Shocking exposé
November 18, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Cloud services that power email and other technologies we use each day are themselves massive energy consumers. Gigaom reporters have written a pair of in-depth articles about efforts by Amazon and Apple to build infrastructure and source their own energy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking of cloud computing: $35 one time fee for a virtual server, with a public IP address.
disclaimer: I have no idea if they are any good or not, but a coworker picked one up and showed me the site. but hey it's only $35
posted by yeoz at 12:44 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm going to send this over to my friend who works at Amazon AWS, see what they say. They are under some ridiculous NDA's, it will be fun to see how they parse their words, LOL.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:56 PM on November 18, 2013

As much as I'm nervous about how much impact cloud based services will have on the IT market I suspect that in many cases the economies of scale that can be achieved by having one of these massive data centers running at peak capacity despite the massive heat generation and energy costs is still probably better environmentally than having a company operate an old school inefficient data center at less than peak capacity.

After all these guys have every incentive to minimize their waste heat and energy costs and can quickly adopt new changes in infrastructure on a large scale whereas a smaller company is more liable to keep less efficient technology operating for a much longer period of time simply because the cost and skill to move it to a virtual environment that's more efficient is simply lacking and the time line on recovering that investment is too long.
posted by vuron at 1:06 PM on November 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

Why anyone is surprised by this is beyond me. A datacenter is a datacenter is a datacenter. The reason we use hypervisors is the maximize utilization of racked hardware, whether that be CPU, RAM, or disk. Cloud is just glorified utility computing... just like in the Mainframe era... speaking of which... have any of you cats checked out System Z lately? POWER 8 should be able to execute 64 threads simultaneously...


Most of this is hosted on power efficient x86_64. Transitioning to ARM will improve efficiency in the instructions executed per watt. After that... I see few directions to go.

There are physical servers in racks. Some connected to storage arrays. There is all the network hardware involved for traffic management.

Cooling a datacenter isn't exactly cheap either.

At the end of the day, ALL of this runs on Metal.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:06 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

PROD_TPSL: The OSI stack from L2 up is in the process of being virtualized, that's a huge game changer if you ask me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2013

Also, Facebook.
posted by chavenet at 1:32 PM on November 18, 2013

That it is, Annika. OpenStack and other efforts will help.

Regardless, utilization will be maximized.

Therein lies the crux.

Consolidation will allow for greater efficiencies which will be then utilized at maximum potential.

You still have to get your cycles from somewhere. Porting code takes time but we are targeting ARM more and more... which should be 64-bit clean soon.

Then we have to effectively re-cycle the old hardware into new generations of efficient computational resources... which we have proven in the past to be not quite so adept at.

Again. There is metal. There is always metal. That won't go away.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:34 PM on November 18, 2013

1. All DC racks, with DC battery arrays at the botton.
2. Cooling arrays with ice production and storage.
3. Solar on the roof.
4. Demand-responsive communication with local utility.

Result: ice is made and stored when the sun is up.
Batteries allowed to charge up to the max at the same time.
Both are also run to the max when the utility says to.
And both are allowed to be used to reduce power draw at all other times.

Result: a green cloud.
posted by ocschwar at 2:18 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would happily allow a large corporation to pay me to put a server in my basement to heat my home.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:38 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's not all they'd have to do though, blue_beetle. Would you also be willing to let them lay fiber all the way to your house to provide it with a ridiculously fast internet connection?
posted by contraption at 2:52 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would you also be willing to let them lay fiber all the way to your house to provide it with a ridiculously fast internet connection?

*raises hand*

posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:20 PM on November 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lets dooo it!

Sorry, my first thought was John Belushi-esq.
posted by sfts2 at 4:27 PM on November 18, 2013

I would happily allow a large corporation to pay me to put a server in my basement to heat my home.

Funny anecdote, but i actually lived in a place where this was sort of going on. For some goofy reason they couldn't get a fast dedicated line out to where a startups office was. My friends dad(who owned the house, and worked at that company) made some kind of deal with them that they would get service connected to his house and pay most of the power bill in exchange for having a full rack in the basement for a while.

Many nights i was lulled to sleep on a couch in the room next to the "server closet". The basement was *always* freezing as fuck, but it brought the temperature up from the low 50s to the high 60s/low 70s.

The genius part was that the side panel for the furnace blower had been pulled off, so the server exhaust blew right into it. The heat would kick on and blow all that hot air into the rest of the house and draw cooler air back down into that room.

I have no idea how much of a difference it actually made, but it always seemed pretty smart to me. And it kept my feet from going completely numb when i was in the basement.

There was also plenty of time spent late at night downloading stuff at ungodly speeds off of suprnova and such, but that's a different story.
posted by emptythought at 5:51 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think below sand and metal there is always electrolytic conversion. While being reductive is a panache thing to do, let's talk about replacing TCP/IP with an L3 capable ISL replacement (fuck dot1q) and ponder what that really means. Let's talk about abandoning vlan's, hell mac addresses, let's talk about moving past ethernet and CSMA/CA. Let's look Virtualization of TRILL and never having to deal with spanning tree again.

The network is broken, virtualization and encapsulation gives engineers and developers the freedom to develop around problems that have always resided in the realm of those who could afford to produce their own silicon ASIC's. To say "it's all metal" is ridiculous, because in five years I'll be able to do all the advanced everything I need from a bank of mac-mini equivalents, but it'll be cheaper instead to write my own encapsulated network/security stack in the cloud and open a ticket for you to run power and fiber cables in my colo at Rackspace.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:31 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

CSMA/CD. damn. geting my protocols mixed up...
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:51 PM on November 18, 2013

A single virtual private server instance in an efficient modern host consumes less energy than its standalone counterpart. We've reduced the number of boxes in our core server room by about 2/3rds over the past 10 years. Power consumption improvements in Intel processors like die size and speed governors have only come online in the last decade. The same could be said in the move from colocated server to cloud. There may be more services online today, but if we were using the same equipment as we did years ago, it would be consuming multiples more in power.
posted by pashdown at 8:05 AM on November 30, 2013

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