Carbon-adjusted Computation

28th November 2006 @ 8:15 pm
Environment, Global-Warming, Energy, power, google, second-life, Euro-Foo, carbon and weblog
Jon Udell at InfoWorld is thinking about the carbon-adjusted supply-chain, using a hypothetical dual-pricing scenario for Amazon. At Euro Foo I attended a session hosted by Claus Dahl on prototyping using Second Life, and we discussed the possibility of a heads-up display to show the computational cost of various processes in the world, perhaps in kWh or even tonnes of carbon.

Right now we're in an "out of sight, out of mind" phase of thinking about the cost of our computing, but the amount of computer power being put to work behind the scenes is staggering. In July of this year, the New York Times reported that Google was likely to be the fourth largest server manufacturer in the world. Can Yahoo or Microsoft be far behind?

I currently subscribe to a large amount of mailing lists with my GMail account, mainly for the convenience of searching them later. But what if Google told me that indexing all that email I don't read was adding up to significant environmental cost? What if Linden Labs told you the energy consumption of all your Second Life possessions? Tom Coates recently looked at the possibility of monitoring home energy usage, but I think we need to approach this from all angles.  Never mind unplugging my appliances when I don't need them, I wonder how many servers in data centres across the world are carrying out needless processing on my behalf - what's the carbon footprint of my web-enabled world?