[iDC] MySpace staff cuts

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Fri Jul 3 05:31:39 UTC 2009

I fully agree with your statement, however my point was less about 
community control and capital interests, but more about the 
environmental impact that all this networked tech-stuff has.

I think that from an energy standpoint, distributed networks are just as 
wasteful as centralized cloud computing, if not worse. Each peer node is 
using consumer hardware - a PC, router + cable modem in always-on mode. 
These are components which seldom have the fine-grained power control 
and load balancing modern server farms can achieve. I totally agree that 
a distributed peer networks - in absence of a centralized server 
infrastructure - would be better. But that setup is an utopia in my 
view; the centralized infrastructure will always be there as well. It's 
like with spam - it does not stop to flood our inboxes, because enough 
people (who?) will still click on the links.

Let's estimate for example the instantaneous power load for the eDonkey 
network. My trusty mlDonkey client will immediately connect to a few 
servers, which show about 850K users are connected to the p2p network 
right now.
Server                          Users       MaxUsers  
peerates.net                  94783        250000  
www.usenext.to          611621     1000000
Sharing Kingdom 3      159871     350000

These users will support my request for - say - the download of "Fr - 
Les Pirates De La Silicon Valley - Histoire Des Fondateurs De Microsoft 
Et Apple - De Martyn Burke, 1999 - (Film Documentaire p2P Peer To 
Informatique Pc)" which is supposed to be available in the network 

Each endpoint will probably consume on average 100W of power for the 
download which takes probably 8 hours. That's a nice 680kWh of energy 
during this time - for the endpoints alone. Of course during these 8 
hours the network will also carry hundreds of thousands of other 
downloads (mostly porn), so the individual will only see his/her own 
cost ... for my rig that is about 1kWh or about 0.20cents in actual 
costs all the while the system was used to write this email and doing a 
couple of other online tasks + I watch the movie for another 0.03cents 
in power once the download completes.
Cost: 23cents, Time: 11h, Own: 1 file on the HD, Legal: no
User Power Consumption: 1kWh, Fractional Power Consumption for delivery: 
680kWh/80K downloads = 0.01kWh

Now let's compare that to a Netflix-scenario and stream "Hang 'Em High 
(1968)" (the Pirates movie is not available as stream). They probably 
run a big datacenter and the 2 racks of blades that support my query and 
and feed the actual movie stream run probably about 10KW each, thus 
sucking 60kWh out of the grid in 3h. Again at least a thousand other 
users are supported during the same time by the providers hardware. So I 
watch for 2-3 hours and turn of the PC afterwards. I also pay 0.33 cents 
in membership fees + 0.03cents in power while watching the movie.
Cost: 36cents, Time 3h, Own: nothing, Legal: yes,
User Power Consumption: 0.13 kWh, Fractional Power Consumption for 
delivery: 60KWh/1K streams = 0.06kWh

Of course a proponent of peer networks might now say, that this is a 
wrong calculation, since the computer in the Netflix-scenario is not on 
for 3 hours, but for much longer (i.e. for work and other tasks) and 
thus can do the peer-stuff in the background for free. Totally true - I 
have my box on all the time and never turn it off. For convenience the 
cable modem and wifi router are on all the time as well. I am sure many 
on this list will have similar setups and PCs that are on at least 50% 
of the day.

With the assumption of an always-on endpoint, the equation changes again:
User Power Consumption: 2.4kWh, Fractional Power Consumption for 
delivery: negligible compare to user power consumption

So for most people the discussion forks here around issues of ownership, 
media cost, speed of access ... because energy is cheap (compared to AC) 
and unavoidable (for convenience).

But the problem that I originally raised about the network creating a 
significant power load, shows up again when we consider all the services 
one could have used during the 24h on-time of the PC: UPS, eBay, 
thinkgeek, google, yahoo, slashdot, email server, hotmail, skype, 10 
websites, etc. etc.. Now the Fractional Power Consumption goes up again 
rapidly ... because all the servers that support a "possible delivery" 
of content are on as well, regardless if I download content or not. In 
fact the more access to services I can have and the better the services 
get the worse this fractional power consumption gets even with data 
center optimizations in place. While actual numbers are hard to come by, 
they are probably not very good. One could read 1-2% of total global 
power consumption a few years back. Tendency increasing, since every 
1000 iPhone which are sold need an extra AppStore server.

