This article was first published on Silicon Republiccryptocurrency – Silicon Republic
The concept of data as the ‘new oil’ has served as a crude metaphor for this intangible commodity’s increasing value to business. It doesn’t hold much weight under scrutiny, though.
Data’s value is in its effective use, not hoarding to pump the price. Data can be a self-perpetuating resource and any business with the right server and analytics software can tap it and start drilling for insights. Insights that may indeed be valuable to that business but not necessarily marketable to others, either because of their proprietary nature or because it would be a substantial risk to reveal them to competitors.
The oil metaphor does chime pretty well with data’s environmental impact, though. The bits themselves are invisible to end users and our imagining of data as a non-physical entity is helped along by terms such as ‘the cloud’, from which data streams back and forth.
But these ‘clouds’ are more hard-edged and hulking than the vision they inspire. In the world of data, clouds are massive warehouses of servers, operating 24/7 and using so much power they need constant cooling so they don’t completely burn out.
‘What use is this resource-intensive data economy if it’s just to collate an eternal backlog of all our internet likes?’
Many major data centre announcements these days come with a commitment to 100pc renewable or so-called ‘clean’ energy, which at least shows that businesses are accounting for the significant environmental impact of these data powerhouses. Less shouted about in press releases are the ‘dirty’ data centres that are widely operational, burning through fossil fuels at an alarming rate.
Until very recently, Amazon was noticeably reluctant to disclose the carbon footprint of its business, which amounts to that of a small country. As well as a widespread logistics business ...
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