VIA launches 'carbon free' computing

Company admits that the term 'carbon free' may not be 100 percent accurate, but insists machines using its chips are kinder to the planet than other models

VIA Technologies, the Taiwanese manufacturer of microprocessors and chipsets, announced on Wednesday that it is billing its C7-D chip as the world's first 'carbon-free' processor.

Launched in September as a 'carbon-neutral' chip, the step up in billing reflects Via's hope to capture more of the market for more energy-efficient technologies. This market is growing as organisations come under increasing pressure to closely monitor the impact IT has on the environment.

The C7-D processor can be used instead of AMD or Intel processors, using a fraction of the power required by its more famous competitors.

Less power means less carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. To prove the fact, VIA will shortly be publishing a paper by the specialist environmental consultants, Best Foot Forward (BFF), that outlines the savings in carbon use to be made by using the C7-D.

VIA has also commited to offset the carbon dioxide that is produced by running computers using its chips, through a programme for energy conservation and tree planting.

According to BFF's quoted figures, the UK is, in percentage terms, the fifth largest producer of carbon emissions through the use of computers. Some 4.6 percent of the UK's total carbon emissions come from computers. The US has the largest issue, with 30.45 percent of its emissions coming from computer. Next are Japan, China and Germany.

The figures are perhaps slightly misleading since a high percentage score also indicates a high level of computer usage.

"But these figures do show the potential gains to be made from cutting the waste of carbon," said Keith Kowali, of VIA's high-performance platforms group.

Over a lifetime of three years, the average PC will consume 193 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and emit 97kg of CO2. According to VIA's figures compiled with BFF, a VIA computer would consume 52kWh and 26kg of CO2.

The timing of VIA's announcement is appropriate, during a week in which Sun became the latest company to publish research showing that energy efficiency is an increasingly important issue for organisations as they look for ways to control their IT spend.

"Everything we make now has a real focus on energy efficiency," said Kowali. "We have been very strong in energy efficiency."

But VIA's figures, while impressive (for example, it is estimated a Pentium D will consume a massive 265kg of CO2 in its lifetime) tell just part of the story. For example, they only take account of the energy consumed while the computer is in use and take no account of the energy consumed in the manufacturing process, which is usually much greater.

"We don't control the fabrication process which is handled by our suppliers," Kowali candidly admitted. "We work with them to try and find ways to improve energy efficiencies, but much of the information is proprietary."

VIA can only ask them to comply, Kowali said. "But we can get the best savings in those areas that we do control."

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