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AOL: Outdoor Server Huts Are the Future

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the would-look-good-on-the-cover-of-2600 dept.

America Online 146

1sockchuck writes "While Facebook and Apple are investing in huge data cathedrals, AOL has decided to go in a different direction: a distributed network of rack-sized server huts that live outdoors. AOL is taking the concept for its unmanned data center and shrinking it into a 'micro data center.' AOL envisions a distributed network of these units, allowing it to quickly roll out new IT capacity for hyperlocal news sites and create its own content distribution network."

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146 comments

CBG (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576057)

envisions a distributed network of these units, allowing it to quickly roll out new IT capacity for hyperlocal news sites and create its own content distribution network

Ahh someone's been visiting the Corporate Bullshit Generator [sourceforge.net] LOL!

Re:CBG (2)

camperslo (704715) | about 2 years ago | (#40576075)

What content is it AOL has that people want to see?

Maybe they should find existing sites to put the servers.
How about Pizza Huts? Help heat the pizza ovens.

Re:CBG (1)

Pringless (2679219) | about 2 years ago | (#40576109)

You can't heat pizza ovens with servers that never heat more than 80 degrees... Google is stupid, but they're not that stupid to actually try it.

Re:CBG (4, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#40576215)

Yes, you can. You obviously wouldn't use the servers as the sole heat source in a pizza oven, but you could use their waste heat to keep the oven warm, so that the mean heating element doesn't have to use as much energy to reach the operating temperature. Granted the savings would probably be minimal, but it can be done. But it probably would take a while to recoup the investment in actually putting it all together.

There's a lot of energy-saving things involving heating and cooling that can be done that people don't bother with because the return on investment would probably be too long. For instance, everyone has a refrigerator in their house, which produces a fair amount of heat in cooling its interior (there's coils on the backside, for cooling the compressor). In the winter, this is no problem, since you want your house warm anyway, but in the summer this is counteracting your house's A/C, making it work harder to keep it cool inside. What if there were some way of diverting that heat to the outside of the house in the summer, but in cooler months keeping it inside? It could be done with some custom ducting, a fan, and temperature-controlled louvers. But you never see this because that's a lot of work, and therefore expense, when the gains are probably minimal.

Similarly, clothes dryers produce a LOT of waste heat, but this is usually just ducted outside. My house actually has a diverter box in the ductwork so that in the wintertime, I can move the flap and let all the hot air blow into the house (through an additional screen to keep the lint down), which reduces my heating bills. Unfortunately most houses don't bother with this, though it'd probably have a much bigger effect than the refrigerator idea above.

As energy costs rise, I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more energy-saving strategies like these.

Re:CBG (3, Insightful)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | about 2 years ago | (#40576403)

You must like it humid in the house.

Re:CBG (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40576491)

Humidity traps for these systems are readily available. They don't work amazingly well, but they do remove a notable amount of the moisture from the air in question.

Re:CBG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576619)

Humidity traps for these systems are readily available. They don't work amazingly well, but they do remove a notable amount of the moisture from the air in question.

Well which is it? Either they don't work well, or they do.

Even if moisture traps sorta work, I'd rather use a dryer duct heat exchanger, which is also readily available at my local big box home improvement store. I don't suppose they work amazingly well either, but at least I would not be pumping lots of moist air into my living space.

Re:CBG (1, Offtopic)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40576691)

Humidity traps for these systems are readily available. They don't work amazingly well, but they do remove a notable amount of the moisture from the air in question.

Well which is it? Either they don't work well, or they do.

Well which is it? Either you own a dictionary or... well, I see you don't.

Re:CBG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577565)

Huh?

Put the crack pipe down, step away from the keyboard, and nobody gets hurt.

Re:CBG (3, Informative)

error_logic (1160341) | about 2 years ago | (#40577159)

During the winter months (when the heating would be necessary), additional humidity is often beneficial. Air inside can get *dry* with the temperature difference's effect on relative humidity.

