Wednesday, 30 January 2008

How to keep those servers cool!

There’s an interesting article in the latest edition of Government Computing magazine (unfortunately there is no e-version of the article to link to). The article in question is entitled ‘Greening the data centre’ and refers to the problems that organisations are encountering in terms of rising energy costs resulting from the ‘hot and hungry’ new blade servers that organisations are cramming into their data centres. According to the piece it is predicted that between 2000 and 2010 we will have "installed six times the amount of servers in our data centres and 69 times the amount of storage".

The problem is apparently that our data centre buildings are not designed to cope with the power required and heat generated by such machines, plus of course energy-consumption is now a political and ethical hot potato.

Now the interesting thing is the range of possible solutions outlined in the article. These vary from ‘better power management in data centres’, through to ‘taking your servers… and virtualising them’ or simply replacing old technology with new.

Nowhere does the rather obvious suggestion of ‘keeping less information’ get a look in. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the content of these steaming servers is actually still useful and still required? Of course the volume of information organisations create and need to retain is always increasing – but I bet there is still a huge percentage that could safely be destroyed if only anyone knew what it was, and whether it was still actually required…

But given that the main contributor to the piece is a Vice President at IBM perhaps its not that that surprising that the suggestion is to buy more kit, rather than to make better use of what exists already…


Anonymous said...

Hello Steve
How does your "obvious suggestion of ‘keeping less information’" tally with your "unashamedly heretical" notion of keeping all email? The former seems rather old-fashioned for a futurewatch.

Steve Bailey said...


I’ve been giving this whole area of infinite storage vs. appraisal and destruction quite a lot of thought recently for a chapter in my forthcoming book. In the smallest of nutshells the conclusion I have come to is that (for a variety of reasons explained in the book) there will never be truly infinite storage capacity. To give just one example of why taken from Chapter 9:

In fact, perhaps our historical and current attitudes towards energy consumption provide the most telling parallel to how popular opinion may develop regarding information storage. We are now living through the storage boom times: it’s cheap, ubiquitous and seemingly inexhaustible. As such it can be used, abused and wasted with not a second thought, just as oil was throughout much of the 20th century. But just as we are increasingly waking up to the fact that such a profligate attitude to the consumption of energy is not sustainable and is increasingly becoming viewed as selfish and even immoral, so we may soon see a similar change of opinion regarding information storage. Yes it may be possible for us to store and retain vast amounts of meaningless and ephemeral information, but just because we can does not necessarily mean that we should..

However, what I also go on to say is that though perhaps never infinite, the kind of storage capacity that we are looking at now and will be in the future is several orders of magnitude above that which records management was designed to cope with and that the days of selection and appraisal as we currently know it are over and that we need to find radical new ways of addressing this.

Elle said...

Keep up the good work.