A few years ago Microsoft decided to sink a data centre and see how well it performs. The short answer is: well, the underwater server farm did just fine. This is significant because it proves that underwater data centres are feasible and, to Microsoft’s surprise can be more reliable.
Data centres take a lot of energy to keep cool so by putting it in the water the cooling system uses the chilly waters surrounding it. The carbon footprint of these underwater systems is potentially smaller too since instead of running massive air conditioners (which consume a lot of energy) they are using their local environment.
Their first conclusion is that the cylinder packed with servers had a lower failure rate than a conventional data centre.
When the container was hauled off the seabed around half a mile offshore after being placed there in May 2018, just eight out of the 855 servers on board had failed.
That compares very well with a conventional data centre.
“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” says Ben Cutler, who has led what Microsoft calls Project Natick.
Parkinson’s negatively impacts millions of people around the world by making their muscles harder to control. Basically, in people with Parkinson’s the brain fires extra signals which can cause involuntary muscle movements like shaking. Think of it as your brain stuck in a feedback loop of excitement which it can’t escape – no matter how hard you try. This is where the Emma Watch comes in. The Emma Watch tries to confuse that feedback loop allowing wearers with Parkinson’s to have full control over their hands, and the early prototype works even though nobody fully understands why it works. Research like this will help people with Parkinson’s live a much better life.
The pattern of the vibration is also important. For Lawton, a rhythmic vibration is effective. (A specially designed app in Emma’s Windows 10 tablet controls vibration speed.) For other people, a more random rhythm may work better, Zhang says. However it works, she knows she’s onto something. Lawton does, too.
“It’s a huge opportunity to potentially change some lives,” Lawton says.
As part of her work, Zhang researched the root cause of tremors. She spent six months, off and on, building prototypes. She sometimes worked in her London home, soldering wires to PC boards and tinkering with coin cell motors to create vibrations. She tested early versions with four other people with Parkinson’s, producing promising results for three, spurring the idea forward, she says.
As the internet continues its growth it consumes more and more electricity because larger server and data centres are required. Microsoft has come up with a brilliant idea to allow ‘the backbone’ of the internet to continue to grow while helping heat houses and providing a faster internet.
Microsoft has released a research paper that suggests that small data centers be put in people’s home and heat those homes using excess heat from the servers.
The research paper comes at a time where internet properties like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are building huge data centers housing thousands of servers that simply pump their hot exhaust into the frigid air of Oregon, or other chilly states. There have been a few prototype data centers that use their waste heat to warm the houses in local towns, but Microsoft’s Data Furnaces take this idea to the next step: instead of building mega data centers that are efficient in terms of scale, Data Furnaces are micro data centers that are housed in the basements of regular homes and offices. These Data Furnaces, which would consist of 40 to 400 CPUs (between 1 and 10 racks), would be ducted directly into the building’s heating system, providing free heat and hot water.
The genius of this idea is that Data Furnaces would be provided by companies that already maintain big cloud presences. In exchange for providing power to the rack, home and office owners will get free heat and hot water — and as an added bonus, these cloud service providers would get a fleet of mini urban data centers that can provide ultra-low-latency services to nearby web surfers. Of course the electricity cost would be substantial — especially in residential areas — but even so, the research paper estimates that, all things considered, between $280 and $324 can be saved per year, out of the $400 it costs to keep a server powered and connected in a standard data center. From the inverse point of view, heating accounts for 6% of the total US energy consumption — and by piggybacking on just half of that energy, the IT industry could double in size without increasing its power footprint.
The main problem with Data Furnaces, of course, is physical security. Data centers are generally secure installations with very restricted access — which is fair enough, when you consider the volume and sensitivity of the data stored by companies like Facebook and Google. The Microsoft Research paper points out that sensor networks can warn administrators if physical security is breached, and whole-scale encryption of the data on the servers would ameliorate many other issues. The other issue is server management — home owners won’t want bearded techies knocking on their door every time a server needs a reboot — but for the most part, almost everything can now be managed remotely.
Ford is looking to save up to $1.2 million dollars by shutting down their computers over night and over weekends. When a company the size of Ford commits to such a simple action the overall effect can be huge.
The new program, called PC Power Management, utilizes energy saving settings provided by Microsoft Windows. The energy settings will be used on company laptops and desktops to reduce energy waste. A managed shutdown will occur each night and during the weekend period. Additionally, computers will be awake to receive updates during pre-selected non-business hours, freeing up time previously used for updates throughout the working day.
According to Ford, an estimated 60 percent of the company’s computer remained on after business hours resulting in wasted energy. The new managed shutdown will eliminate waste to the tune of over a million dollars in savings for the company and reduce its carbon footprint by an estimated 16,000-25,000 metric tons per year. Hit the jump for the full details on the program.
To make computing even easier, a blogger has put up a list of software that is commonly pirated with a list of free and open alternatives. For example, no need to buy Microsoft Office when you can use Open Office.