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Smelly Power

By Steve Jones,

Power is a limited resource and it's become an issue in more and more data centers over the years. As we use more computing resources, the effort to provide power becomes a challenge. A decade ago I wrote an inventory system to help us keep track of our thousands of servers. The challenge of locating a particular machine to manage the hardware was a problem for our hardware people, and we built a system to allow them to easily find a particular server, with hardware configuration updated from software queries made by our management software.

Almost as soon as we got the system deployed, we had to modify it to add additional pieces of data related to power and heat. We were approaching the limits of both, and knowing where we had spare power, the consumption of power on each circuit as well as the heat load in different parts of the room allowed our hardware people to better plan for future requirements.

Over the last few years I've seen some creative solutions being used to build new data centers and handle the power and cooling requirements. Google has built data centers near rivers and hydroelectric generators to take advantage of those resources. Old mines and open air cooling solutions have been implemented, and just recently I saw Microsoft had one thing I'd never thought of: a waste-powered data center. That's a new one for computing, though a local brewery in Colorado has been using methane to generate power for a few years.

I like the idea of trying new solutions, and trying to build a sustainable energy source that uses less of our fossil fuels. It makes sense to me, and seems like it's a longer term view of advancing our computing infrastructure in a cost effective way. I applaud Microsoft for trying this; I'm just not sure I'd want to be the DBA working in this particular data center.

Steve Jones


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