Computers and heat density
spc at conman.org
Sun Aug 13 22:19:12 CDT 2006
It was thus said that the Great Tim Shoppa once stated:
> Recent posts on the subject of "modern" logic families and PCB's
> make me think of an obvious trend in computing over the past
> several decades:
> Power density (and required cooling/heat dissipation) have grown
And as a result, were I work (a small web hosting company) we use Cobalt
RaQs (about a 40W power supply) for quite a few of our services, like DNS
and firewalls (they're more than adequate for such purposes). We even use a
Mac mini or two for very light web hosting duties (very low power
> Of course modern desktop PC's (since at least the early/mid 90's) have
> vastly greater heat production and cooling requirements, with CPU heat
> sinks and fans being vital to reliability.
Another approach we're doing is getting some very large and fast PCs and
running multiple instances of VMWare---basically, creating a number of PCs
on one larger PC. Benefits there (besides a decrease in the average power
consumption of a "server") is that installing and backing up a "server" is
vastly easier (in the case of VMWare, it's a large single file "is" the
> At the same time, and a subject of increasing frustration for me,
> the number of computers required to do a given task has gone up
> exponentially. Tasks that used to (meaning 20 or 30 years ago) used
> to require a single PDP-8 or PDP-11 class minicomputer now use dozens
> to hundreds of PC-clone's to do the same functions. The heat production
> (and power and cooling requirements) of all the resulting PC-clones is
> hugely higher.
One of our customers has *demanded* 100% uptime---failure is *not* an
option. And the only way to get *that* is redundancy---multiple Internet
connections via multiple routers, feeding into multiple switches feeding
into multiple PCs (at the minimum, you're talking about two routers, two
switches and two PCs) and the PCs themselves have multiple redundant drives
(RAID). Yes, the customer is *paying* for all this, but for those people
that demand the uptime, having everything in *one* server is *bad* .
But me? I still get by with a 120MHz AMD 586 desktop as my main
development machine at home. Sure, it takes the better part of an hour to
compile Apache 2.2, but hey, it multitasks, I can still do things on it
while it compiles.
-spc (And I use a 486DX2 as a firewall and web proxy machine at home)
 Another customer of ours had a machine fail due to overheating.
Fortunately, I was able to use the backup server (it handles the
backing up of files from the other two servers the customer has) as
the webserver until we could get the crashed box up and running.
Otherwise, he would have been down for a few days instead of maybe
the two hours or so during the switch.
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