CO_2 in 2012, up to 30 megatons of CO_2 in 2015). Data centers will comprise only 9 per cent on this increased energy consumption, compared to up to 90 per cent for wireless access."
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Energy Use From Wireless Networks Will Dwarf Data Center Use By 2015

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  • TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:08AM (#43399745) Homepage Journal

    The amazing article doesn't say exactly what the "wireless cloud" is. Wifi, perhaps, or do they just mean ramping up mobile phone networks adding capacity and transmitters?

    Naturally they didn't bother to compare the power consumption of wireless to having multiple wired connections to everything. Wireless devices themselves tend to use less power than desktop PCs so probably more than offset the energy required for transmission of data.

    It also uses the often heard but stupid reasoning that A is bad, but B is far worse so A isn't so bad any more.

    • The amazing article doesn't say exactly what the "wireless cloud" is. Wifi, perhaps, or do they just mean ramping up mobile phone networks adding capacity and transmitters?

      If only the article had said something like "...from the rising use of cellular and Wi-Fi networks to access cloud services..." somewhere near the beginning we'd know that they're referring to both WiFi and cellular. ;^>

      • by Anonymous Coward

        TFA is garbage. Who green-lit this crap? wireless clouds seemlessly synergizing our real time consumption of contextual relationships as a service are causing global climate change.

        Give me a break. If it's not immediately obvious to a middle schooler what you are referring to, you need to show more data than using buzzwords and projecting fads and unstable trends. What are they referring to as the cloud. Is it the towers, hand held devices, the desktop base stations, the wall chargers vampiricly suckin

    • That's it we have no choice but to develop quantum entaggled particle chips that violate the causality principle that way we can have remote connections to a central server that is un-hackable and can also use energy at very high efficiency, and at speed of light speeds. http://rawcell.com [rawcell.com]
      • Try sending a stream of inverse tachyon particles to the deflector dish. That oughtta do it.

      • This is precisely why Fox is threatening to stop transmitting free OTA signals. Every new antennae puts an extra load on the transmitter, and they are close to their limit now. With Aereo putting thousands and thousands of new antennae in major markets, this will either overload their existing transmitters or force them to build new ones!

        Or something like that.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      If they're talking about cellular networks I'm calling complete BS. Sprints new "Network Vision" equipment is a fraction of the size and uses a fraction of the power of the equipment it's replacing which was already WAY more efficient than the older analog network (200mW max transmit versus 5W). If they're talking WiFi do they really expect there to be 500% more WiFi installations?

      • The trouble is that we're basically at the Nyquist limit in terms of transmission efficiency. That means any increase in wireless network capacity is going to require increased power consumption, either directly through higher power output, or from having a higher quantity of more directional equipment. As more users begin taking advantage of high bandwidth online services, the network capacity will have to grow, and thus power consumption will grow to match.
  • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:10AM (#43399757) Homepage
    ...as they will be used more and more to provide a near-instant (Twitter-like) service that turns PDFs to HTML as soon as one is linked somewhere on the web
  • Scarce details (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThomasBHardy ( 827616 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:17AM (#43399789)
    The article has very little detail in it.

    It really sounded like they took the curve of data center power reduction and forecast it out, then took the amount of energy used by every corporate and home wireless device in the country(world?) and every cellular network (and it's devices) and projected them out.

    Apples and oranges.

    It also sounds like they felt a dire need to stick "Cloud" into the article for no other point than to raise the headline value. The article did nothing at all to convince me that their predictions really relate to cloud computing any more than anything else.
  • A pimple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:37AM (#43399909)

    (an increase in carbon footprint from 6 megatons of CO_2 in 2012, up to 30 megatons of CO_2 in 2015).

    World CO2 emissions for 2011 was estimated to be over 33 thousand million tons. I will not be losing any sleep over this tiny bit of manufactured melodrama.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions#List_of_countries_by_2011_emissions_estimates [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You know we have a word for a thousand million, right?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You know that there is no universal agreement on what the word 'billion' means, right? And if you said 'milliard' instead a lot of people would have no idea what you're talking about.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scales [wikipedia.org]
        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          know that there is no universal agreement on what the word 'billion' means, right?

          But there is universal agreement on what a gigaton is. The meaning of 'billion' has pretty much settled as well, with the old-school-British use being archaic now.

