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Saturday, October 22, 2005

The IT World & Alarming Power Requirements

(Via Rajesh) Bob Cringley points that combining themes of several recent columns, we can see that a lot of money is being bet on a future user computing experience based on web services.Ubiquitous broadband along with hefty processing capability in your desktop, notebook, and coat pocket will bring entertainment, information, and even classic office services to us wherever we are, finally making real Sun's old motto that the network is the computer.The problem comes when you start to think about power consumption. It's not that disk drives consume so much power or that they haven't come down in consumption over the years, but each of those cabinets will require using modern drives about 3,300 watts to run while the full 100 petabytes will require 2.148 Megawatts. And all that heat has to go somewhere, so the building will typically use three to four times as much power for air conditioning as it does to run the drives, taking our total power consumption up to just under 10 megawatts, which at typical U.S. industrial power rates will cost about $5 million per year. Phil Windley points out that lately, power and cooling have turned out to be the big drivers in data center design. He adds, Over the last seven years, the average power consumption in data centers has increased 7-fold, from 20W/sq. foot to over 140W/sq. foot due to huge leaps in the density of servers. About 44% of the power in a typical server is used by things other than CPUs, memory, disks, and other compute components. Where does it go? The AC to DC transition in the power supply turns some of it to heat. A little ironically, fans and other air handling components eat their share. And, in some designs there's even a DC to DC transitions (HP, for example, distributes 48V through the chassis and then drops it to 5V at the blade) that loses more the inefficiency. Google recently talkedabout increasing power requirements. Urs Hoelzle has talked about it on several occassions. Google once blamed power related problems as responsible for blogger’s poor performance. I agree that the future brings with it a number of expenses and vulnerabilities. For users, there's the dilemma of trusting our data to external users. For service providers, there's the alternate dilemma of having to hold that data, because the cost of keeping that data online all the time will be huge. It's an energy crisis in the making.

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