Re:CBG (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | about 2 years ago | (#40577333)

I keep hearing about that, but I have not experienced this, at least in California. The dry days, evidenced by bloody noses, happen in the summer with the AC running. We also had a humidity gauge awhile back. It varied by rainy days and such, but otherwise not much.

Re:CBG (0)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#40576463)

On the surface, your thinking looks good-- find heat transducers and reservoirs to store it. Distributing servers causes massive redundancies of the fixed gear needed to store and reuse heat. Convenience memes that create dysfunctional residential electrical power states are a problem, but people don't like sharing, don't like living in dorms, don't like high, up-front costs of shelter, and so you're fighting many problems.

As to AOL's distributed "NOC", the rationale for it is almost ludicrous. The local/regional/area "news gathering" they're trying to do would be distributed in that way, thus cutting the enormous costs of their CDN bills. The systems will still be 3% efficient, as most servers and networking gear are. The other 97% will still needed to be used, and another 100% of power consumption will be needed to cool the mess. As the mess is now distributed, and can't have shared costs of infrastructure (the advantages of ISPs and MSPs and "cloud providers), the redundancy will be hugely expensive, if potentially more resilient and with slightly less latency. The rest of it is hyperbabble PR-People-on-Acid.

Re:CBG (1)

pete6677 (681676) | about 2 years ago | (#40577239)

Someone at AOL must know this entire idea is simply ludicrous but if it gets the financial backers of AOL (whoever the hell they are) to let the company live another day then its worth a long shot.

Re:CBG (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 2 years ago | (#40577301)

No, it doesn't. The backers get strung out and lose the investment. The mgmt at AOL/HuffPo/etc. don't get changed. Civilians that invested in AOL get screwed. Living for another day isn't necessarily a good thing. When the entire economy is down, then the tendency for everyone to take their lumps at once is a well-known way to keep financial pain from having an effect on stock price. But that isn't the case here. AOL is portending that this is somehow visionary, and solves big problems, where it doesn't do that. At. All.

Re:CBG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576465)

everyone has a refrigerator ... (there's coils on the backside, for cooling the compressor).

There are coils, not there is (there's) coils. But I digress.

More often than not, the coils are on the bottom. They might be on the back of smaller refrigerators, but I wouldn't know.

That not withstanding, they don't have anything to do with cooling the compressor.

I don't believe my fridge is a significant source of heat. It's not like the coils are hot, or even warm, to the touch.

My local big box home improvement store sells a dryer duct heat exchanger that extracts the heat and still vents the damp air to outside. I prefer that over pumping lots of moist air into my living space. All that moisture would just help mold and mildew grow.

But you get modded +4 interesting anyway?

Re:CBG (2)

OrigamiMarie (1501451) | about 2 years ago | (#40576775)

If you are running the dryer on natural gas, you need to think carefully about carbon monoxide before venting it indoors. Or set up a complicated heat exchange system.

Re:CBG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577371)

Not to mention all of the potentially toxic fumes from blowing hot air over many different clothing materials, soap residues, and other wash byproducts... it sounds insane to do this without a heat exchanger to keep the real dryer exhaust going outside where it can dissipate.

Re:CBG (3, Informative)

codewarren (927270) | about 2 years ago | (#40576895)

Your refrigerator idea won't save energy in the summer. The efficiency of the fridge is related to the temperature difference between the coils and the air around them. If they are exposed to a hot outdoors, the fridge will simply work harder. If you expose them to the cool indoors, the fridge gets a break at the expense of the house's A/C which has to pump the extra heat away.

In other words, something has to overcome the temperature difference to push the heat outside. It's either the fridge or the fridge + A/C and in neither case are you going to see any savings.

Re:CBG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576949)

Note that this is against code in most areas. Gas driers produce Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is of course deadly. If someone vents a gas dryer into their house, they will have health issues or experience death.

Re:CBG (1)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | about 2 years ago | (#40577181)

I've thought about a number of different options for saving energy related to heating and cooling.

In a house you could use a diverter to run water from the bathtub drain through a radiator in the basement in winter instead of just sending all that heat into the sewer.

