Is Second Life a power hog?

Summary:In a recent post titled 'Is Second Life Sustainable?', Tony Walsh raises the issue of how much electricity is required to keep the virtual world running. Nick Carr does the math.

In a recent post titled 'Is Second Life Sustainable?', Tony Walsh raises the issue of how much electricity is required to keep the virtual world running:

...it's worth pointing out that the nearly 4,000 servers currently running the virtual world suck up an awful lot of real-world electricity.

He then goes onto quote Philip Rosedale (CEO of Linden Lab, the game's makers), as saying:

"We're running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in collocation facilities... We're running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we've got machines in."

With approximately 10-15,000 avatars active in Second Life at any one time, Walsh finishes by asking:
How much power do 15,000 human beings consume daily compared to 15,000 avatars? Is Second Life sustainable ecologically?

In response Nick Carr has a go at doing the math, and after factoring in the server and client uptime and electricity consumption required to keep all of those avatars 'alive', he concludes that "an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same ballpark".

Second Life

While it's a fun exercise, it does seems a little selective to focus on Second Life's ecological impact. For example, how does it compare to XBox Live or any of the other online gaming platforms? Looking even further, how much power does each human consume 'googling'?

Enough math already.

Topics: Servers

About

Steve O'Hear is a London-based consultant, educator, and journalist, focussing on the Internet and all aspects of digital technology. He advises businesses and not-for-profit organisations on how to exploit the collaborative and publishing opportunities offered by the Web, and has written for numerous publications including The Guardian a... Full Bio

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