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October 2006
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December 2006

Energy consumption

The key constraint in data centers now is not rack space but power supply. Manufacturers have increased server density over the past few years by producing physically smaller servers. The smallest, a Blade server, stands upright in a chassis containing up to 8 Blades. But it is all for nothing. Smaller servers still use a lot of power and produce a lot of heat, so there is a limit to how many you can fit in one place, regardless of the rack density. You may well see a rack containing only one blade chassis. At that point the effort to reduce server size is redundant. It may as well be a full size server with more space and more airflow.

As the processing power of servers has increased, so has the energy consumption. It is close to a linear relationship. We are familiar with the heat and battery life problem from laptops. But the more fundamental problem is that computers are using more power, and power is becoming the constraining factor in computing capcity. It is a constraint because of cost, cooling capacity and standby generation capacity.

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Software as Appliance

Some products, like firewalls, have been sold as appliances for a long time. It made sense to sell one product combining hardware and software as the firewall needs a specially secure configuration of the operating system. However more and more software products are now being sold as appliances. Here are a few recent ones:

The benefit to you is that you don't need IT staff to set them up. You don't need to configure hardware, install system software, and then install the application. The benefit to the vendor is that it is far easier to support. They don't have to test and support lots of different configurations of the system software or hardware. Licensing is easy to control. They can configure the database, the website and any other secondary software.

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