In the summer time you could make use of a radiator on the water supply to dump heat from the house into the water that's been cooled by the ground, then send that heat into the sewer.

When I see an indoor rink with a pile of ice from the zamboni sitting outside in the summer I wonder why they don't use the ice to dump heat from the cooling system that created it in the first place.

I have a dryer in my apartment and divert the hot air inside in the winter. I also use a dehumidifier to get rid of the excess humidity. The heat generated replaces heat that would otherwise come from electric baseboard heating.

Re:CBG (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about 2 years ago | (#40577323)

The dryer thing sounds like a fabulous idea to me. The fridge I kinda have my doubts. If you went the fans and duct work route the compromise to weather envelop of an otherwise well insulated house would likely result on the loss of more energy then you spend having the AC move the waste heat out. Keep in mind most energy loss is around doors and windows, solid wall with insulation and house wrap over it has a pretty high R value.

The better approach to the fridge might be some valves to select of a secondary radiator loop outside the house rather than the one on the back of the unit. Those lines are tiny like 3/8" so they could be extended through the wall without much energy loss and calked around easily.

Trouble is though the fridge is a heat pump. Heat pumps become less efficient the more against the gradient you try to go. So your fridge is going to use more power trying to cool the inside if forced to dump the waste heat into the 90 degree out doors rather than the 74 degree indoors. Now unless your A/C unit is 100% efficient it will still take more energy to move the now greater heat generated by the fridge's imperfect efficiency; so it should be a net win but we are talking something vanishingly small.

Re:CBG (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 2 years ago | (#40577707)

What should really happen is that the fridge and the AC shouldn't be separate units. The AC should offer a refrigerant tap and communication feedback line for the fridge so they can be combined into a single system so that the fridge's compressor is completely bypassed during the summer.

Re:CBG (-1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#40576143)

What content is it AOL has that people want to see?

Perhaps you have never head of Amazon EC2 [amazon.com], and don't know that Amazon runs one of the largest cloud services in the world. Any time any website grows quickly, or comes under attack, needs to ramp up their compute power, or distribute their system there is a good chance they will contract with Amazon.

Google abuses forests (0)

Pringless (2679219) | about 2 years ago | (#40576085)

Why is only AOL and Microsoft doing this? As much as I like Google, I can clearly see that they don't care about the environment.

Re:Google abuses forests (2)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40576201)

"I can clearly see that they don't care about the environment."

Citation fucking needed NOW.

The tiny servers-in-a-can model is cute, (the stupid black paint job has to go, try that in AZ in August and you couldn't even open the door without burning your hand), but centralization makes for much easier operation and maintenance for large server farms.

Re:Google abuses forests (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576289)

HOLY FUCK I BET THEY NEVER CONSIDERED THAT THEY COULD ALSO PAINT THE CABINET WHITE!

but centralization makes for much easier operation and maintenance for large server farms.

Citation fucking needed NOW.

Back at ya, big boy.

Re:Google abuses forests (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40577129)

Centralization puts similar objects where a small group of techs can have immediate hands-on access, store spare parts and spare machines, have backup power with economies of scale (large diesel or Capstone turbine gensets), and directly guard and monitor equipment.

That's simple physical, observable reality not requiring citation.

Isolated units which are small involve sacrificing advantages of immediate service. If no workee, dispatching a tech by car or truck with tools and parts is required. If it gets severely damaged by (for example) lightning strike, fire, vandalism or theft that means delivering and connecting a replacement.

"HOLY FUCK I BET THEY NEVER CONSIDERED THAT THEY COULD ALSO PAINT THE CABINET WHITE!"

If so, they would have done that and used an appropriate constrasting Aologo.

See these for commercial examples "light color" use:

http://www.capstoneturbine.com/ [capstoneturbine.com]

Citation needed for the assertion re: Google being environmentally irresponsible because their processes are not simple and easily observed.

Also, post with your nick, bitch. ACs eat shit. :-)

Re:Google abuses forests (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577343)

Centralization puts similar objects where a small group of techs can have immediate hands-on access, store spare parts and spare machines, have backup power with economies of scale (large diesel or Capstone turbine gensets), and directly guard and monitor equipment.

