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Monday, June 12, 2006

Limiting Factors: Mips per Watt

One measure that the IT industry has reached a significant milestone in performance maturity is the recent excitement on performance per watt. Clearly this indicates that mainstream users of IT have dropped out of the faster-is-better mode and moved to price-performance ratios in deciding on the hardware that they will buy. But we have a problem here. There is tremendous variation starting at the basic microprocessor, memory, peripherals et al. There is *no standard industry* benchmark for this important metric. Much like the lighting industry goes on about lumens per watt, expect to see computations per watt being quoted on complete systems. And just as in lumens per watt (efficacy in the lighting context) the quoted efficacy figures for computing are bound to confuse rather than clarify. System integrators will have to evolve these metrics in markets where availability of power is the limiting factor in IT expansion.

This assumes importance in countries like india, where we will need the most energy efficent devices to take the IT revolution to the hinderland. This article clearly shows how power is everything for a datacenter or IT setup. Our prediction is that we are going to see completely solar/wind/biomass powered data centers and telecom infrastructure and computing devices take over the volume market over the next decade. This article examines DC power for datacenters, all its findings are directly applicable to a PV type setup.The only issues now are the cost of setting up the power infrastructre not the technical bits of making PV compatible devices. A further prediction is that the innovator here will be government departments trying to implement e-governance systems in such locations.

Imagine this scenario.

Nodal/Village data centers with 5 KW PV or Wind generation, powered by ultra efficient Linux/BSD servers connected by 2 KW broadband wireless telecom nodes to 25W thin clients at homes that have LED/LCD driven displays. This setup with about 10 -15 KW generation can serve about 200- 500 households. The home computing client can be a gateway for data, voice, entertainment and education. One PV panel, one screen per home. The whole thing is doable with today's technology. Where is transmeta ? Where is CK Prahalad ?


  1. I've heard on the grapevine that Google is experimenting with a 40 foot container converted into a data center. A self contained unit that can be dropped off anywhere and hooked up to any available net backbone and used as a google data center for whatever "nefarious" purposes :-).

    Yr data center model doesnt seem far away from that...we just need the $100 WiFi PC to complete the last mile

  2. Yes. Google is working on a mobile data center. The last mile here is complete as we have a thin client solution. If we can get server centric wireless thin clients (cost of the client is about Rs 5000) the picture is complete. We are already there, just need to do this right.