Running IT as an Ecosystem


The New York Times (27 November 2011) has an interesting article under “bright ideas” called Turn on the Server. It’s Cold Outside.

The idea in the age of cloud and distributed computing, where physical location of infrastructure is besides the point, is to place (racks of) servers in people’s homes to warm them from the cold.
The idea is really pretty cool and quite intuitive: Rather than use expensive HVAC systems to cool the environment where servers heat up and are housed, instead we can use the heat-generating servers to warm cold houses and save money and resources on buying and running furnaces to heat them.
While some may criticize this idea on security implications–since the servers need to be secured–I think you can easily counter that such a strategy under the right security conditions (some of which are identified in the article–encrypting the data, alarming the racks, and so on) could actually add a level of security by distributing your infrastructure thereby making it less prone to physical disruption by natural disaster or physical attack.
In fact, the whole movement towards consolidation of data centers, should be reevaluated based on such security implications.  Would you rather have a primary and backup data center that can be taken out by a targeted missile or other attack for example, or more distributed data centers that can more easily recover. In fact, the move to cloud computing with data housed sort of everywhere and anywhere globally offers the possibility of just such protection and is in a sense the polar opposite of data center consolidation–two opposing tracks, currently being pursued simultaneously.
One major drawback to the idea of distributing servers and using them to heat homes–while offering cost-saings in term of HVAC, it would be very expensive in terms of maintaining those servers at all the homes they reside in.
In general, while it’s not practical to house government data servers in people’s homes, we can learn to run our data centers more environmentally friendly way. For example, the article mentions that Europe is using centralized “district heating” whereby more centralized data center heat is distributed by insulated pipes to neighboring homes and businesses, rather than actually locating the servers in the homes.
Of course, if you can’t heat your homes with data servers, there is another option that gets you away from having to cool down all those hot servers, and that is to locate them in places with cooler year-round temperatures and using the areas natural air temperature for climate control. So if you can’t bring the servers to heat the homes, you can at least house them in cold climates to be cooled naturally.  Either way, there is the potential to increase our green footprint and cost-savings.
Running information technology operations with a greater view toward environmental impact and seeing IT in terms of the larger ecosystem that it operates in, necessitates a careful balancing of the mission needs for IT, security, manageability, and recovery as well as potential benefits for greater energy independence, environmental sustainability, and cost savings, and is the type of innovative bigger picture thinking that we can benefit from to break the cycle of inertia and inefficiency that too often confronts us.
(Source Photo: here)

>Peer-to-Peer and Enterprise Architecture


Peer-to-peer (P2P)—“computer network uses diverse connectivity between participants in a network and the cumulative bandwidth of network participants rather than conventional centralized resources where a relatively low number of servers provide the core value to a service or application. Peer-to-peer networks are typically used for connecting nodes via largely ad hoc connections. Such networks are useful for many purposes. Sharing content files (see file sharing) containing audio, video, data or anything in digital format is very common, and realtime data, such as telephony traffic, is also passed using P2P technology. A pure peer-to-peer network does not have the notion of clients or servers, but only equal peer nodes that simultaneously function as both “clients” and “servers” to the other nodes on the network. This model of network arrangement differs from the client-server model where communication is usually to and from a central server. A typical example for a non peer-to-peer file transfer is an FTP server where the client and server programs are quite distinct, and the clients initiate the download/uploads and the servers react to and satisfy these requests… Peer-to-peer architecture embodies one of the key technical concepts of the Internet” (Wikipedia)

CNET news, 24 January 2008, reports that P2P technology is important for reducing network traffic and speeding up downloads from the web.

How does P2P help users?

P2P as a “distributed model is much more efficient and cost effective for distributing large files on the internet, than the traditional client-server model.”

P2P for media distribution helps companies so that they “don’t have to spend millions of dollars building out their own server farms and high-speed infrastructure.”

How does P2P work?

“P2P leverages “peers” in the network to host pieces of content…P2P allows the file to be downloaded once and shared many times. In fact, distribution gets more efficient the more people who want the file.”

What is the next target architecture for P2P?

“The P2P solution adds network intelligence to the peering process, so that P2P applications can make smarter decisions about where they get the content…if a P2P service can understand how the network is configured to request the file at the closest peers rather than arbitrarily getting it from a peer across the country or around the globe, it could save a log of network resources…what’s more, using peers that are closer also helps files download faster.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, the ability to use bandwidth more efficiently and to download files faster is a positive development for satisfying user needs for transport of ever greater amounts of data, voice, and video over the internet. Moreover, as the technologies for carrying these converge, we will continue to see even greater requirements to move these communications more efficiently and effectively. P2P is a viable technology for accomplishing this.