So the bottomline for me remains: Unless endpoints are getting more 
carbon-footprint neutral, distributed networks do not change the 
ecological equation of the Internet whatsoever.


Michael Bauwens wrote:
> Dear Andreas,
> Thanks for the calculation and reminding us that indeed, the internet and its services rests on a costly social and private infrastructure.
> But I would also suggest that one of the reasons that platforms like Google and YouTube costs a lot of money is because of the choice of highly centralized and controlled infrastructures, which requires a high treshold of capital outlays and therefore serves as a competitive advantage.
> Perhaps if some of the companies went bankrupt in the future (as many web 2.0 services have already done), the hacker community would discover that they could be rebuilt as truly distributed networks, thereby distributing the costs as well. In this way, like the Wikipedia and Linux production, the private interests would become substantially more periferal and the relative power of the community relatively stronger,
> Michel
> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: Andreas Schiffler <aschiffler at ferzkopp.net>
>> To: "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
>> Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 11:21:42 AM
>> Subject: Re: [iDC] MySpace staff cuts
>> If the Internet should or shouldn't be about making money is really 
>> besides the point. To "run the net" costs money - boatloads of money - 
>> hence one cannot disjoin the internet from "things that have to do with 
>> money" including making some from nothing but electrons flying around in 
>> wires and semiconductors.
>> I think it is helpful to provide some context to where these costs are 
>> coming from ... just calling out bandwidth isn't doing this justice. Let 
>> me try to develop a chain that needs to be put into place for something 
>> to happen. Assuming we want to engineer the average June 2009 page view 
>> after time-traveling from the stone age, we'd need to build and operate 
>> this:
>> Client Device/Connection - Last Mile Provider - Cloud Providers/Telecoms 
>> - Hosting Facility - Server Device - Operating System/Software - 
>> Programmer/Designer - Content
>> Next let me try to estimate some cost numbers for each item, say for the 
>> US, for one year, for fancy commercial stuff.
>> [Disclaimer: These are just crude order of magnitude estimates without 
>> much research backing them up. Maybe we can crowd-source better numbers!]
>> Client Device/Connection: 150M online devices at $100/year for power, 
>> maybe 30M new devices/year at $500 a device = 30B
>> Last Mile Provider: 10M new hookups/year at $1K a pop (pays for provider 
>> infrastructure and personnel) = 1B
>> Cloud Providers/Telecoms: 10 providers, 10B each/year in revenue, 25% is 
>> internet (pays for provider infrastructure and personnel) = 25B
>> Hosting Facilities: 10 big/100 small facilities, 10M setup+10/100M in 
>> power/cooling costs = 2B
>> Server Device: 1M servers at $1000 each = 1B
>> OS/Software: 1M servers at $2K each = 2B
>> Programmer/Designer: 300K people at 100K/year each = 30B
>> Content: priceless ... not really, 10B stock images/sounds/blogs at $1 
>> each, 100M books/videos at $20 each = 12B
>> Now let's split this into two groups (a) what crowd sourcing/open source 
>> can affect in terms of price and (b) what needs to be payed to "the 
>> system" anyways:
>> (a) open/crowd-sourceable: Last Mile Provider, OS/Software 
>> (Linux/apache), Programmer/Designer (phpBB/mozilla), Content 
>> (wikipedia/flickr) = 50B
>> (b) corporate system: Client Device/Connection (PC/Power Utility), Cloud 
>> Provider/Telecoms (ATT/Akamai), Server Device (HP/IBM) = 56B
>> So even if open/crowd-sourcing is 100% effective, the corporations who 
>> run "the net", make "the gadget" and provide "the juice" still need to 
>> come up with the other half of the bill. Thus I conclude it will never 
>> be a profitless enterprise. The current preoccupation with advertising 
>> and user generated content is in my view partially a fad (yes, many 
>> people don't care about many of the services) and partially an economic 
>> reality (it pays, as Google demonstrates so well).
>> To cut something out of (b) many, many people would need invest into 
>> devices that use less power and last much longer, build community mesh 
>> networks and mini-clouds, and consume less server-based streams.
>> And another note on the original discussion about mySpace layoffs - one 
>> of the biggest chunks of the cost in the chain is the personnel as one 
>> can easily see in the above estimate. So if a company wants to loose 
>> less money (YouTube) or make more profit (mySpace), they just fire most 
>> of the people who made the software but keep the servers running. This 
>> will go without anybody noticing anything (this works for at least a 
>> year - been there, done that).
>> --Andreas

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