The next big thing for data centers: DC power

Although we live in an AC-dominated world, DC seems poised for a comeback, particularly in data centers. Facebook adopted a DC architecture in its Prineville, Ore., data center. SAP spent $128,000 retrofitting a datacenter at its offices in Palo Alto, Calif., to rely on DC power.

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Patrick Thibodeau at Computerworld is amongst those reporting David Filas’ experiment to demonstrate the resilience of data center equipment. Data center managers go to great lengths to control temperature, humidity, and other conditions inside their data centers, often devoting a significant proportion of their operational costs to keeping air conditioning blasting out cold air. There are plenty of recent cases in which data center designers have turned the heat up a bit (without significant detrimental effects) or used ambient cooling by piping in air from outside. But Filas has gone further, running his experimental kit in a shed and exposing it to dramatic variations in temperature and humidity. The equipment kept running. The industry is already challenging long-held assumptions around power usage, but Filas’ work perhaps suggests that there is still further to go.

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Intel has reported record quarterly revenues of $13.1 billion, slightly higher than analyst expectations. Customers continue to spend on data center equipment, with revenues for Intel’s data center group up 15%. However, despite a lot of market interest in low power Atom chips, revenue in that area was down 15% on last year. Rik Myslewski at The Register blames “the netbook-cannibalization effect of Apple’s iPads” for the fall. Quoted in the New York Times, Evercore Partners’ Patrick Wang suggested that “I fully believe that it is the data center — the cloud — that is driving Intel.” Apple, Google, Intel and others have all exceeded market expectations in the past few weeks, but it may still be too soon for complacency. Strong numbers mask the reality of large companies working hard to adjust to new customer requirements whilst building processes that will see recent growth sustained.