TO most of us, the Internet is a bit like the cosmos – infinite, unfathomable, and expanding at an accelerating rate.
We don’t think about its architecture, or what makes it work. It just links from the phone, or it’s connected by cable strung along power poles or underground, or wireless. As consumers, that’s about it.
The growth of the internet has been phenomenal, as indicated in the graph below, which shows the number of hosted websites.
This graph, however, gives no indication of the amount of data stored by the internet, which now approaches 295 exabytes of data (10 to the power of 18 – it’s an extremely large number!).
But when considering the Internet as a system, it’s also logical to consider whether it is energy efficient and sustainable. What is its current energy consumption? Is it “green”? This is an important question for the 21st century, as the Internet will remain a main feature of our communications system in the decades to come.
Various studies have been conducted into this question. The components considered as “the Internet” are indicated in the diagram below.
Dr Kerry Hinton is a Principle Research Fellow with the Centre for Energy Efficiency at the University of Melbourne.
His study of Internet energy consumption includes the DSL modem, wireless unit, optical network unit, etc. that connects the house to the local exchange, but excludes the PC and in-house networks.
Interview with Kerry Part 1: How the Internet works – its basic infrastructure. [4:22]
Interview with Kerry Part 2: Where are the ‘hotspots’ or main energy consumption points in the Internet? Can we derive an actual figure for the consumption? Is embodied energy included? Increasing loads – wireless and cloud computing. [6:21]
Interview with Kerry Part 3: How can we make the Internet more efficient? Is it green? [9:00]