The general public has seen artificial intelligence (AI) in movies and videogames where the typical scenario involves crazed robots or homicidal computers running amok. More tech-savvy consumers have Apple’s Siri in their iPhone to help fulfill a request or an adorable Roomba to vacuum a room. Once we push past the fears of a robot uprising, we realize AI can be an incredible tool to ease our workload.
The idea of AI as a functional part of a technologically advanced society isn’t remotely new. Alan Turing, the groundbreaking mathematician considered the father of AI, wrote about it back in the 1950s.
Developments in AI have led to it handling relatively simple tasks like managing a thermostat all the way more interesting applications, like engaging in a conversation with a Phillip K. Dick robot.
Modern uses for AI have been pioneered in many circles such as social media, board and video games, healthcare, Internet research and cat videos. And this recent story details the use of image recognition software to learn board game moves and defeat humans.
Why would any of this be useful for a data center environment? Well, let’s take automation and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) as our starting point. How great would it be if we could replace some of IT’s on-call overtime hours with AI hours? Instead of simply setting temperature or power parameters for automation software, we could have a DCIM program mimic the behavior of the human technicians to make decisions when an issue arises during the wee hours of the morning.
Automation without learning suffers from an inability to react to things outside its programming. This is one of the arguments for sending humans as well as robots to Mars. It’s not much of a leap to understand why human hours are still incredibly important for data center facilities management.
Let’s have an AI with cameras for eyes watch us work, then set it to work as a kind of “second shift” for monitoring and managing our facilities during off hours. If we want to expand into the realm of science fiction, then we can also develop a human chassis for the AI – think Stepford Wives with more coffee stained shirts – but we might be getting ahead of ourselves.]]>
That’s right, the increasingly-inventive Minecraft community has come up with several working computers built with blocks in the game. Stick enough of these puppies in your plastic data center and you might just have enough computing power to run Minecraft within Minecraft.
Silliness aside, inventing new, cheap and interesting ways to build data centers is important, especially with companies ever more budget conscious. If experimenting with games and toys is how to spur innovation, then bring on afternoon playtime.]]>
Taking its lead from Google Finland’s ingenuity, a Google facility in western Georgia is now diverting waste water to its own treatment facility and using that water to cool its data center. Wired Enterprise has a more in-depth look at how it was done.
As we know, using the environment to cool your data center can help save money on costs, but Google says that’s not its main motivation. The benefits also include alleviating some strain on the local waste treatment facilities and ensuring enough drinkable water during times of drought.
Of course, Google isn’t the only company building creatively. Facebook’s Prineville, Ore. facility uses air from the surrounding area to cool its data center. Free cooling is all about creativity and putting good use to your data center’s natural surroundings. But this story about Google and wastewater brings up another good point: creatively cooled data centers might not just save money; they might actually help the environment!
How can you adapt free cooling in your data center? Location is important, but as this latest innovation proves, it’s not everything. It’s definitely something to ponder as energy costs rise and regulations get tighter.]]>
Sure, raised floors have been around for a long time – an elevated platform creates an enclosed plenum, providing important space for electrical and IT infrastructure, along with mechanical support for resources like chilled water and CRAC ductwork that cools the systems sitting on the actual floor panels.
However, raised floors are far from perfect. The plenum space is filthy, and working within tight, confined spaces can be a serious challenge for the claustrophobic among us. Any structural problems like loose or poorly installed tiles can collapse and damage equipment and cause injury to personnel. But those nuisances pale when compared to cooling limitations.
“As IT execs cram denser, more power servers into a 42U space, it becomes increasingly difficult to cool systems with under-floor forced air, even with hot-aisle/cold-aisle design best practices,” said Matt Stansberry, director of content and publications at Uptime Institute. Stansberry explains that CRAC vendors have turned to more energy-efficient cooling such as in-row and in-rack techniques. Moving the cooling closer to the heat source is more effective than trying to cool the entire room and everything in it. Ultimately, the value of raised flooring is increasingly in question.
Seriously, Stansberry certainly isn’t alone. According to TechTarget’s 2010 Data Center Decisions survey, 59% of IT respondents use raised flooring in their current data center, but only 43% expect to use raised floors in a future data center. Slabbed floors are also falling into disuse, with 33% of respondents using slabbed floors in the current data center, but only 19% planning slabbed floors for a future data center. In fact 38% of IT professionals don’t know what kind of flooring they will use in the future.
“The best way for an owner/operator to make a decision is to bring the IT department into the design process to explain hardware deployment plans and roadmaps,” Stansberry said, but what is your opinion of raised floors and data center architectures overall? How do you select the flooring approach that works best for you? What are the tradeoffs and limitations that matter for you? S-]]>