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back to article Cambridge brain touts wind-n-server combo farms

The head of Cambridge University's Computer Lab has advocated a restructuring of today's computer architecture, in which processing power would move away from desktop systems and scattered data centres and be centralised close to mighty wind farms. Professor Andy Hopper's green thin-client plans were reported in today's Guardian …

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Why don't we

Why don't we put thin clients in giant dirigibles that float from wind farm to wind farm? That way, we could be reasonably sure they'd always be near a wind farm that's actually got some wind blowing to generate the power for the servers.

Connectivity? Oh that's not my problem mate. I'm a Guardian reader.

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sun not wind

shuley the sun is more relible then the wind host these mithicly server farms in the desart

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Bronze badge

Nothing new

So what's new about putting huge data centres next to supplies of cheap energy (or other energy-intensive industries like aluminium smelting). Aren't Google, Microsoft and others placing data centres next to hydro systems? Aren't their companies looking at geo-thermal sites for large data centres? The problem with relying on wind power is it is so unreliable - any giant data centre is going to require its own giant generator for windless days; that's unless it relies on power over the grid and that means transmission losses to/from remote locations which I think is where we came in.

As for reduced processor requirements at the desktop, think again. Anybody using Flickr with a few thousand photos and a couple of hundred sets and collections will find their CPU flat-out at times when organising photos. Then there's all that high-resolution video stream processing.

That's without considering all activities, like gaming, video processing, image processing and other graphically intensive processes which benefit from lots of local processing, local media distribution. On top of that, all the increased network bandwidth comes at a cost with all that extra network kit required.

The answer to the local processing side is smart technology which adapts its power usage to the processing demand - there is already a lot of progress in this field.

So by all means put the server farms next to the generator capacity, but as a means of reducing local power requirements - I think not.

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Duh!

This person gets the monthly award for stating the bleeding obvious.

However, there are many reasons why people continue to build data centres in the most expensive real estate areas (central London, New York City). Sometimes the cost of power is immaterial to the other reasons why customers put gear in the middle of high utility cost areas.

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Anonymous Coward

@michael - sun not wind

I'm sure there's a good reason why the blades of the turbines can't be solar panels, but seems like a good idea to someone who has spent no time looking into the plausibility

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Stop

@ Sun not Wind

How about sun AND wind? Solar panels I would imagine are far cheaper than wind farms are? And either way, heck, you can flood your roof(s) in them without needing to have a lot of land, building permission, a lot of wind or even a specialist engineering firm?

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Of course, the dear professor *ASSUMES* that all the data...

...will be kept safely and securely !! However, considering this government's track-record, this assumption is, itself, not safe !!

I would much rather have my LAN disconnected from the outside world every night after work than to allow "free" access to my lovely data !!

Furthermore, most windfarms will be out at sea. The costs of setting up storm-proof data centres at sea will be definitely *NOT* green !! The alternative is periodic blackouts when the data centres are shorted out by the latest storm !! Also, the salt corrosion of the computing hardware will be far higher than normal !!

These professors should leave their ivory towers once in a while !!

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@michael

Yes, 'cos that's *really* going to help your 24x7 availability, isn't it?

At least the wind blows at night.

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Paris Hilton

Uhuh

So, whats the Carbon footprint of making the gigantic many day UPS that would be needed for calm days?

How well would this work for a game of TF2?

I agree a desktop with a quad core 3GHz is wasted on an office desktop, but surely to have remote processing you still need the desktop on?

How ironic that years after we threw it out we are once again looking at going back to the model of completely dumb terminals with a central mainframe. Seems to me this is just a way to sell 10Gbit switches and cable jobs to handle streaming screens real-time.

Paris cos I'm guessing she chaired the committee that came up with this.

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Boffin

Full circle

"I think there is a world market for about five computers."

Attributed to various IBM bosses through the 20th century (all probably misquotes)

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Alternatively ...

... just put a windy fan turbine in your back garden. I'd love to run my home server from the copious amounts of wind I get harrowing across my little garden. How hard can it be?

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Coat

@Jared Earle

Even better, you could locate the data centre in the houses of parliament. So mich wind in there you could run every computer in the country on it and still have enough left over to power their nice, free home cinema equipment!

Taxi!

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Coat

Hmm.

Maybe we could use the waste heat from the servers to continuously inflate giant hot air balloons, which could then carry wind turbines to higher altitudes where the wind is more plentiful. They could also be used to carry massive advertising.

Mine's the one floating up near the ceiling.

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Flame

Shocker - Cambridge Cyber fogey has eccentric idea

The mans a plank and obviousely has no real world experience.

Those that can,do;, those that can't,teach

.

It's as stupid as saying well it'd be best to fill up your cars fuel at the refinarey because tankering it around the country just dosn't make environmental sense!

Still, lots of big mirrors in various deserts please....

ps the sun can shine at night - assuming that you've superheated enough of something to keep the turnies going....

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I have seen the future

Having been around a bit in time and space, I can tell you that there will be around five computers in the world in fifty years time that do 99 percent of the processing.

Massive processing power at the terminal device was a short blip in computer history. The only reason it was ever needed is for the very short time that we had microprocessors without a global, high speed, data communications network.

Ever since we started getting the network people have started to centralise resources again. From early (and abortive) attempts to run Access sales databases or ACT! from a shared network drive to SaaS offerings such as salesforce.com, centralising is the name of the game.

