For cloud data centers, the rent's too high

Looking for reasonable rent for your business? You might try Park Avenue in New York City, but don't even think about Mahwah, NJ. The New York Times reports that yearly leases top out at about $150 per square foot for a trophy high-rise in Manhattan, but reach four times that for “low, bland buildings across the Hudson River in New Jersey.”

The reason? The New Jersey buildings have sufficient electric capacity to power the data centers associated with the stock exchanges, banks, and high-velocity traders. The growing power consumption indicates the need for improved server efficiencies though technologies like HP's Moonshot.

The Times reports (in the latest article in a series called “The Cloud Factories”) that the owners of the New Jersey buildings have evolved from landlords into power brokers: “electrical capacity is often the central element of lease agreements, and space is secondary.”

The Times article focuses on legal and regulatory issues. For example, should the building owners be regulated and taxed as real-estate companies or electric utilities? The owners say they provide surge protection, backup, and air conditioning—functions that a utility doesn't offer. But Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, says one owner's efforts to reorganize as a real-estate investment trust represents “an incredible example of how tax avoidance has become a major business strategy.”

However that plays out, power per server cabinet keeps increasing. Clearly, there is an ongoing need to improve server energy efficiency. According to HP, “If the public cloud were a country, it would rank fifth in electricity consumption.”

HP's Moonshot project represents one initiative to develop energy-efficient server technology optimized to address new styles of IT workloads.

As HP president and CEO Meg Whitman puts it, “With nearly 10 billion devices connected to the Internet and predictions for exponential growth, we’ve reached a point where the space, power, and cost demands of traditional technology are no longer sustainable. HP Moonshot marks the beginning of a new style of IT that will change the infrastructure economics and lay the foundation for the next 20 billion devices.”

The HP Moonshot system is built around what the company calls “the world's first software-defined server.” The servers are designed to optimize performance for specific workloads. They share management, power, cooling, networking, and storage.

Last month TI announced its participation in the project through application of its KeyStone II-based multicore SoCs. TI’s KeyStone II-based SoCs integrate fixed-and floating-point TMS320C66x DSP cores with multiple ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore processors, packet processing, security processing, and Ethernet switching.

TI says the new SoCs offer customers more than four times the capacity and performance at the same power relative to existing x86 devices, specifically for voice-transcoding applications. TI attributes the performance in part to the C-programmable floating-point C66x DSP cores.

“The scalability and high performance, coupled with the low power requirements of the HP Moonshot System, enables customers to develop solutions that address ever-changing and demanding market needs in the high performance computing, cloud computing and communications infrastructure markets,” said Brian Glinsman, a vice president at TI, in a press release. “Our SoCs are an ideal solution for customers requiring this level of performance and a low-power envelope, and we are excited about the opportunities our collaboration with HP brings to the market.”

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