A Center for Sustainable Cloud Computing

EcoCloud’s article on “Clouds, Datacenters & the Future of IT” appeared in French under the title “Cloud, datacenters et l’avenir de l’informatique” on page 14 of an insert by SmartMedia in L’Hebdo #5 “Semaine du 29 Janvier 2015”. The French article can be found here. Please find below the English version of the article.

 

Clouds, Datacenters & the Future of IT

Information technology (IT) has been undergoing a data-centric revolution in recent years in which enterprises, governments, and research organizations alike use analytics on massive data to extract information and monetize data to improve their practices, products, and services. Data now lies at the core of the supply chain for both products and services in modern economies. Analyzing text and documents online has led to groundbreaking advances in language technologies and has enabled investment banks to identify financial trends. Graph analytics can help uncover insights in applications as broad as social media, telecommunications, healthcare, and utilities. Data-intensive scientific discovery now complements theoretical, empirical, and simulation-driven science as a fourth paradigm for scientific discovery.

Today, data-centric IT services, also referred to as cloud services, are provided with centralized infrastructure called datacenters to maximize resource sharing and exploit economies of scale. In contrast to supercomputers aimed at the high-cost/high-performance scientific domain, datacenters consist of volume servers aiming at cost-effective data processing, communication and storage. Datacenter owners prioritize capital and operating costs over ultimate performance. While larger organizations are consolidating their IT infrastructure and services into privately owned clouds to guarantee data ownership, confidentiality and privacy, many are opting for public clouds primarily due to economic reasons forgoing legal implications and data governance.

The exponential growth in IT in recent years has led to unprecedented demands on datacenters worldwide. In 2013, Amazon Web Services added daily enough server capacity to support all of Amazon’s global infrastructure in 2003 when it was a $5.2 billon annual revenue enterprise, according to its VP, James Hamilton. IDC projects that data will reach 40 zettabytes by 2020 (equivalent to 100 iPads for every woman, man and child in 2020). This growth in data surpasses by far the exponential improvements in digital platform capabilities enabled by the conventional semiconductor fabrication technologies in the past four decades. The semiconductor fabrication technologies have now hit fundamental physical barriers with economic, energy and environmental repercussions necessitating fundamental research and ground breaking new solutions to enable a continued growth in IT.

The future of IT is of key strategic relevance not only to the world at large but also Switzerland and European countries whose economies are primarily innovation- and service-based and are highly dependent on data-centric IT. Moreover, as a top spender of IT per capita and with a mandate to minimize its energy footprint by 2050, Switzerland must invest in large-scale IT infrastructure for both sustainability and digital sovereignty.