How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?

How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?

So, the internet. It’s a pretty big deal. The human race generates a lot of data — and
these days, we’re all about storing it in the cloud. And even though we talk about the cloud as
though it’s this weird space of non-being, all of that data that we send to it are actually
sitting on very real, physical hard drives somewhere. And managing it takes a lot of
energy. That’s where data centers come in. Data centers are huge, warehouse-like buildings
that are filled with servers — computers that are designed to store data so that they
can be retrieved as quickly as possible. These servers hold the world’s information,
from 2005’s stock market trends to those adorable pictures of your kids at the park
last week. Each individual request, like pulling up SciShow’s
YouTube channel, might not be demanding. But add all of them together, and the internet
uses a significant amount of the world’s electricity. In 1992, data transfers worldwide added up
to a modest one hundred gigabytes per day. By 2013, that rate had gone up to more than
28,000 gigabytes per second. Since then, that number has continued to increase. And any time you try to access any of the
data stored in the cloud, it has to be pulled up from a server, which uses energy. The estimate changes depending on how you
calculate it, but according to one study, in 2011, the internet used around 2 percent
of the world’s energy. That was 2011, so that percentage has increased since then,
as more people connect and are using more devices. Data centers seem to be the best way to manage
the problem. By sharing resources, companies save more energy than they would if they tried
to have their own small set of servers — by as much as 87 percent, according to some estimates. But as valuable as they are, data centers
come with their own set of challenges when it comes to energy efficiency. The servers in data centers are always running,
because even when they aren’t active, they need to be ready to retrieve data at any moment. And for a data center, uptime is key. That’s
why many servers are only running at 10 to 15 percent capacity. Some even end up as zombie
servers, transferring no data at all, just waiting to be called into action. But whether they’re actually being used
or not, all those servers generate a lot of heat, and as anyone with an air conditioned
home will tell you, keeping things cool is one surefire way to inflate the electric bill. According to a report by the Natural Resources
Defense Council, data centers in the United States alone used up 91 billion kilowatt-hours
of electricity in 2013. It would take 34 relatively large coal-fired powered plants to generate
that much energy. By 2020, the report predicts that data centers
will consume 140 billion kilowatt-hours a year — that’s 51 coal plants. So if we want to make the internet more energy-efficient,
data centers are a good place to begin — starting with finding new ways to keep servers cool
while using less energy. One way to do that is by having hot and cold
aisles. Every server has an air intake, where it sucks
it in, and an exhaust, where it blows it out. Along the way, the air is meant to cool the
server by absorbing some heat, making the air from the exhaust about five degrees warmer
than the intake. But if you have the servers neatly arranged
in a rack so that they’re all facing the same way, you’re going to have problems.
Hot exhaust from one server is going to blow toward another’s air intake, and it’s
going to take much more A/C to make up for that extra hot air. If you flip around every other rack of servers
so that intakes and rack exhausts face each other, you end up alternating cooler intake
aisles and warmer exhaust aisles. With this arrangement, fans use up to 25 percent
less electricity to keep servers cool. You can also cut the amount of electricity
that air conditioning uses by actually raising the temperature. Servers run just fine using air that’s between
18 and 27 degrees, but many data centers are kept at 13 degrees, or even colder. Every half a degree increase in temperature
can add up to a five percent decrease in energy costs. So while a 27-degree room might be a little
toasty for some people, there’s no reason we can’t just raise the temperature in the
room and save a lot of energy. Another, more dramatic way to make data centers
more efficient uses something called server virtualization. Virtualization lets you take multiple servers
and stick them onto one machine. There’s only one physical server involved, but it
can store and retrieve data as if it is many. Before, you might have had 10 servers, each
running at 5 percent capacity. But virtualize them so they all run on one machine, and you’ve
just saved as much energy as it takes to cool nine servers — and you’re still only running
at 50 percent. Depending on the setup and demand, virtualization
can save 10 to 40 percent of energy costs. And every year, more data centers are adopting
these kinds of strategies. The internet is not going anywhere — at least,
I hope not! — but maybe it doesn’t have to consume quite so much of our resources. Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow,
and thank you to Emerson for sponsoring it. If you want to keep getting smarter with us,
you can go to and subscribe.