Oh, I guess you missed the part about "unmanned", huh? What a surprise. You seem sadly unaware of virtualization, mesh networking, and fault tolerance. You should probably go understand those things before you critique the paint job of a system designed with these things in mind.

If so, they would have done that and used an appropriate constrasting Aologo.

Citation from the motherfucking linked article, bitch:

“Wide-scale deployed units won’t have the fancy paint jobs and logos, so they will very much look at home in those equipment yards. Given the nature of our technology set, should a catastrophic event or malicious damage occur, we have the abilities to swing the IT load around to other nearby instantiations.”

So yeah, the fancy paint job? Not required. Not even remotely likely. Probably a dull avocado or tan or off-white paint job, just like other big outdoor equipment cabinets.

Have fun with yourself, chum.

Re:Google abuses forests (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 2 years ago | (#40577527)

Centralization for the benefit of maintenance is not inherently better. It is better if you have high failure rate hardware. Whether there are physically reliable enough servers at this point in time is a different question. Certainly at this point, a project like this would only be connecting a replacement on site. It shouldn't take any more local skill or time than inserting a Super Nintendo cartridge.

Re:Google abuses forests (1)

camperslo (704715) | about 2 years ago | (#40576227)

Citations please? The have been articles describing things Google has done that lowered the cost and power consumption of servers. They did things like using higher efficiency power supplies, and avoiding some extra DC-DC conversion.

Although large businesses can often be criticized for choosing higher profits over environmental responsibility, servers farms are clearly an area where better environmental impact generally means lowered costs. More efficient servers cost less to power, maybe be more reliable when producing less heat, and have lower cooling costs when producing less heat.

Maybe some can find ways when the heat is always put to use? That doesn't seem easy to do all year around, but perhaps some oil refining, chemical processing, recycling, or other manufacturing process could use the heat as part of some process where heat is always needed. Some might be able to shift loads to servers in cooler locations where they could help heat buildings. They might get a break on space rental in exchange for lowering the energy costs to a complex. Not everyone will have the flexibility to pick locations where such things are possible, but hopefully it can still be done increasingly.

I find it hard to believe that Google wouldn't go for efficiency whenever possible, even if motivated only by the bottom line.

Re:Google abuses forests (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 2 years ago | (#40577741)

Avoiding DC-DC conversion? I thought they made more use of it to simplify the power supplies themselves, the connectors, and the motherboards.

Makes sense (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576093)

Their clients still live in huts, so it makes sense to move their servers there too..

If only (1)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about 2 years ago | (#40576101)

If only we could shrink a data center into a small enough form factor that we could mail It to unsuspecting Americans...

Re:If only (1)

Pringless (2679219) | about 2 years ago | (#40576129)

Didn't they try to? Google was building some data centers on boats. I bet they were capable of carrying terrorists and weapons too.

Have they thought this through? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40576103)

According to AOL, the servers can operate in warmer temperatures. But is warmer mean 80 F or say 100+ F in Texas in the middle of summer. These servers are remotely managed which is great until they stop responding because a small rodent chewed through a cable. If you are outside, the chances of things like this happening are greater.

Re:Have they thought this through? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40576157)

also what about being hit by cars / trucks?

Hit by wind blown debris??

Stuff getting jammed / blocking air vents?

Flooding?

Re:Have they thought this through? (3, Funny)

pem (1013437) | about 2 years ago | (#40576291)

Being picked up and carried off? (Kind of like an ATM, but for the data inside instead of the cash.)

Re:Have they thought this through? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#40576295)

Sounds like a pretty good target to see how accurate that new hunting rifle is

Re:Have they thought this through? (1)

Idbar (1034346) | about 2 years ago | (#40576313)

Actually, I have been thinking about that. Just make them pretty, like water fountains, and cool them down while they look pretty in a park.

Re:Have they thought this through? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576355)

These servers are remotely managed which is great until they stop responding because a small rodent chewed through a cable. If you are outside, the chances of things like this happening are greater.

