Oh baby baby it’s a wild world

By Lizzie MacNeill, Communications Officer, Calgary

Over the past couple of weeks, the world of IT has been getting a bad rap (perhaps deservedly so) as exposés from the New York Times and Forbes have raised red flags about the dirty side of big data.

It's easy to overlook the outcomes of society's mass surge in internet use, as the data seems to leave our laptops and enter the ether, but unfortunately, the reality is quite different. Mass data centres around the world are fired up around the clock to make sure that every tweet, every Facebook post and every Amazon purchase gets through at warp speed. Ever sent a tweet out about Justin Bieber? In 2010, an unnamed Twitter employee leaked, "At any moment, Justin Bieber uses 3% of our infrastructure. Racks of servers are dedicated to him."

Google data centre

An insider's look at one of Google's data centres

"Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner… As a result, [they] can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid," says James Glanz of the New York Times.

This paints a grim picture, but there is still hope. In Alberta, Cybera supports several enterprising green IT projects that might just lift your spirits.

Three Alberta-based "green" initiatives

  1. In Calgary, Cybera manages a server that runs on solar power delivered from the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre. This project, part of the GreenStar Network, is a test bed for interconnected server systems that run on renewable energy sources such as wind, water and solar.
  2. Cybera has recently spun off the Water and Environmental Hub, a platform that provides researchers with free access to a mass data catalogue of western Canada's natural resources. The hub, now operated by the startup Explorus, is streamlining environmentally-conscious research in the province.
  3. Another project formerly managed by Cybera, Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Sensing (a mouthful, we know), is an online system that collects international sensor and satellite data and makes them available through a user-friendly map-based system (that looks a bit like Google Earth). It's being used for several neat little projects, such as tracking the migration patterns of Golden Eagles as they fly through the Rockies.

Supporting earth friendly research and innovation in Alberta's IT sector is one of Cybera's mandates, and continues to be a guiding force in the rapid development of Canada's IT. Stay tuned to the Cybera blog for more eco-updates!