Monday, May 18, 2009

Green web servers with netbook components

According to media reports Dell will use the same type of low-power processors used in netbooks for its XS11-VX8 server. This is intended for Web hosting applications which do not need CPU intensive computations. It may spark a new market in low power, low cost servers both in small business and for large capacity green data centres.

The Dell XS11-VX8 server will use Via's U2250 1.3GHz "Nano" process
or. The 2U rack mount case will hold up to 12 server boards. Each board has one Nano processor, up to 3GB of RAM, a 2.5 inch disk (or flash RAM equivalent), a SD card slot for boot software and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The conventional thinking on servers has been high density specialisation: pack as much processing capacity as possible onto a processing server and disk capacity into a data server and then try to load share it efficiently. Dell's approach is similar to that used for Google's servers, where each disk gets its own processing.

This approach opens up the server market to companies which make PC motherboards. There is the possibility for further simplification and cost reduction in design. The Dell design still looks over engineered compared to Google's servers. Dell use metal brackets and a front panel on its server modules. Google use Velcro to hold some components on its server and flying leads.

This approach could be applied to server modules, which could consist of bare circuit boards, with the connectors soldered on (no metal cabinet). The disk drives could be held on with Velcro. The modules could be held in a Eurocard type of rack, but with no back plane connectors, just plug in cables on the boards.

Server densities have got a little silly with ultra high density servers requiring so much power and cooling that most data centers cannot accommodate them. Also the amount of air which has to be pumped through the servers increases the power consumption and makes them dangerous to stand near due to the noise.

Instead low cost web servers could be designed to have generous spacing between the components. This would allow cooling with few fans. These low power servers could be placed in racks between the high power servers, in the slots which current have to be left blank, to avoid overloading the cooling and power systems.

For very small scale applications one server board could be held in a snap together plastic clamshell case.

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