You realize that data center buildings are also "located outside," right? There's nothing intrinsically special about a traditional massive data center that makes it repel rodents. I guarantee you that it's much easier to seal every half-inch crack a rodent could squeeze through in a rack-sized enclosure than it is to seal every half inch crack in a fucking 500,000 square foot data center.

Plus, there's people (and food, water, and comfortable temperatures, and a marked lack of natural predators) inside a data center building, as well as tons of little nooks and crannies in the ceilings and walls that are attractive nesting sites for rodents. Inside a sealed metal enclosure the size of a refrigerator? Not so much. This is why buildings often have rodent problems that exterminators have to deal with.

Re:Have they thought this through? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#40577351)

I guarantee you that it's much easier to seal every half-inch crack a rodent could squeeze through in a rack-sized enclosure than it is to seal every half inch crack in a fucking 500,000 square foot data center.

It's a lot easier to seal the perimeter of one 500,000 square foot data center than of 500,000 one square foot centers.

Counting the minutes... (2)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 2 years ago | (#40576119)

...until some scumbag with a sawzall realizes that there's expensive computer hardware inside those black boxes.

Re:Counting the minutes... (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#40576225)

It definitely wouldn't work where I live, in Phoenix Arizona. Half the area's inhabitants are meth-heads who'll steal anything that isn't bolted down.

Re:Counting the minutes... (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | about 2 years ago | (#40576303)

It definitely wouldn't work where I live, in Phoenix Arizona. Half the area's inhabitants are meth-heads who'll steal anything that is or isn't bolted down.

FTFY

Re:Counting the minutes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576371)

And I'm sure these things wouldn't be secured in any way. Probably just a paper wrapper over them saying "please don't steal our expensive shit," right?

While it's possible that AOL hasn't specifically considered YOUR crackhead neighbors in Phoenix in their design, I'm fairly certain they've considered the idea that "hey this stuff is expensive, we need a secure physical enclosure that won't allow people to just take whatever they want out of it."

Re:Counting the minutes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576381)

Pfft, I live in Phx as well and the meth heads in my neighborhood have bolt cutters for the stuff that IS bolted down!

Re:Counting the minutes... (1)

pem (1013437) | about 2 years ago | (#40576307)

Is it the hardware?

Or the data?

Maybe they have some good encryption and intrusion detection, maybe not. Maybe you have to toast the first few boxes before you figure out how to suck the data out of one without it suspecting.

Re:Counting the minutes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576529)

There's expensive computer hardware inside those cell tower street cabinets as well, and those have faired O.K.

Re:Counting the minutes... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#40576871)

You must not have read the article!

“Security is always a concern, but in general these devices have more in common with equipment you would see in an equipment yard for most buildings than standard data center environments,” he said. “Wide-scale deployed units won’t have the fancy paint jobs and logos, so they will very much look at home in those equipment yards.

See? It's even better than security through obscurity, it's security through paint jobs! I hear covering it in dog shit also helps.

Why? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40576141)

I don't see the use case for these. Any sizeable office that wants server capacity is going to have a room indoors where they can put it - pouring a concrete slab outside and running power + network + water to it doesn't seem much better than dedicating a small server closet inside the building. I can see some niche market in remote sites (mining sites, research sites, etc) that need more servers than they can stack in the corner of their office trailer, but if they have that many servers, this single rack is probably not what they are looking for. They are probably more interested in a datacenter in a shipping container.

How does this tie in to AOL? If they want to get their content closer to users, colocating the servers at the telco or ISP makes more sense since the only way I'm going to get data from the server pod across the street is via my ISP connection. I don't think I'm going to want AOL content badly enough to set up a point to point wireless link or trench a data line under the street.

Re:Why? (2)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40576283)

"They are probably more interested in a datacenter in a shipping container."

Indeed. ISO containers are cheap and you can send one to your site with everything you need AND have storage or workspace INSIDE the container protected from the weather.

If your "AOL in a can" breaks in foul weather, then you need to COVER it to OPEN it.

