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data centers

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Data Centers

see also:  Cloud Computing


Warehouses packed with thousands of servers (powerful computers that crunch and serve up data).  Hooked to the internet with fast fiber-optic cables.


Trend:  bigger and bigger:  size of 6 football fields, with up to 80.000 servers


locations: wherever energy is cheap, available



Who uses Data Centers? 

everyone.  they are essential to nearly every industry, and have become as essential to the functioning of society as power utilities have.   Google, for example, is said to have over 1 million servers as of 2008, and Microsoft is investing billions to catch up (adding over 20,000 servers per month).


How many of them are there?  according to IDC, there are over 7000 data centers in just the USA.  The growth rate is expected to be fast, and by 2020, there could be over  15 million servers working in the US.




More and more, people are using the Internet for storage


Photos, videos, files...people are beginning to actually store their stuff on the internet.  This is largely due to an increase in the broadband, fast access internet, but is also due to the popularity of sites such as YouTube (for videos), Flickr (for photos), and others for data and file storage.   What is the impact of this trend?  Look for more consumer and business solutions as companies look to offer storage solutions.   On the infrastructure side, look for more investment needs to beef up the transfer speeds, and additional storage capacity.   Read more here







Trend:  computing becomes a utility, with services that can be consumed anywhere, by any device


More and more data centers needed:  Why?  increased computing capacity needed (google for example);  new data-retention regulations;  energy costs have climbed;  space has become tighter....so, many companies are looking to economize,and consolidate...to save money, and to simplify the infrastructure.


The location selection of data centers is becoming more centralized.


Virtualisation:  technology that allows software running on individual servers to be moved from one data center to another.   The virtual machines may then move from data center to data center looking for where computing power is the cheapest (or greenest).  Making computing a utility. 




Location selection

see also location, location, location


location selection is about finding cheap and plentiful electricity.   But, such sites are in short supply in the USA.  


There is a boom in construction of data centers globally (in some unexpected areas).  Siberia, Iceland (where its cold, and energy is available).  Note: Canada might be an ideal location for serving data to the USA!   But, remote places might not be good for all applications due to speed requirements.   So, data centers become distributed around the globe, close to users.   New York, and London need data centers nearby.  Online gamers need data centers near them.   Maintenance is an issue, as is security.



More processing moving away from the user and into the ‘Cloud’, along the lines of Nick Carr’s new book The Big Switch, where he argues that computing power becomes a utility. However, Bill says “Moving everything onto the network may appeal in the rich countries of the industrialised world but offers little to rural India or sub-Saharan African countries. And there are massive security and data management issues to be solved.” But the potential benefits are “too great to be ignored.”





Regulation effects the location selection

Local governments give tax breaks (hoping that having a data center will spur other investments).

Also, some regulations




Ability to scale up (fast)

 One key issue to consider when launching a new service...what happens if your service suddenly becomes very popular?  Microsoft solves this problem by having sea-containers pre-loaded with 2000 servers, that can be moved to the location it needs.





Environment issues


data centers are huge energy hogs.  In the USA alone, the data centers are taking 1.5% of all energy consumption (according to the EPA).  According to McKinsey, data centers globally account for more CO2 emissions than entire countries such as Argentina or the Netherlands. 


If todays trends continue, by 2020 there will be a 4x increase in emissions from data centers, reaching 670 tonnes, making it a bigger polluter than even the Airlines industry.



New Technologies (to solve the energy problem)

multi-core processing chips, and more efficient power supplies, and smart cooling systems.  Also, software to allocate computing resources more efficiently.   New metric = performance per watt.  Virtualise.



Calls for regulations:

One fear is that data centers are risking a rise in regulations.  If this happened, then it would benefit vendors...as it would spur sales.


see also Cap and trade systems



"Enabling Effect" considered:

On the other hand, perhaps cloud computing should consider including in its energy consumption data some relavent issues:   Not only does it consume energy, but it also helps us save energy in other places.  One study says that "information & computing technologies" (ICT) helps to reduce emissions in other areas by up to 7.8 billion tons by 2020 (more than 5 x what it uses).   


Using computers helps to plan logistics more efficiently, and to use "smart" electrical grids, and "smart" appliances that use less energy, and "smart buildings" that can turn off lights when nobody is using them.









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