Today in Cloud

A new report by Jonathan Koomey argues that data centers are using a lot less power than we thought. 1.1%-1.5% of global electricity use (1.7%-2.2% in the U.S.) is still an awful lot, but Koomey’s research suggests that global electricity consumption in data centers “only” increased by 56% in the five years to 2010, instead of doubling as predicted. As John Markoff notes in today’s New York Times, the recession’s downward pressure on demand combines with innovations in power management to explain the lower than predicted figure. GigaOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher has more, and links to a recent GigaOM post from Koomey which sparked some useful comments. Elsewhere, Dean Takahashi reports on a new research project involving AMD, HP, Clarkson University and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Project partners intend to explore the feasibility of powering containerised data center pods using wind or solar power. If successful, this work overcomes one serious hurdle to deploying data center pods off-grid. Now someone else just needs related projects to cool the box, and give it sufficient bandwidth.

Today in Cloud

A paper co-authored by researchers from Facebook and multicore chip specialist Tilera reports that servers comprising large numbers of low-power processor cores deliver clear performance and power advantages in certain circumstances. Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat focuses on the processors being “four times more energy efficient,” whilst Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge reports that they “boost memecached efficiency” over alternatives with fewer cores. Stacey Higginbotham sees the work as validation of the claims being made by companies such as Tilera, with their alternative chip designs. She also points to the need for more generic benchmarks with which to compare the performance of different architectures, especially as the hardware configuration for a single massive database may need to be radically different from that used in supporting other usage requirements.

Today in Cloud

Low-power computing specialist SeaMicro has shipped a new server featuring 768 cores, a significant increase on the 512 cores of the previous product released just a few months ago. GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham notes that the performance boost is accompanied by 25% reduction in power consumption. Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi reports that the 17.5″ (44.5cm) high box “can replace… 60 traditional servers, four rack switches, four terminal servers, and a load balancing server. It uses a quarter of the power and a sixth of the space.” SeaMicro currently uses processors provided by Intel, although Larry Dignan picks up on the company’s intention to be “processor agnostic,” noting that ARM-powered servers should follow next year. SeaMicro’s innovations around increasing processor density whilst reducing power consumption sound impressive, but these servers aren’t yet for everyone. RAM configurations and — especially — the relatively low power of these “wimpy cores” mean that today they’re best-suited to serving high volumes of reasonably quick, reasonably simple tasks such as delivering web pages.

Today in Cloud

Two startups making waves in the solid state storage market are talking money today. As Dean Takahashi over at VentureBeat reports, Violin Memory has closed a Series C investment round for $40Million, valuing the company at $440Million. Elsewhere, Leena Rao at TechCrunch notes suggests that Fusion IO has upped their pre-IPO price from $16 to $18 per share; valuing the company at a notional $1.4Billion. When Fusion announced their IPO back in March, Stacey Higginbotham suggested that the company was fishing for a buyer, but no one seems to have jumped (in public, at least) yet. Time is running out, and the price would appear to be heading upward. As Arik Hesseldahl notes at AllThings D, although the two companies are involved with solid state storage, they’re tackling different problems; “Where Fusion-io sells flash-based cards that make servers run faster… Violin sells flash-based memory arrays that are intended to replace the hard disk-based memory arrays that make enterprise applications run faster.” Flash, it would appear, remains hot.

Today in Cloud

SME’s are usually reckoned to be the businesses most likely to jump onto the public cloud, but chip giant Intel sees sufficient opportunity amongst the laggards to offer a hybrid solution called AppUp which rolled out today. The solution features an on-premise hardware appliance from partners such as Lenovo, a dedicated Intel chip to manage everything, data storage in Intel’s data centers, and a monthly subscription to pay for the appliance, the storage, and some software. Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat and Don Clark at the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog both have more, but neither seem hugely impressed. This may be the new product category that Takahashi reports Intel’s Boyd Davis suggests, but Intel will have its work cut out to clearly define a value proposition that sits comfortably between simple use of DropBox or box.net and fully-fledged enterprise cloud deployments from HP, IBM, et al. Perhaps more tellingly, can the company overcome the SME fears around security and other cloud issues that AppUp is apparently designed to address? The data is still sitting somewhere out of sight, and for some of the people AppUp’s meant for, that’s just too scary to contemplate. If Intel does too good a job of reassuring those fears, there’s less need for AppUp. If it does too poor a job, there’s less market for AppUp. Tough call.

Today in Connected Consumer

As Dean Takahashi notes today, Nintendo had a disastrous Q2, with revenue falling 40% and income down by 60%. Those are awful numbers, folks. And Sony’s numbers, while not as bad in terms of overall revenue, were still very bad, with PS3 dropping in unit sales from 1.6 million in Q208 to 1.1 million in Q209. If this doesn’t convince Sony to drop its pricing, I don’t know what will. Sure, year over year comparisons are tough due to a good 2008, there is no doubt both Nintendo and Sony are seeing huge drop-offs in demand. Microsoft had a slight decline in Q209, but not nearly as deep as both Sony and Nintendo. Nintendo’s biggest worry is deceleration, as Wii unit shipments where HALF of the last year’s for the same quarter, so trending does not look good for following quarters.