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A New Kind of Commodity Hardware

I was driving down the road the other day when I passed what I thought was a shipping container on the back of an 18-wheel truck. When I noticed data and power ports on the side, I realized it was a giant data center processing module. Supercomputing on wheels. Four trucks with two modules per truck, rolling down the highway. Inside reside thousands of stripped down motherboards stacked with tons of memory, packed side by side. Some of these are even designed to be filled with dielectric fluid to keep them cool. If you have not seen these things up close and personal, check out the latest article on Microsoft’s new data center

When Microsoft wants to quickly ramp up a new data center, it can move dirt, pour a foundation, and build one of the most boring buildings you’ve ever seen. Or it can load up a few of its custom-designed data center modules onto a truck and drop them on the site.

One of the key concepts behind big data is the realization that sometimes it’s cheaper to move computing to the data, rather than moving data to the processors. In that way you use any computing power that’s logically nearby. And there is a similar trend with data centers – in this case physically adjust location to your needs. Raw processing power. Modular. Mobile. In the event that a data center site gets flooded by a hurricane, you back up the truck, plug in a generator, and you’re back on line. It can be much for enterprises to buy a crate of computing than to provision a traditional data center.

—Adrian Lane

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