There’s a downside to having the centre of the technology world in a place like Silicon Valley, and that is the need for vast quantities of air-conditioning (not just for the computers, but for the people too). The culprit behind the latest MySpace-crippling power outage in California isn’t clear yet, but power consumption of all kinds is an issue for the entire technology industry, and particularly for data-intensive companies such as Google, which is building giant new server farms on the shores of the Columbia River in Oregon to try and cope with the demands it faces.
According to FON founder Martin Varsavsky, Google co-founder Larry Page said that one of the major hurdles the company faced in its future growth plans was the need for electricity. In a piece I wrote for the Globe and Mail after the Google server story came out, I noted that rising power demands are in many ways the Achilles heel of Web 2.0 — a point that has also made by many others, including Sun CEO and blogger Jonathan Schwartz, who wrote about the pressures that power requirements are placing on businesses.
It’s a problem that is likely to continue, and one that is affecting other business centres too. My solution? Hook all those servers at Google up to stationary bikes at the Googleplex in Mountain View, and have programmers ride them while they’re working. Not only would it produce power, but it would help reduce the expanding waistlines caused by Google’s free-candy policy. For more thoughts, see Rob Hyndman and Mark Evans.