As the speed and reliability of the global fixed and mobile data networks improve, we will see an ever increasing predilection for central processing power.

Yours,

The Doctor

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Stop

RE:I have seen the future

"As the speed and reliability of the global fixed and mobile data networks improve, we will see an ever increasing predilection for central processing power."

I think we have Daleks masquerading as the good Doctor here. Aside from the vulnerability central processing would introduce, You have to look at the probable behaviour of a few massive companies controlling that power.

They would end up controlling virtually all software development - "Sorry kiddies. Not interested in that program as it would compete with something we already offer."

Or they would rent space to software developers hoping to cash in - sort of a Home Shopping Network for software services.

And they would probably end up selling 'service bundles' like the cable companies sell television programming - "You need something other than the basic text editor contained in our 'Basic' package? Well we have part of an office suite in this other package you have to pay for! If you want all of it you will have to sign up for this third package."

They can have my processing capabilities when they pry it from my cold dead hands.

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What a fantastic idea.........................

........now we can have laaaaaaaaaag in single player games too :)

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Flame

Or....

Alternatively, put the nuclear reactors in the middle of the towns close to the network hubs and existing server farms. After all, they are perfectly safe aren't they...

Flame, because I couldn't find a mushroom cloud.

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Joke

re. Why don't we

"Why don't we put thin clients in giant dirigibles that float from wind farm to wind farm?"

Support call of the future:

"My thin-clint has just crashed...

...into a wind farm"

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@Shocker - Cambridge Cyber fogey has eccentric idea

Or:

Those who can think, suggest. Those who can't, criticise.

:D

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@Robert

Any fool can make a suggestion. They don't even have to be sane or sober.

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Happy

Those who can't

Those who can, do

Those who can't, teach,

Those who can't do or teach become consultants.

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Happy

The Québec Solution

We have cheap, clean hydroelectricity coming out of our ears here in Québec; that's why we have so many aluminum smelters here. Why not drop a massive data centre out in James Bay? It could service all of North America *and* Europe, and save colossal amounts of carbon emissions.

This is a uniquely northern advantage; tropical hydro dams actually have methane emissions that make them about as bad as coal-fired plants but it's clean as a whistle in cold climates.

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Anonymous Coward

A little carried away

Prof Hopper went so far in the Additional Topics lectures he deliveredthis year to say that he believed computing could provide solutions to the world's greatest problems, including climate change.

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Coat

Completely changes my image of...

blade servers.

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greenies

wind farms, this guy sounds like a right pussy! someone slap the tard.

Clearly what we need to mini nuclear power stations in our servers.. thats the way forward

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Unhappy

Unconvinced

I'm unconvinced this is actually more environmentally friendly.

Waste heat in a server-farm usually needs more energy use in terms of air-conditioning to get rid off. Waste heat in people's homes make a small contribution to their central heating and so arguably is not waste heat ((in winter at least).

Power is transported at very high voltages to reduce transmission losses (which are most dependent on current flow). Is it really more power efficient to move many more low-voltage bits around, including all the processing and electricity usage of all the routers and switches en route?

Trog

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@Simon Neill

Waddaya mean "threw out" ??? I still have my VT100 AND my VT220 and my (then latest) VT420 terminals !! Lack of attic space and threats of a divorce made me dispose of my teletypewriter; it did occupy a tenth of the attic space !!

@Steven Knox - blade servers - people who hand out sharp instruments prior to a little local nastiness !!

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@Trog

You're right. I have been banging on about how devices wasting energy in the home are actually neutral if you also have your heating on. Obviously if you have your aircon on then they are wasting energy as the aircon works harder.

Non-techies don't know the difference between a Megabyte and a Gigabyte so would not recognize that the latter takes a lot more energy to process. Thankfully hardware is staying at about the same performance but becoming more energy efficient. We should also see some improvements in software energy requirements as that gets speeded up. It amazes me how quickly a Vista laptop drains it's battery, so that will have to be fixed too.

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Joke

ok, I've got it...

Solar cells on the wind turbine blades, with servers built into each blade, so each "windmill" would become a server cluster, and they could each have a little Plutonium backup power built into each server.

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Joke

Collocate chicken farms....

pig farms and server farms. The server farm can run on chicken and pig shonet and all the tech's can eat bacon and egg sandwiches!

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Anonymous Coward

Alternatively,

Just put the server farms next door to the new nuclear power stations that the government's going to approve. That way you get cheap, (relatively) reliable power, with similar lifetime carbon emissions to wind, and you don't have to float your servers out to sea, or put them on the top of a hill in the middle of Scotland.

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Alien

one of certainity in life...

is that every manifestation of it will produce metabolic or digestive post processing emissions. In the animal reign, it is normally referred to as shit.

Shit happens...

Happens to be eventually biofuel. Grid all existing drains of a big town into a central thermal-valorizer from where to obtain natural gas for fuelling powerplants.

Then place server farms near there or where u think it is smarter.

The point is (after 10 years in IT) that all that I've done exists as long as there's

electricity applied. Otherwise my valuable creation is worth less than digestive

post-processed animal emissions.

As long as we will be able to eat, there will be some sort of sustainable resources.

Can u imagine the tons of resources we are literally flushing everyday in such places like London, Rome, Tokyo or NY??

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