100 thoughts to “How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?”

  1. I am raising funds for my pet dog's surgery.  YOU CAN HELP by clicking the link and making a small donation today.

  2. With the heat differential between the intake and exhaust aisle, couldn't you generate a small amount of electricity? it's gonna be a small benefit, but it could be some increase in efficiency.

  3. In terms of very large data centres I wonder if it would be possible to somehow harvest the heat produced and actually use that to produce more electricity? That said, how you would do that whilst simultaneously producing a cooling affect could be the stumbling block for that one.

  4. My father used to work for Emerson, then he moved to a different job in a different state… This video was really interesting, as I basically am growing up (I'm still not an adult) around data centres and going in with my dad after hours when something goes wrong!

  5. Not sure if anyone brought this up but one of the biggest energy losses through out a Data Centre is power rectification. Convert all that the phase 440V mains in to 48V DC to power all the systems loses HUGE amounts of power. rough 96% of power is lost this way and if the rectifiers are not running at over 30%-70% you can expect as much as 60-70% loss. all into heat that you then have to try and remove from the rooms using more power. Then there is all the battery backup UPS & PSU's sat there waiting in case one day that three phase supply drops for 5mins…. it is endless the internet is HUNGRY!!

  6. Could the heat from these servers be captured and used to in turn create energy to run the servers, something like what a turbo charger can do for an engine?

  7. light can transfer data  so cant we just run all fiber optic into a one way loop that never ends then all info is available by the speed of light?

  8. Or the data centres could just get off the powergrid by generating their own electricity.
    For example, the Pearl River Tower in China.

  9. Looks like an optimum situation to use a Sterling motor "engine".  Motors get energy from an outside source, an engine creates it's own energy.

  10. I think the technical university Zurich uses water-cooled servers for their Bioinformatics institut. The water is then used to heat the building (at least in the colder seasons) … as easy as that.

  11. I wonder if there is some way that the heat from the exhaust could also be harnessed for some other use, to maximize efficiency.

  12. This video left out the largest consumption of energy…
    the energy used to move hands as they masturbate
     genitals, in front of porn.  That's also where most of
    the money online comes from.

  13. did you say 27 degrees will be a little toasty for some people? HAHAHAHAHA! oh, you were serious. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! but seriously though… you have NO idea what heat is!

  14. Inefficiency of the Zombie server's is fault of sloppy technical staff and ignorant management. Better don't get a job, if you are not going to do it right. 😉

  15. 4:00
    I think hank is missing the point here. Those servers are running at 5% for a reason. You think some google exec wouldn't have noticed it by now?

  16. 2:50 Every server room I have seen had suspended floor. The cold air pressurised under the floor, flows up through the server racks and exits into the room from the top of the rack. Then it gets extracted from vents close to ceiling level.

  17. Use the waste heat from servers to generate electricity that in turn powers the units that cool the servers.

    The same principles of a turbocharger, but for data centers.

    Think about it.

  18. you cant just virtualize 100 servers into one computer such a dumb idea, how about HDDS?, how about power supplies for the hdds? how about when all the data starts getting accessed? the server will run 100% and what will you do then?. there is a reason people dont or do use vurtulization.

  19. I don't understand how INCREASING room temperature reduces the energy bill. Can someone explain what i'm missing ?

  20. Everything has gotten significantly more efficient than it used to be, with virtualization technologies yes, now container based tech can take it further. Also, x86 CPU design (as far as intel goes) has gotten even more efficient, lets not forget about SSDs and Flash based storage… 😉

  21. Houses need heat, servers need cold, just stick servers in everyone's house and in the summer time use solar power and geothermal to cool the server.  You're welcome world.  On a side note I volunteer to house navient's server I will take good care of it I promise >)

  22. You know what is cheaper than air-conditioning? Opening a window. Why don't they just build the majority of data centers here in the north.

