Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

10 Billion Facebook Photos – Is That Ecologically Sustainable?

October 21st, 2008 by

Facebook Engineer Doug Beaver has announced that the social networking site now hosts 10 Billion photos & Facebook has just over one petabyte of photo storage. Since Facebook stores 4 sizes for each stored picture, this actually translates to 40 Billion files, of those 33.2 billion were added within the last 17 months. Doug also reports that over 300,000 images are served per second.

If Facebook were a nation, it would be the world’s 12th most populous & there would be very little doubt about whether it is sustainable as a business. But “Is Facebook sustainable ecologically”?

Some quick maths:
Earlier GigaOm reported Facebook to have around 10,000 servers & last May Facebook reportedly borrowed $100 million to purchase another 50,000 servers.

Going by Doug’s number -in order to support those 300,000 images, Facebook requires 10,000 servers as well as the 300,000 users PCs. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server consumes 200 watts. Add in another 50 watts per server for data-center air conditioning. So, at any point of time, overall Facebook power consumption equals:

(10,000 x 250 ) + (300,000 x 120) = 38,500 Kw or 51,629 HP

That’s an awesome number of horses !!

Hence on an estimated ballpark – Facebook daily consumes 924,000 KiloWatt-Hours with per capita of 3.08 KWh . Annually the per capita figure would be 1124 KWh /year or equivalent to emission of 0.75 ton of green house CO2 (Carbon footprint) which is half of NY city’s carbon footprint. Sadly with Facebook adding more ‘horses’ (50K more servers) to cater to our photo addiction – this number would increase to 1 ton of CO2 .
Green house gas emission by US cities & Facebook

Please Consider Environment Before Uploading Your Photos On Facebook

Green computing‘ remains a buzz word in 2008 & subsequent years. However the BIG question is with plethora of options for Green Web Hosting available – shouldn’t Facebook, the most successful contemporary social network, consider one?

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15 Responses

  1. Nazz Says:

    I’m not sure about your calculations.

    1) 300.000 images per second does not mean that there are 300.000 users. In each Facebook page there are several images.

    2) You consider also the power used by the users pcs. So it’s not correct saying that it’s not only a Facebook consumption. We might say that it’s the power used by Facebook and Facebook visitors, who maybe are using the pc also for other (listening music, browsing other web sites at the same time, checking the email…)

    The final result could be very different!

  2. Apurba Sen Says:

    Nazz – thanks for your comments.These are ballpark estimates only.

    1.The photos here strictly means user uploded photos.So 300,000 is a fair estimation of number of concurrent connection of Facebook.

    2.Facebook ecology = Facebook+ Users.There can be multiple activities but PC would consume equal energy unless the system is in power saving mode.

  3. Chris Ovenden Says:

    Can you explain why, in your figures, servers consume more power than desktop PCs or laptops? Surely they use less wattage, as they don’t have to support power-hungry peripherals, most notably a screen.

  4. Keith Lucas Says:

    I’m sure we all appreciate your efforts to be topical and ‘on trend’, however, your sums are a rather fanciful.
    If, for example, I upgraded a 10 year old 1GB hard drive with a shiny new 1TB model I gain a 1,000 fold increase in capacity while newer HDD technologies also enable it also to consume less power and generate less heat (requiring less cooling). I think you will find the real facts about the Facebook servers will tell a similar story and that your statistics, while provocative and entertaining, are simply not credible!

  5. Apurba Sen Says:

    Chris – Kindly refer to Koomeys estimation on server power consumption.We have assumed the servers are volume server – hence 200W.

    Keith – the server power consumption is more than memory & upgrade.Have a look to the contributing elements here

    Thanks both for your insights.

  6. Antoine MANSUY Says:

    Great idea 🙂
    Even if, of course, these figures can be discussed, for the lot of approximations they need, the idea of calculating Facebook carbon footprint was good, funny, and pretty surprising.
    Maybe it will give them ideas, and the Facebook people will carry out some more accurate surveys (yeah yeah…)

  7. Shai Says:

    No doubt that too much trash is stored on Facebook’s servers, however – if the 12th most populous nation produces half of NYC’s carbon footprint than Facebook is probably the right way to go…

    Anyway –

  8. Matt Peterson Says:

    There was a similar discussion about Second Life a while ago:

  9. Anthony Barba Says:

    300,000 images per second is just staggering.

  10. home made wind generators Says:

    Incredible stuff. Will definitely visit soon=D

  11. Gavin Smith Says:

    There are 300 000 images per second. That assumes 300 000 people using it per second. This does not say how many are using it per day.

    So it is not fair to divide the total power per day by the number of people per second to get the per capita power consumption.

    To get the per capita we either divide the power per second by the users per second, OR we divide the power per day by the users per day.

    I also doubt that the new york city anual carbon footprint is as low as 1.5 tonnes when the average person in the UK is 12 Tonnes and the avg US person is 18.9 tonnes.

  12. Adrian Says:

    A lot of trash out there on facebook. I never thought that there are so many photos there

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  15. Es Facebook ecológicamente sostenible? | lidertiinc Says:

    […] 10 Billion Facebook Photos – Is That Ecologically Sustainable? […]

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