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The Internet Technology

Data Center Overload 88

theodp writes "The first rule of data centers is: don't talk about data centers. Still, the NY Times Magazine manages to take its readers on a nice backstage tour of internet data centers, convincing Microsoft and others to let them sneak a peek inside some of the mega-centers that make up today's cloud. And if it's been a while since you software types stepped inside a real-life computing facility, there's an accompanying data-center-porn slideshow that'll give you an idea where your e-mail, photos, videos, music, searches, and other online services that you take for granted these days come from." Reader coondoggie sends in a related story about a government plan to spend $50 million on improving data center technology.
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Data Center Overload

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  • Tada tencer?

  • Can someone explain me why is this article called "Data Center Overload" ?

    • Data Center Overlords?
    • If it had been called "Data centers. What's up with those then?", you probably wouldn't have read it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Jerome H ( 990344 )

        Actually I'm pretty bored so I would have read anything remotly related to data centers.

        But now I'm just disappointed.

        • I find the topic of 'web' or 'internet' data centers very boring. Unfortunately, I guess because this is the 'internet' it is the type of data center that seems to be discussed. The other kind of data center with a real company and internal users, departments, groups, and projects is much more interesting. A 'web' data center usually consists of a large amount of homogeneous systems which is really dull; you really only need to worry about satisfying capacity and that's it. Servers need to be upgraded?
    • All hail our Data Center Overlords!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 )
      Well I for one welcome them.
    • by Joebert ( 946227 )

      Can someone explain me why is this article called "Data Center Overload" ?

      Quantum entanglement between me [] and Soulskill.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

      Maybe I'm spoiled, but I've seen much bigger, denser datacenters. I have some pictures that I'm not suppose to have. This looked like a fairy tame facility, nothing I'd be impressed by.

      Try Equinix Ashburn VA, Equinix Chicago, Level3 New York, One Wilshire Los Angeles, or a dozen others that I've been in that I don't feel like listing out right now. These pictures could have been out of any of dozens of mom and pop datacenters I've been in around the country. If you were sta

      • by Plunky ( 929104 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:27PM (#28321441)

        Maybe I'm spoiled, but I've seen much bigger, denser datacenters.

        Maybe you have but I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those ... moments will be lost in time, like rain. Time to die. Wait, what?

        • Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris...

    • by Matheus ( 586080 )

      Can someone explain to me why journalists continue to try to find obscure references for comparison?

      "Data centers worldwide now consume more energy annually than Sweden."

      This sentence while having some sort of dramatic effect tells the reader nothing. How many Swedens does Norway use? The US? Russia? Japan? Not to mention if you try to factor for the reality that there are data centers in Sweden using power.. are they eliminated from the Sweden unit and added to the worldwide data center total or are the

  • by Bender Unit 22 ( 216955 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @10:50AM (#28319819) Journal

    Now that he mentions XBL:
    We here at Xbox Live make the users fiddle with hosting their own sessons and make them pay a subscribtion fee for it too! muhaha.
    Problems with lag, not being able to play with many users in one session, getting everyone disconnected when the host don't want to host anymore? We don't care, we don't have to, we are XBL.

    • I know what you mean, considering the incompetence of the Broken Steel released and the related MS arrogance, I'm not going to be buying anything from MS again. Which admittedly doesn't mean much since the only thing I've bought from them in the last 5 years was 1 xbox controller and a few things through their store.

      It always amazes me the number of MS apologists out there that think that behaving in that sort of thuggish, unprofessional fashion is OK.
      • The mice are not bad. But that's as far as I'd go, I think.

        • by SnowZero ( 92219 )

          MS natural keyboards are excellent IMO, since they are a great balance of ergonomics versus price and a familiar enough layout. I wish they had put as much thought into their software. The only two things I have bought from MS (for my own use) in the past ten years are two keyboards; They've worked quite nicely with my various Linux machines.

      • I'm totally sorry I don't make purchasing decisions based on your experiences and opinions. It's terribly self-centered of me to consider my own thoughts ahead of yours on matters that have no effect on you.

        Of course it would help if I could distinguish you from about 7 billion other people' but I can't. Until that's rectified, I'm afraid you don't count.

  • by schamberlin ( 1354695 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @10:54AM (#28319859)

    What's with the trend of calling technical info "porn"? A while ago on Wired, there was an article on "nanotech porn". It really reinforces the stereotype that tech guys are all a bunch of creepy bearded child molesters, whacking off to photoshopped images of Catherine Janeway in their mom's basement.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 13, 2009 @11:02AM (#28319913)

      The term implies lack of substance, focus on looks and removedness from real-world scenarios. That is what these slideshows are. There's very little information in them, important details are not shown because they're not visually intriguing and what is shown has almost nothing to do with what it's like to work in a data center (or what scientists working on nano technology are actually doing).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ADenyer ( 954411 )

      It also makes it harder to view the articles at work, especially when you have to explain why the word shows up in your proxy logs...

