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Communications of the ACM

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Technical Perspective: Jupiter Rising


Despite all of us regularly reading of the growth of the Internet, whether it be capacity, number of users, or breadth of applications, beyond the proliferation, and ever-shortening upgrade cycle of our mobile phones, we rarely observe a physical manifestation of such growth. Yet, it is within warehouse-sized computer facilities, the datacenters that attract the superlative hyper, that the Internet growth is physically manifest. Not only must these facilities face operational challenges arising from a large and dynamic number of users, but the continuous growth in demand upon these facilities must also be accommodated. Such growth for the hyper-scale datacenter translates to a modest-sized facility covering 15 acres, housing over 200,000 servers, consuming mega-gallons of water and perhaps hundreds of megawatts of electricity too.

The nature and role of the datacenter has also grown; once familiar only as an organization's facility or the ever-popular co-location and hosting facility where organizations might securely site their equipment. The warehouse or hyper-scale datacenter of the type discussed in the following paper, is a wholly recent beast, with ownership and control reminiscent of a single-task supercomputer. Yet, this is only a first-glance similarity; the warehouse computer approaches superlative-rich scales of computers, bandwidth needs, memory, and storage, and is used for far more than the single application of providing a popular set of Web pages.


 

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