Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Innovation tip - Space computing

Put more stuff in the cloud, you need more storage, means huge data centers that consume humongous energy. That’s what builders of monstrous data centers like Microsoft and Google have recently found out. A recent EPA report to Congress estimated that U.S. servers and data centers used about 61 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006, or 1.5 percent of the total electricity used in the country that year.

Before Congressmen get ideas and bill them for global warming, Microsoft Research gets into the act. Since cooling system accounts for about half the energy used in data centers, any attempt to conserve energy will have to tweak the cooling function. Shut down servers? Yes. But the question is which of the 5000 whirring? Energy economics should not mean functional disablement.

Traditionally, load-balancing algorithms are used to keep traffic evenly distributed over a set of servers. The Microsoft system uses load forecasting and load skewing algorithms to distribute the load and frees up servers during off-peak times so that those servers can be put into sleep mode. These are currently designed for connection servers used for services active over long sessions, such as IM services or massively multiplayer online games. They’ve also designed a sensor that monitors the servers to make sure they're not being overcooled and watches for hot spots as well, where cooling is low. This info is passed on to load skewing algorithms that processes the rest.

Sounds great. But I would like the data centers to be stationed in space and data streamed back and forth. Use solar power. The Sun ain’t gonna’ bill us. That’s also when they can really claim rights for cloud computing. Or space computing for that matter !

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