Gadgets and Being Green

I like to think that I am pretty green. I have an efficient house, no more SUV, not a ton of garbage, etc. Recently, however, I began to wonder if it is possible to be green if you are a techie and/or into gadgets. Gadget lovers and techies have tons of electronic stuff around the house, but most people don’t realize how much power is going down the drain. How many little transformers do you have plugged in around the house? TVs? Cable Boxes? DVD Players? Receivers? Amplifiers? Computers? Typically, those little transformers consume 1-5 watts even if the device is not on or even connected. Then you add the DVD players, clock radios, TVs, etc. and power usage starts to add up. Remember, anything with standby or an instant-on feature is using power just sitting there. Reports are that this power accounts for 5-15% of all power use.
What did me in, however, was thinking the other day while mowing the lawn. I know. Why am I thinking while I’m mowing the lawn? I just do. Anyway, back in my younger days, I went to a LOT of concerts. As a result, I pay attention to my ears and wear earplugs when I mow. Since I bought an iPhone with new earphones that are basically earplugs, I listen to music while I mow. Often, I use the fantastic Pandora application, and it’s this that got me in trouble. Ever thought about how much infrastructure is required to listen to streaming music? It’s a lot. Let’s start at the Pandora data center and work our way to my yard.

  • Pandora Data Center
    • I can only guess at the architecture of Pandora, but let’s guess that there is at least 3 servers (web, app, and db). I suspect there are a lot more both for load and redundancy.
    • 3 servers
    • 1 switch
    • 1 router
    • 1 firewall
    • Again, I highly doubt there are singles of anything in the data center. Otherwise, the entire system would go down with one server failure.
  • Pandora Hosting Provider
    • It all depends on where Pandora’s machines are hosted, but there could be dozens of machines managing the data center. Plus, there will be various networking equipment.
    • 5 desktops
    • 2 large switches
    • 2 large routers
    • 2 firewalls (for hosting internal network)
  • Backbone
    • A quick run of traceroute shows 12 hops between my house and Pandora’s date center.  That’s at least one router per hop.  The first and the last are me and Pandora’s data center.
    • 10 routers
    • Various management servers, etc.
    • 10 servers
    • 20 desktops
  • Pandora’s Offices
    • Again, I don’t know how large Pandora is, but figure 10 people plus various testing servers.
    • 10 desktops
    • 5 test servers
    • 1 router
    • 1 switch
    • 1 firewall
  • My house
    • My house is fully wired, so I probably have more than most.
    • 1 firewall
    • 1 router
    • 1 switch
    • 1 cable modem
    • 1 music server
    • various desktops

That’s a whole lot of hardware, and I’m not even mentioning all of it. Now, I know that most of this hardware is shared, but if there weren’t a lot of customers at least some of this hardware would not be required.

My point is to be careful when you call yourself green and you have a lot of gadgets. You many be personally green, but your habits may bring along a lot of extra hardware to feed your gadgets. Your actual power usage is a lot more than what shows up on your electric bill.







3 responses to “Gadgets and Being Green”

  1. Into Tech - are you into HDTV? Avatar

    Into Tech – are you into HDTV?…
    The last big step forward in the UK was the launch of an High Definition TV (HDTV) service from Sky. HDTV will dramatically improve the standard of digital images. High Definition can provide over four times as much data on a display screen than a stan…

  2. Jeff Feldgoise Avatar
    Jeff Feldgoise

    I’ve also been thinking about the power consumption of my electronics. My house has a dedicated server. One of the changes I made because of power consumption was to move from a Dell tower (XPS 400) to a mac mini for my always on server. I haven’t measured the difference, but I think that my Mac Mini draws around 20-30 watts when not under load. The PC on the other hand is somewhere in the 150-200 watts range. That is a huge difference. As a side benefit, I can now keep my server running a lot longer on the UPS battery backup when there is a power failure.

  3. Dave Avatar

    Interestingly, I heard on the radio the other day that Pandora actually has 128 employees, not 10 like I thought. I guess I was a little off. 🙂

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