Hello again ashdezign-ga
The search came out a bit differently than I anticipated when I started.
I got energy consumption figures, but once I had them, a more meaningful
answer demanded I go further down the path.
It is impossible to answer the broad question - of the
SEARCH TERM: energy consumption in telecommunication
but your explanation of the purpose:
"..commercial webmail service with a view to using
carbon offsets to make it carbon neutral..."
was useful and allows narrowing the topic a bit. I will focus
on the following scenario: imagine a company which is still doing
business the old-fashioned way (snail mail, POTS , fax ..) (if such still
exist) and imagine that this company would switch to the modern, Internet way
of handling the necessary communication and use a commercial webmail service.
How would such a decision affect energy consumption (as a measure of
the impact on the C02 emission)?. The topic is still quite broad:
a company in the business of global import-export has different needs than
the local grocery store or a shipping firm or a stock brokerage ..
but we can guess (in advance of a search for quantitative facts)
that impact of the decision to switch will be ecologically positive in
all such cases.
In general, the energy requirements of electronic communication are
much smaller than the conventional means ( such as paper based
sent bu US post office - a method called snailmail ).
In this narrow interpretation of the question, we are excluding the
impact of phenomena such as spam: the fact that someone in Asia is
flooding the world with billions of unwanted ads for 'fake Rollexes
and quack remedies' has really little to do with a decision of our
'typical' company to use email for their business communication.
Let's start by finding the Watts/cycle energy consumption rates.
That is the power used to make computations. Those numbers are known:
PART 1 OF THE ANSWER TO YOUR IMMEDIATE QUESTION IS HERE:
Note how low the numbers are -- (1 nano-watt per Megaflop)
PART 2 OF THE ANSWER TO YOUR IMMEDIATE QUESTION IS HERE:
This subquestion is : how many Megaflops does it take to process one "hop" of
1 Mb (Megabyte) of email?
SEARCH TERMS: CPU consumption per email message
Number depends heavily on anti-spam filtering methods
and is summarized in Fig 5. of this report
[PDF] Resisting Spam Delivery by TCP Damping
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Unsolicited email messages, also known as spam, have become a serious
problem ... Figure 5: CPU Usage per Email. 4.2. Damping TCP by
Resource Consumption ...
What it means is: It takes more CPU cycles to filter the mail (to
eliminate spam), than to store and forward it.
As a rough measure of each step of the necessary processing ( compose,
store and forward (per hop) and deliver (via POP server) to users mail
box, one can take 100 cycles per bit of volume and each step).
What is a "hop":
There is a network tool called 'traceroute' which show how many hops
(intermediate steps) are needed to deliver email from your location to
a given e-mail address. The number of hops ranges from 1 to 20. For
long distance measages, the number depends on 'distance' to the
Here is a web-based tool using traceroute. It lists the hops from
your machine to different parts of the globe. It also gives time (in
milliseconds) of transmitting the message duting the hop. At end of
each hop there is
a computer which will store the message in memory, and resends it
later (once, or up to 5 times, if required). It can also block the
message, if it decides it is a spam. It nice to send a 'message back
to the sender' informing him that
his snder adress is blocked. Often this is not done - since most spam
fakes (spoofs) the senders address - so 'nice notifications' become
part of the spam flow. (Al these problems are temporary - see the
'future of the email' at the end of this answer).
PART 3: ANSWER TO THE WIDER (real life) QUESTIONS
Part 1 and 2 of the answer, combined, will tell how much energy
is used to process a given volume of mail, sent to different parts of
However, that minuscule number is actually irrelevant to the task you posed.
The main environmental impact of telecommunication is not the
'waste heat' due to extra cycles needed for data processing, but the
cost of building the infrastructure (that is, laying down cables or
optical fiber or building WI-FI towers, data centers ..).
For this reason, the wholesale cost of the ISP service is a better
measure of impact of use of a website than energy consumption per
Megaflop or Megabyte.
Let's look at those numbers: How much would a company pay, per
month, to operate a commercial website which would process, let's say,
a million messages per day (via web mail)?
Here is a sample of the OEM costs:
Of course, a lot depends how well the wholesale providers are
selected and a site and service designed.
As an example, Google built its impressive worldwide network,
using Linux OS and redundant cheap hardware (REID disks):
"However, this does not seem to be hindering Google at all. In fact
the low cost hardware combined with the low cost OS is what allowed
them to grow so quick and remain a private company. They spent the
start up cash on brainpower and not hardware and software. ."
CONCLUSION RE EMAIL COSTS IT's IMPACTS - Today and Tomorrow
(We use Google email service as an example, other services are listed below).
