[LINK] How many Newspapers does it take to build Ayers Rock?

Glen Turner gdt at gdt.id.au
Wed May 13 10:24:59 EST 2009


> The suggestion that digital delivery of any data is at no or little  
> cost to the environment, whilst discounting the infrastructure  
> required to support the distribution and resultant action, is entirely  
> fabricated.

Sure, the the entire carbon chain of both industries needs to be
considered.

But when you do, it's still orders of magnitude less carbon to send bits
than to send real items (eg, videoconference rather than take a plane).
The problem is that the sheer amount of bits sent means that networking
is no longer a minor contributor to electricity use.

In this area both AARNet and Internode are well ahead of the curve in
measuring and reducing their CO2 footprint, as well as covering their
emissions with carbon credits. There's a simple business rationale here
-- people buying these products need not include them in their own
calculations for carbon impact, and we can easily give customers the
data they need for their National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act
reports.

As far as carbon generated by equipment, that's a trickier thing. The
ASICs and CPUs used take 3-4 years to develop, so there's not really yet
networking chips with a huge energy focus like there is with laptop
ASICs. The IEEE 802.3az working group is going through the ethernet
specification saving watts, and the equipment resulting from that will
use much less power than today's ethernet switches (and as far as
absolute amounts of carbon generated, improving the workgroup ethernet
switch has the biggest payoff).

As for larger equipment, there's already a huge focus on the maximum
energy usage of those items as ISPs desperately want to be able to run
them from typical power supplies, rather than install bespoke systems
for the equipment. There's still a lot that can be done to lower the
average energy use of the equipment. That seems to be underway but it
will still be some years before the current designs reach the market.
For example, it was only last year that manufacturers agreed how average
energy use will be measured for benchmarking/marketing purposes.

Unlike enterprises there's little ISPs can do with the lowest hanging
fruit in CO2 reduction --- buildings. We mostly lease small amounts of
space in larger buildings and have little say on the design of the
buildings. Whereas an enterprise that owns an entire computer center has
a lot of low hanging fruit they can reap.

Cheers, Glen
[Whilst acknowledging the time my employer has allowed me to spend on
ECR and 802.3az, these are my own views.]



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