      • We're trying to desensitize the porn sensors. In a few years, you'll won't have to worry about machine generated nsfw tags.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by owlnation ( 858981 )

      What's with the trend of calling technical info "porn"? A while ago on Wired, there was an article on "nanotech porn". It really reinforces the stereotype that tech guys are all a bunch of creepy bearded child molesters, whacking off to photoshopped images of Catherine Janeway in their mom's basement.

      Not to mention the inanity of using the word "cloud". This also suggests that tech guys are a bunch of dumb, unthinking, corporate drone, buzzword-spouting jerks. Whereas, in fact, we all now that's marketin

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        Not to mention the inanity of using the word "cloud". This also suggests that tech guys are a bunch of dumb, unthinking, corporate drone, buzzword-spouting jerks.

        This is a revisionist load of horseshit. The cloud represented the internet and all its myriad services on network diagrams long before anyone started talking about it for distributed computing. It's like claiming that only newbies put the dollar sign in Micro$oft, which completely ignores the long tradition as represented in geekery with Compu$erve.

        "Cloud" is no worse a term than any other. It's clear, however, that anyone who would talk about an information superhighway needs an ass-kicking.

        • The cloud represented the internet

          [citation needed]. This usage is completely new to me, despite being in the iIternet, since it was reachable from Germany, and being on BBSes, long before that.

    • What's with the trend of calling technical info "porn"?
      It's only a trend if you've been living in a cardboard box somewhere in Outer Mongolia for the last decade and some... (And it's not just 'techie' stuff either. I first heard the term 'foodie porn' back in the mid 90's.)

    • Don't be so sensitive. The usage is pretty common in media, like the food channel dishing out "food porn", etc.

      Who the hell is this Catherine, btw?

    • by weicco ( 645927 )

      What's with the trend of calling technical info "porn"?

      Well, their innards are showing. The servers I mean, they're naked. Like C3PO in SW1!

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @10:59AM (#28319885)
    ... welcome our new Data Center Overlord!
    [ What? Oh (damn glasses), never mind. ]
  • We are Borg...

    It had to all start somewhere. It started with "We will not be Slashdotted."

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @11:17AM (#28319989) Homepage
    Walking home, I ruminated on the number. Sixty-six thousand is the population of a small city Muncie, Ind., for one. Who and where was this invisible metropolis? What infrastructure was needed to create this city of ether?
    Anyone else struck by the open-eyed naivete in this? How does this guy even grow up in the United States and this is a mystery to him? It is the profound ignorance of men like him that is most troubling - and this one is a journalist, supposedly worldly! And this fool has the clout to get Microsoft's GM of datacenters to give him a guided tour of the Xbox facility. "Look, Tommy, here's where your packets mix with those of others" "Gee willikers thanks Mr. Manos!" Is this the level journalists are at? Tourists?

    We have an almost inimical incuriosity when it comes to infrastructure.
    No, buddy, I think from the huge number of programs on our entertainment programs that most people find the subject highly interesting. It's just you and your journalist clique who have an incuriousity to anything not of your own small world. Please stop including me when you say "we".

    • huge number of programs on our entertainment programs
      Should be entertainment channels. Unlike some people, I don't have a professional editor checking my work.
    • most people don't work in IT and do not know about the organization of a "data center". For that matter, I work in IT and often in data centers, but I don't play games on either my P.C. or with other people, I have no idea of the numbers of players of these popular online games which are only names to me.
    • by billybob_jcv ( 967047 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @11:57AM (#28320283)
      HG Wells said it in 1895. The human species will bifurcate into the Morlocks who build machines and technology, and the Eloi who pick flowers. The bad news is that we are the Morlocks. The good news is that we eat the Eloi.
    • And I should point out that in photo #8 in the slideshow, the text describes hot and cold isles, but the photo is of electrical conduit.

      Yes, the journalist was a tourist.

    • I agree with this sentiment. Some of the dumbest commentary I have ever read are from those that style themselves professional investigators. No wonder they are going out of business; they are the stupidest people in the room, so no one finds what they have to say illuminating. And therefore it has no value.

      I soothe myself thinking that the journalists are actually smarter than they write; they are just writing down to their audience. I'm not sure I believe that, though. I think many are just creature

  • Does anyone know what datacenters do with the water that's heated? Does anyone know if there are any datacenters out there that put the heated water to good use (like this guy [])?