Considering that Google is offering free email service, called gmail,
using it's worldwide network (built initially to precess search
- a service which is both web-based and alos has free forwarding (so
that it can be used like regular email) is telling us two things:
1) The cost of the telecommunication itself (energy use and
infrastructure) is so small that the company is compensated just by
placing a modest number of ads, next to the messages.
2) It will be impossible (for at least a few years) to compete with
the present offerings of the web-mail services (Google, AOL, Yahoo ..)
SEARCH TERMS: (free) webmail services
This means that our hypothetical company offering web mail service
commercially would have to operate on a value-added basis. It would
use infrastructure which already exists, and to offer services which
are today missing.
That would be, at this time, primarily customer education and spam
protection. It may be possible to build a niche business: let's say
mail services for farmers (in the US or Zambia ..) or hardware
stores, or .. which would use knowledge of and understanding special
needs of that branch of industry, combine spam protection, marketing,
computerized invoicing, tax returns ...Company could provide software
to interface or replace current accounting software and databases ...
- and otherservices not offered by today's basic mail companies.
So, the conclusion is:
The actual environmental costs of email transmission itself are so
minuscule that they can be neglected when compared to other costs.
Therefore, the carbon dioxide savings would be simply the carbon
saved by eliminating the energy used by old fashioned energy-guzzling
The task of commercially viable service would be related to
educating and converting companies which do not presently use email,
to provide customer support (which todays in minimal or non-existent).
We need to keep in mind that scene is still changing very quickly and there
are generational differences and differences across the globe.
Here, then is the last of the relevant
SEARCH TERMS: future of email
As appropriate for the 'information age', the decisive factors
turn out to be not in the consumption of energy and material, but in
something more elusive, something called information,
ease-of-use,custommer support, security and
dialectical paradox of privacy combined with access to information.
Once you've had a good look at these links
please do rate the answer or, if needed, post a RFC (request for
Clarification of Answer by
08 Aug 2006 21:53 PDT
Power consumption of processors vary in a wide range, depending on
hardware and activity: a supercomputer, running a (non-stop, as they
do) number crunching will be more effficient (in terms of
energy/cycle) then a typical home computer (Intell Pentium or AMD
Athlon) used to retrieve and display web pages or mail.
Also, new computers have much improved power management (they go to
sleep, when not used) than previous generations.
Here are some hard numbers for today's PCs:
Example and explanation
It shows 230W for pentium with clock rate 4.3 Ghz, which translates to
230/ 4.3 E9 W/cycle = 50 nanoWatts per cycle.
SEARCH TERMS: Megaflop, flop
Unit 'Megaflop' was invented to measure number-cruncing performance
1. (computing) a measure of the speed of a computer; one million
floating point operations per second
floating point operation (abbreviated as FLOP)
1. (computing) any simple operation, such as addition,
multiplication or division, that a particular computer can perform
using a single operation
Question ' how many cycles per instructions ' can be made very complicated
as it depends on architecture of the hardware.:
For our purpuse we can aproximately take one flop as hundred cycles.
More data are available under
SEARCH TERMS: CPU power consumption , power diddipation
('Search Terms' are words to type into a (Google) search engine. in different
combinations, to get additional article in the topic). E.g this:
will bring articles like:
or this one:
"The power and heat issue is relevant to everyone else in a variety of ways:
* Environmental: High power efficiency means lower energy
consumption becomes a significant environmental issue. Computers do
represent a significant percentage of electricity consumption not only
directly but indirectly with increased air-conditioning cost in
enterprise applications due to their added heat..."
"..As we noted in the Turion 64 article, hardware manufacturers have
recognized the importance of reducing power. High efficiency power
supplies are increasingly more common, and Intel and AMD both identify
performance-per-watt as a key benchmark..".
deals specificaly with
E-Mail Handling Performance
"..Another important area of enhanced performance in ColdFusion MX 6.1
is in handling and delivering e-mail. Customers have long requested a
more robust mail handling subsystem, capable of sending very high
volumes of mail quickly, and ColdFusion MX 6.1 delivers. Macromedia
lab tests clocked ColdFusion MX 6.1 sending well over one million
e-mail messages per hour. This new found e-mail handling capability,
when coupled with the extensive e-mail handling enhancements, allows
for truly industrial strength e-mail applications. Whether for use
with high volume lists or just rock solid stability for any
application that needs to send e-mail reliably, ColdFusion MX 6.1
Please note that this one is a 'merketing talk', not an objective coparison.
That (mass mail) is also a 'science' in itself:
Can one say 'junk science'? :-)
Analysis of those numbers and specialised mass-mail software, both
spam and anti-spam would require a separate question to be covered