The prospect of outsourcing servers and storage to the cloud has an irresistible lure of operational simplicity and cash efficiency for today’s application developers. Cloud computing vendors help operate social networking applications, micro-blogging sites, global gaming networks and a plethora of applications that we use everyday. Yet, as successful and economically desirable as clouds have been for many organizations, outsourcing servers and storage causes a serious emotional and operational dilemma for the hardened breed of systems administrators called server huggers.
Everyone working in and around the Internet knows a server hugger. Server huggers relish spending time in air-conditioned data centers, sitting on raised floors under florescent lighting with a laptop connected to a console port of a server (or, if they are lucky, standing against a server rack using a dedicated terminal and a slide-out keyboard tray). They spend hours staring at command-line on a terminal and at notebooks of commands, passwords and IP addresses…
But server huggers face an impending crisis — the data centers that host their servers in many large metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco are increasingly filled. It is unfulfilling to hug a server that sits in a cardboard box because there is no rack space left in a data center, so server huggers have been scrambling to put their servers in geographically desirable locations that do not require new construction or an exorbitant budget.
And that got me thinking: Does the data center of the future look like a mobile home park? A mobile home park provides a place for you to park a single-wide or double-wide home and some basic utilities — power, roads, mail, etc. Yet, unlike seemingly every person on the Jerry Springer Show, servers do not operate well in mobile homes. However, as Microsoft, HP, Verari and others have shown, high density blade servers can be packed with hundreds of terabytes of storage, cooled and operated efficiently inside standard shipping containers. Maybe instead of more metropolitan data centers for the server huggers, we need container parks.
There are questions to be asked; but they are the same ones you’d ask before siting a permanent structure. And this solution has the advantage of mobility.