Nick Carr has a post in which he uses some data supplied by Linden Labs (proprietors of Second Life) to show that an avatar in that benighted corner of cyberspace consumes as much electricity as the average Brazilian.
If there are on average between 10,000 and 15,000 avatars “living” in Second Life at any point, that means the world has a population of about 12,500. Supporting those 12,500 avatars requires 4,000 servers as well as the 12,500 PCs the avatars’ physical alter egos are using. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server consumes 200 watts. Throw in another 50 watts per server for data-center air conditioning. So, on a daily basis, overall Second Life power consumption equals:
(4,000 x 250 x 24) (12,500 x 120 x 24) = 60,000,000 watt-hours or 60,000 kilowatt-hours
Per capita, that’s:
60,000 / 12,500 = 4.8 kWh
Which, annualized, gives us 1,752 kWh. So an avatar consumes 1,752 kWh per year. By comparison, the average human, on a worldwide basis, consumes 2,436 kWh per year. So there you have it: an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they’re in the same ballpark.
I have some good friends who are dedicated environmental campaigners, but who are also evangelical about the potential of Second Life. I wonder what they think about the energy issue.
And, just to be fair, everything that applies to Second Life’s energy consumption applies to cloud computing generally.