This time of the year, the web is bombarded with end of the year articles, New Year’s Resolution blogs and this year in retrospective posts. Well, we aren’t going to do that on the basis that those articles are annoying and written to gain clicks. While clicks and traffic are a great thing, as recently noted by Luke O’Neil in Esquire, the Internet model of content distribution and truth, is broken. Mr. O’Neil argues the Internet is broken. We agree. More troubling though than content distribution patterns is the technology keeping our broken Internet running. That is to say, the Cloud.
The Basis for the Cloud
As we have noted in this space, the Cloud isn’t some pie in the sky technology which holds no physical space and/or repercussions. Much to the opposite, the secret of the Cloud is the terminology and marketing behind the Cloud hides the physical resources it takes to keep our instant 24/7/365 access lives running smoothly. The secret of the Cloud are the physical servers, networking gear, power supplies and cooling needs it takes to keep Cloud solutions running around the clock. Those collection of materials end up compromising large scale data centers. For all the talk of how green the Cloud is, anyone who has ever been inside a data center understands going green in the Cloud is a term only provided to the company or customer utilizing Cloud solutions. It is not a term which can be applied to the hosting or data center company which leases within or owns the data center.
The simple truth of the matter is just as our beloved Internet is broken, the Cloud is next. Here’s why.
Data Centers Will Bring Down the Cloud
Blame it on marketing. Blame it on people like me. We have turned the Cloud into a buzzword designed to sell various forms of web based products. VPS? Sure, call it the Cloud. Colocation? Sure, call it long term Cloud Hosting. Dedicated Servers? Sure, call it Resource Intensive Cloud Servers. Marketers, like myself, have created the mask. The truth is, for data center providers, the Cloud is anything but green. As noted in various blogs, studies and posts, typical tier 3 and 4 data centers consume as much energy in a year a small American city. Add our growing mobile dependence (as of late 2013, there are over one billion mobile devices floating around) which relies on data centers to operate properly to the mix and you can begin to see why data centers are on the path of causing more problems than they fix.
Through our use of mobile technologies, mobile applications and 24/7/365 on-demand tech, we are creating highly inefficient data centers which are anything but green. The Cloud isn’t green. Something needs to be done.
The other major issue at play within the Cloud is the physical breakdown of data center infrastructures which we have built the ICT market on. Like any major utility – make no mistake about it, the Cloud/data centers are major global utilities – the infrastructure supporting the utility needs to be constantly maintained, repaired and updated. Without this routine maintenance, the infrastructure breaks under its own weight.
The same is about to happen within the world of data centers. Not only has the Cloud become a massive buzzword driving a multi-billion dollar industry, it is growing. With growth comes more consumers, more need and great weight on infrastructure. This is where the data center infrastructure of the Cloud currently lives: Old Weight compounded by Time compounded by New Weight. It should be obvious, yet moving forward the market should anticipate Cloud black outs in 2014.
Something needs to be done.
So, the question: how do we keep the Cloud from breaking in 2014, 2015, 2016 and into the future? The answer is found in drastically limiting the environmental impact of data centers. How? Make them smaller. Although it hasn’t been proven yet as a sufficient and serviceable method of data delivery, the answer to our growing data center problem might be found in the smallest parts of the human body: DNA. As noted by Sebastian Anthony in ExtremeTech:
“A bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.”
“The work, carried out by George Church and Sri Kosuri, basically treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).”
“To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses.”
The smallest building blocks of the human body might prove to be the basis for the future of data center web hosting solutions. By storing massive quantities of data in the smallest of biological sequences, providers might be able to solve both the massive energy crisis issue associated with data centers and the issue of breaking data center infrastructure.
While the change won’t happen overnight, 2014 could be the start of the transition. Instead of the Cloud playing small in 2014 by making slight updates to storage capacities and scalability, Cloud providers in 2014 need to begin looking at the larger picture. Reduce energy needs by decimating data centers down to the size of DNA sequences.