    • er, the water gets recirculated with the heat removed; waste heat is dumped to the outside world. they run the water in circles.
      • waste heat is dumped to the outside world

        That's the part I'm talking about. Seems like that heat could be put to good use somehow.

        • waste heat is dumped to the outside world

          That's the part I'm talking about. Seems like that heat could be put to good use somehow.

          There are projects in that direction, though they dont tend to be big news except getting a mention when New Scientist run a "green issue". The problem though is that the energy involved is often not enough to be particularly significant once you consider how much is left after the conversion and transportation processes needed to make use of it elsewhere.

          There are various ways the energy can be used if you get beyond the "not enough to be genuinely useful once you've transported and processed it" problem.

          • yeah, for electrical power generation, how can there be a temperature difference big enough to plug into thermodynamic efficiency equation and not come up with an absurdly low number? hard limit there
    • I remember that one, great idea but personally I would never dare to do that except if the cooling water was a closed loop with some sort of heat exchange.
      I played with watercooling my pc some years ago before I got a laptop and it was great fun and many ways to keep your computer quiet.
      I made a combination of passive and active cooling. The outside radiator(this one in a larger version [] ) could keep the CPU and GPU cool when not gaming, a

  • []

    In the case of the one I designed it was a huge red slam button labeled "Master Shutdown" and was under a flip cover.
    • Have you ever been tempted to press the Jolly candy-like button []?

      • by ADenyer ( 954411 )

        Have you ever been tempted to press the Jolly candy-like button?

        Have any of you ever actually pushed one? There is a surreal reverse-woosh as everything shuts down simultaneously, followed by an eerie pin-drop silence...

        • by Diag ( 711760 )
          There is nothing more eerie than the sound of a busy computer room suddenly going silent.
  • What overload? How is anything there supposed to be called an 'overload'?

    Normally I decry bad submissions, but this one is just confusing.

  • Ha, no SD card slots suckas!
    My new MacBook roolz...

  • My my, how Grant County really, really fucked that one up. They got it, but the county is barely seeing a dime thanks to the grotesque incompetence of the PUD and their fiber optic program...
  • Let's see. "trading engines of several large financial exchanges" secured by cages sitting on a raised floor. What could possibly go wrong?

    I hope they at least have cameras or under-floor motion detectors.

  • Gee whiz.

    Surely this isn't the stuff democracy can't live without.
    Perhaps newspaper editors don't have a clue about what people need/want to read.
    Project the level of sophistication shown in this article in the glamorous Times Magazine onto stuff reporters and editors are expected to know about. Imagine the dopey insight we get about the economy, nuclear proliferation, cultural trends.

  • The first rule of data centers is: don't talk about data centers.

    You know, for all his talk of openness, the geek can be pretty shut-mouthed at times.

  • ... "don't talk about X" is just cover for "we don't want to show you how badly we've f*cked up".

    I used to work for a major corporation that consolidated all of its redundant data centers into one location, located a few hundred feet from the Seattle Fault []. Then, there's the time they discovered an electrical problem in a component of what was supposed to be a redundant power system that required a complete shutdown of that data center for several days. To replace a couple of mis-torqued bolts.

  • NJ2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @02:28PM (#28321451)
    In case anyone is wondering what the mysterious "NJ2" data center in Weehawken, New Jersey is, it is Savvis's Weehawken data center.
  • I'm pretty sure in one of those pictures they show electrical conduit and the caption says they're for cooling the equipment.

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      Right. Those were definitely electrical conduits, likely with a substantial amperage available if you shorted them.

    • Could be anything in those conduits. Fiber maybe. But certainly not cool air.

      I also had to laugh at the caption that went with the pretty array of blue network cable and red connectors: "Data centers run enormously scaled software applications with millions of users." Well good. That's why we're looking at a patch panel then?
  • TFA claims there are 10 pictures, but I count only 9. Unless the image saying 'back to the beginning' counts as a slide. Come on NYT, we expect more from you.
    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      You are expecting them to actually check their sources?

    • by grrrl ( 110084 )

      I noticed this the very first time I ever viewed a NYT slideshow. It is consistent across them all - there is always one less slide than the total given at the top right.

  • Those data centers are too organized. I prefer mine to like this: []
  • I been in a lot of big Data Centers and gone are the Mainframes they were designed for and replaced with racks of servers that throw off more heat than a hot plate!
  • You kids. I was a computer operator for a large insurance company in the late 1970s. We had a vast room full of mainframe gear, and a sea of hard drives, each as big as a washing machine.

    Once we started the night shift "batch" jobs, those disk units would go into the spin cycle. 40 or 50 floor standing hard drives all rocking and vibrating, the entire computer room floor rumbling like the Long Island Expressway at rush hour, lights flashing, tapes spinning, reams of paper flowing like waterfalls off of li

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