  23. There is also a way to contribute as an individual user to limiting the usage of resources by the Internet: clean up your cloud spaces. All the thousands of old emails, pictures you do not need on Google Drive, old documents on Doogle docs, etc. take up space and energy on the servers. If you delete old data you will prevent or at least delay the need of the servers to expand, as they need to serve the always raising number of data to be stored, and save the energy needed to produce the new computer, and to run them.
    Sure, it's a teeny tiny bit, but if enough people routinely do it, it can make an impact.

  24. What if i had a 50kb dial up connection? how long would it take to buffer THIS video in 1080p ? how shredded shall my modem become? or my computers weak PSU? how bout my copper cable? or is my monthly bill shredded instead alongside with my life-time? how bou dah?

  25. Video title :"How Much Energy Does The Internet Use?" after the video I still don't know it. Is it a Watt, or 10.000 MegaWatts? HOW MUCH does the internet use? :> thumbs down :(((

  26. To the best of my knowledge, the radical Canadian reform party is the only party that has a solution to the internet that will enable (among other things) a carbon/energy neutral free (in the sense of accessible for all) internet.

    In addition to many other tricks, the servers will be stored underground & the waste heat will be used to produce energy. There's no need to have as vulnerable & destructive a system just to have the internet.

    Of course, the RCR party is not only focused on the internet, they have a comprehensive plan to address all the issues systematically to the best of our abilities.


  27. "In 1992, data transfers worldwide added up to a modest 100GB per day"
    That estimate sounds too low to me. I would think that in 1992 the rate would be much higher.

  28. you forgot to account for all the seeders leaving their machines on overnight to seed… and the all miners that buy like a hundred of all the new gpus on the market, with each gpu consuming anywhere from 200 to 500w, running them 24/7.

  29. Where are data centres located? All that generated heat could have use being sold to public buildings. Public building gets heat, the data centre gets cooled air/liquid (however you transfer it) in return. Both save on cooling/heating.

  30. One easy solution, move data centers to cooler location such as iceland and use natural resources to cool down servers and transport heat to residence using interconnected pipe tunneling who are relying on heaters. Energy saving strategy.

  31. Solution: put the heat from the server into a geothermal power system that creates a portion of the power consumed by the server.

  32. While servers may be able to run fine at 27°C, the cooler a server is the longer the parts last. Heat the main killer of computer parts, so even if they can run at a bit hotter, they wont last as long as if they were kept cooler. That being said, it's possible that the energy cost to keep the place cool will end up adding more to the bill than replacing parts might. You'd need to do the calculations and tests to find out exactly what temperature is the most optimal money wise, and I'd imagine the data houses have already done that and 13°C is optimal, which is why most of them are kept that temperature. Or maybe they haven't, idk lol.

  33. The Internet connects data centers, personal computers and devices, and all sorts of other digital devices in the public, government, and personal spaces. The Internet is the connecting wire and optical fiber, plus some networking switches to keep the data flowing. It is woefully inaccurate to include all of the digital devices that the Internet connects in with the actual Internet which would be a small fraction of what you quoted.

  34. why don't we put servers and tuff in cold space. and connect them to earth via some lightspeed stuff. the energie required to cool the servers in space is much less. or isn,t this possible ??

  35. We do generate a lot of data!!!!! Just imagine the countless emails, and going to court where they record everything that is said, including a surveillance, its a hell lot of data!

  36. Its not only the data centers that uses energy. Every node until your data reaches the data center or whatever you want to acces uses energy. According to one study it costs about 0,51$/GB of data transfer which is a lot. Think about it. This is a really unnoticed problem that will rise in the future.

  37. One problem with operating servers at temperatures close to the upper limit they can tolerate is if you have a failure of a cooling component you have no margin for error, and the only way to prevent the circuits from being damaged is to shut them down. All of the main frame units I have worked around have an automatic shutdown feature if they reach a cretin temperature. If you keep the equipment room temperature considerably below the critical "equipment tolerance level", you have a better chance of fixing a cooling problem before the servers go into their automatic shutdown mode. Whether you're using chillers or conventional air conditioning, when you have a component fail, it takes time to rectify the problem. Nothing makes a computer user madder than to have their server go off line.

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