Australia: Concerns over energy may slow Internet growth

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Australia: Concerns over energy may slow Internet growth

Melbourne (Australia) – Dr. Kerry Hinton of Melbourne University’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has said, “It has now become clear that the exponential growth of the Internet is not sustainable.” His concerns relate to Internet equipment energy efficiency and the growing carbon footprint needed to sustain high-speed Internet traffic – especially with growth curves projected for video-on-demand-like services. Are we facing a green future that limits our Internet?

Energy modeling

Dr. Hinton says that while power consumption supporting the Internet today accounts for only 0.5% of the total annual budget, by 2020 it could be 1%. “This will place a major burden on [Australia’s] power infrastructure as well as significantly contribute to green house gas production.” Dr. Hinton says we must focus our efforts to “ensure the Internet is energy efficient,” though he believes doing so may also be cost prohibitive.

The official report is being given to first annual Symposium on Sustainability of the Internet and ICT, which is hosted by The ARC Special Centre for Ultra-Broadband Information Networks (CUBIN) today and tomorrow at the University of Melbourne.

Highlights include:

1) Carbon Rewards Instead of Carbon Taxes.

2) Green Google: A commitment to Sustainability.

3) Sources of Energy Drain on Internet Datacenters.

4) Smart 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age.

According to Dr. Hinton’s model, the entire network infrastructure required to provide for increasing traffic volumes comes from the wide adoption of high-speed broadband connections. These show “Increasing amounts of energy will be needed to power and cool Internet equipment that provides high speed broadband. If service providers don’t update their equipment, energy consumption will soar, but then cost of updating may also be prohibitive.”

The model shows that industry focus must be on making sure Internet equipment is energy efficient. Dr. Hinton says, “If we don’t do this, the Internet will not fulfill the social and economic promise many of us are expecting of it.”


Funding and research provided for by ARC Special Research Centre on Ultra-Broadband Information Networks, ARC Research Network on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks & Information Processing, The Australian Computer Society, Melbourne Engineering Research Institute, IEEE Victoria Section.

Read more at the University of Melbourne’s Green Internet.

Alternative: P4P

As TG Daily reported in August, an alternate solution has already been found which can greatly decrease Internet traffic despite growing broadband needs. Dubbed P4P, this network solution engages local Internet trafficking in “neighborhood networks.” These keep data closer to the source and destination, rather than routing everything through the main backbone and hubs regardless of their origins.

According to the P4P report, 50-80% of Internet traffic today comes from peer-to-peer file sharing. Sending the data from point to point, the data packets currently journey an average of 1,000 miles with 5.5 “metro-hops,” with each hop being a jump from one major hub to another.

By reducing the distance traveled with the neighborhood networks, the study showed that the same amount of data transferred across the Internet could be reduced to a 160 mile journey, and a reduction of 5x over current backbone traffic would be had.

This P4P alternative does not require any additional equipment, just a smarter routing technology. A 5x reduction in current backbone traffic would mean that immediately all of us could increase our bandwidth 5x without affecting anything. Or, 5x more users could exist than today.


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