Companies are quietly moving data centers into cities to reduce latency

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,229   +158
Staff member
In brief: Thoughts of data centers often elicit visions of sprawling server farms situated in rural areas where electricity is more affordable and tax breaks are aplenty. It's an accurate mental image in many cases but increasingly, companies are electing to move their operations to the hearts of large cities to be closer to the customers they serve.

Our progressively digital lifestyle has only fueled the desire for instant gratification. Streaming providers, app operators and other digital service providers are increasingly aware that consumers' patience for latency is razor thin. Simply put, if service isn't snappy enough, customers will take their business elsewhere.

Tech companies on the leading edge are thinking long and hard about how they can offer the same level of service regardless of where a user lives or works, and in many instances the solution is to build nodes in urban areas that seamlessly blend in with the environment as part of a concept known as edge computing.

MIT Technology Review notes that sending on colocation data centers increased by nearly 12 percent last year. Amazon, a leading cloud provider, recently announced plans to launch "Local Zones" in 32 cities around the globe for customers that demand low latency. At one point, Walmart was considering using some of its retail footprint to build edge computing platforms that could be rented out to third parties.

The publication sees the proliferation of data centers in urban areas as a double-edged sword. On one hand, owners and operators are being mindful to build them discretely so they aren't eyesores to the local environment.

Conversely, these stealth installations make it easier to forget just how many resources Internet usage costs. Last year, data centers accounted for 1.8 percent of electricity consumed in the US and were responsible for 0.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Image credit: Donny Jiang, Ismail Enes Ayhan

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netman

Posts: 798   +350
Yay, residential ACs weren't enough, we need some more noise pollution.

Also, Air Pollution since power outages in cities are a lot more than suburbs and you come to realize it when those data centers' diesel emergency generators kick on...!
 

brucek

Posts: 1,152   +1,711
Conversely, these stealth installations make it easier to forget just how many resources Internet usage costs. Last year, data centers accounted for 1.8 percent of electricity consumed in the US and were responsible for 0.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
And if we hadn't had the internet, and instead continued to conduct every meeting in person, including air travel to the city, local car travel to the office, hotel, etc etc. what would the energy use have been for just that?

Then let's talk about shopping where instead of having lots of deliveries concentrated onto fleets of vehicles running relatively efficient routes, people were taking car trips just to buy a single item and transporting it, and their 98% empty car, back and forth to do it. Maybe after visiting several stores to find the item they were looking for.

Anyone have the data on the per-person energy used to show a film to someone at the theater, vs. in their home?

etc. etc. While I'm sure there must be some counter-examples, I feel like pretty much everything I do on the internet instead of the real world is pretty much a huge energy & pollution savings.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,234   +6,032
And if we hadn't had the internet, and instead continued to conduct every meeting in person, including air travel to the city, local car travel to the office, hotel, etc etc. what would the energy use have been for just that?

Then let's talk about shopping where instead of having lots of deliveries concentrated onto fleets of vehicles running relatively efficient routes, people were taking car trips just to buy a single item and transporting it, and their 98% empty car, back and forth to do it. Maybe after visiting several stores to find the item they were looking for.

Anyone have the data on the per-person energy used to show a film to someone at the theater, vs. in their home?

etc. etc. While I'm sure there must be some counter-examples, I feel like pretty much everything I do on the internet instead of the real world is pretty much a huge energy & pollution savings.

Ironically, the people who make the most short trips are also the ones who buy the most stuff online. Its the same demographic, the "super consumer" who is ALWAYS in the car going to the store, going to events, going out to eat, returning things they bought online, etc.