Google is running more than 450,000 servers around the world. It’s building “Project 02,” which will be one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, to be housed at a data center in Oregon the size of two football fields, with four-story high cooling towers. As the owner of YouTube, Google is in a good position to evaluate the burden that video places on the infrastructure of the Internet.

So when Google executives say that Internet video services may bring the entire global network to its knees, lots of people are listening. YouTube delivers very low quality video in a highly compressed Flash format, but its astronomical growth is already using up vast amounts of bandwidth. Now companies are promising to deliver TV shows and movies on a global scale at broadcast quality over the Internet, but that may never be possible. According to Google’s head of TV technology, “The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.”

Many businesses are being set up to deliver broadcast quality video: Joost, for TV shows; Netflix, beginning a rollout of streaming movies for subscribers; Sony, working to expand its MovieLink service; and more. That’s a lot of data to move around – the data involved in one hour of video can equal the total in one year’s worth of emails. The architecture of the Internet may not be sufficient to move online for our video entertainment.

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