TECH TALK: Disruptive Technologies: The Tech Utility – Blade Servers
Servers have become the heart of the Internet, and Data Centres, which house these servers, have become the new “power centres”. The wheel has turned a full circle: the Internet has brought back centralised computing. Computers and people are all connected in the viral economy. Writes Steve MacLaughlin:
Companies are more interconnected than ever before. They react faster than ever before. They possess more access to information than ever before. They communicate with suppliers and customers faster than ever before. The downside of these advances? When companies get sick it spreads that much faster to everyone they touch. Welcome to the viral economy.
Making this connectivity possible are the server arrays. Server technology has been moving incrementally in the past few years. Now, a radical new design called “blade servers” is hoping to make a big improvement in being able to pack computing power more densely to optimise space utilisation and power consumption, and also increase manageability and scalability.
Steve Milunovich of Merrill Lynch says that the bottleneck on the Internet today is due to slow servers (a US-centric viewpoint). He provides a perspective on the need for a new Internet plumbing architecture.
We believe the Internet build-out will drive technology for the next 5-10 years. The focus has been on network infrastructure, but we believe effective systems must be balanced end-to-end. The network has been getting most of the investment; we think servers will be next. In fact, with millions of users performing billions of discrete transactions that require parallel databases, a new data center architecture is needed.
The dominant computing model is shifting to network-centric computing. This wave is about building out the Internet plumbing. Sun says that today’s Internet connects 100 million people, but tomorrow’s could connect as many as 1 trillion people and devices. That much activity at the edge requires a substantial infrastructure investment in the center. Our conclusion is that the data center must turn into a web center.
We think the web center will be where next-generation corporate and consumer applications run. The complex mesh of VPN-secured, massively parallel, Internet-enabled, n-tiered software requires operationally friendly processing centers. New hardware and software architectures will be likely needed for these web centers to be maintainable.
Because broadband utilization is less than 5%, the long haul will not be a problem. The bottleneck could become servers and storage thanks to new applications such as video attachments and Voice over IP. Once broadband gets rolled out and the Global 00 webify, increased investment in servers should follow. Microsoft senior researcher and Turing Award winner Jim Gray says that even today the World Wide Wait is caused by slow servers, not network congestion.
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