  • Is a drop 9% of the ocean.. Stupid "hyperbolists"

    • Exactly. If that's a drop in the oceans, then it's a 130 million cubic kilometer drop that weighs 130 trillion tons.
  • Metaphor Hyperbole (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlueMonk ( 101716 ) <BlueMonkMN@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:56AM (#43400023) Homepage

    A factor of 5 does not justify the use of the metaphor "drop in the ocean". I wish people would reserve the use of metaphors for where they belong. "Metaphor inflation" just makes it harder to express yourself when using metaphors appropriately because nobody can trust that you mean what you say. The metaphor I would use for a factor of 5 is "dwarfs" or "pales in comparison". Drop in the ocean should be used when one is infinitesimally insignificant next to the other, which is not the case here.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

      A factor of 5 does not justify the use of the metaphor "drop in the ocean". I wish people would reserve the use of metaphors for where they belong.

      I wish most people weren't functionally illiterate. Then they might understand a big word like "metaphor" and have at least a remote chance of understanding your objection to their misuse. But then deliberately stupid people who dismiss the importance of reducing, wherever possible, carbon emissions, tend to blend in with the the noise for me, so it's easy to overlook their lack of language skills.

  • by gravis777 ( 123605 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @08:56AM (#43400033)

    Are they talking about power going to WiFi access points and routers and cell networks, or are they throwing in powering every single cell phone, tablett, and laptop used to access these networks as well. The article just doesn't specify, but I highly doubt that the energy to run a couple of dozen WiFi access points (or hundreds if you are a REALLLY large business) is ever going to be anywhere near what it costs to power servers, disc arrays, tape backup systems, routers, switches, and PBX systems.

    With this being from Austrailia, for all we know, they are refering to covering the outback with cell towers and how much power that will take versus the power needed to locate a data center out there. The article is very vague.

    The executive summery in the PDF pretty much states the same.

    If you start digging down into the article PDF, I did find this:

    This white paper presents a detailed model that
    estimates the energy consumption of cloud services
    delivered via wireless access networks in 2015 taking
    into account the broad range of components required to
    support those services, including data centres and the
    telecommunications networks. The model is based on the
    expected up-take of wireless cloud services and forecasts
    of the telecommunications technologies that will underpin
    wireless cloud services in 2015. This estimate uses an
    incremental energy calculation that is based on a scenario
    where wireless cloud traffi c is part of many other traffi c
    fl ows through the network and data centres. Wireless cloud
    traffi c is carried through a network that is already carrying
    a large amount of traffi c, with wireless cloud traffi c being
    about 20% of mobile traffi c and approximately 35% of data
    centre traffi c [2,4].

    So this makes more sense, but is seemingly talking in circles. The power required to power cell towers, wireless networks, and the datacenters to support them is going to be greater than the power needed to support data centers. Um, thanks.

    What is worse is that the white paper reads like a lazy college student's attempt to present facts without really understanding the facts. I used to throw papers like that together in college. You have facts that you know you need to present in your paper, but you have no clue what they really mean, and almost get to the point where you are copying and pasting tidbits into your paper (and just citate the hell out of it).

  • Most Wifi access points can easily be configured to shut down during night time hours, with a simple on/off button on the front for those nights were you need data access late.
  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2013 @09:59AM (#43400631)

    I like to measure things in HydroQuebec's. That is, measuring usage relative to the installed capacity of my province's power company.

    Hydro Quebec installed capacity: 36,971 MW
    Hydro Quebec max generation per year: 324 TWh/year
    TFA's power usage: 43 TWh/year

    So TFA says in 2015, GLOBAL wireless transmission energy usage will be about 13% of HydroQuebec's capacity... Suddenly doesn't seem so much.

  • I get that there's probably a lot of wireless expansion happening in the less developed world, but is wireless -- in terms of cell sites -- expanding that rapidly in the developed world, where there's already a fair amount of cell coverage density?

    And is LTE more energy intensive for cell towers? I would have assumed that over time the energy consumption of a cell site would stay about flat over time as transmission technologies got more efficient (ie, superior signaling, better low-power modes for fewer

  • This is akin to saying that the waterways will go dry because of the increased cooling needed for power plants, because, you know, those power plants are certainly going to grow without trying to save cost by subsidizing or using other energy sources as time goes on.

    How in the hell can you take a growth model that's occurring now and use that model to predict the future as compared to other data source, NEITHER of which are guaranteed to follow a positive curve?

    More "OH NO THE SKY IS GONNA FALL" crap.

  • Meanwhile, cars put something like 5,000 metric tons of carbon per year into the air.

  • Yes, we are using more & more wireless access. I am under the impression that the number of desktop computers being used is going down at a similar rate to the increase in wireless. It seems like people are, more and more, talking to those wireless access points with less power hungry devices such a cellphones, tablets, and netbooks as opposed to desktop computers w/ CRTs. It seems like all those 300 to 500 watt desktops shutting down, not to mention all the CRT displays that have recently gone away, s

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