You don't need to pour a slab for ISOs as they are supported by the corner fittings. A railroad tie under each end is usually just fine.

I use ISOs for personal shop buildings and storage, and have worked in and with them while deployed.

ISO containers are available in small 10-foot configurations too.
Generic example:

http://www.shippingcontainertrader.com/johnads/6/Tmp0002F.jpg [shippingco...trader.com]

If you are going to pour a slab, USE all of the square footage. Pot four twist-locks in the slab, install ISO, and lock it down. Even a hurricane isn't likely to shift it. Alternately, bolt it down with common expansion anchors through welded-on tabs of your choice then tack weld the bolt heads to the tabs. It ain't leaving on its own.

ISO containers don't have a proprietary form-factor container to deter upgrades either.

I don't sell ISOs, but do have morbid nasty love for them.

Sea Box website with MANY examples of container mods. Your local welding and fab shop can roll your own easily:

http://www.seabox.com/ [seabox.com]

Re:Why? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40576987)

I don't sell ISOs, but do have morbid nasty love for them.

Where should somebody aspiring to this level of sickness start?

Too bad the network isn't hyperlocal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576187)

Unless they're going to be on Fiber, DSL, Cable, and Cellular at the same time it might not work so good here... the cross-connects between services are out of town.

Re:Too bad the network isn't hyperlocal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576409)

My network is hyperlocal whenever I see the cable model network search led blinking.

Bad Idea if it came from AOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576189)

The reason we go with mega data centers is because they are more cost effective.
Google figured this out a long time ago.
AOL, please go die in a fire.
Thanks.

A solution in search of some problems (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | about 2 years ago | (#40576193)

Right off the bat, you're going to combat environmental issues, but the biggest problem I see is how you secure these systems, their code and data in an adequate manner.

In short: stupid!

Co-locate them inside beehives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577271)

That should keep out the less-determined thieves and hackers. You're going to have insects invading the huts anyway, might as well take advantage of them.

Re:Co-locate them inside beehives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577289)

Hmm. Is honey a di-electric? Could you use it as coolant?

If There's Ever A Company To Trust (5, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 2 years ago | (#40576241)

If there's ever a company to trust when it comes to predicting the future, it's AOL. Why just three years ago they predicted they'd have to move away from dial-up since broadband would be the wave of the future and look at how right they were.

Re:If There's Ever A Company To Trust (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 2 years ago | (#40576401)

Not to mention they can charge double since broadband was their idea. Along with Al's.

Interesting choice of color (1)

Dzimas (547818) | about 2 years ago | (#40576305)

The utility box shown in the photo is painted black. I sincerely hope that's just for worst-case testing, because there's nowhere in the continental US that you'd want to leave a server baking in the summer sun in a black box. Of course, a light grey utility box also gets extremely hot, so one would hope that they have some sort of simple sun shades that keep these units out of direct sunlight. On the off chance that they don't, I should patent it -- "Passive shade cooling system for outdoor data center systems," here I come.

Re:Interesting choice of color (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#40577695)

You're about two years too late. Look up patent 20100003911, "Passive Cooling Systems for Network Cabinet", issued to Panduit corporation. -_-

Security? (2)

KhabaLox (1906148) | about 2 years ago | (#40576317)

Isn't one of the tenets of network security physically securing access to the servers? How would they prevent someone from tapping into the boxes and either sniffing traffic or directly stealing content?

Re:Security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576655)

The better question is where are these located, I have a job for my truck and some chains.

Bonanza! (3, Funny)

RKBA (622932) | about 2 years ago | (#40576335)

This is a bonanza for scrap metal dealers and the scroungers who steal things like lamp posts, wiring and plumbing from abandoned houses, etc., because the contents of one of these unmanned micro data centers must be worth lot more than a lamp post to scrap dealers.

Re:Bonanza! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576499)

It'd go great on the roof of many office buildings, though.

But why is something you want to keep cool and plan on leaving out in the sun black?

Re:Bonanza! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576539)

That box looks a lot more sturdy than your average office building door, and I don't see why you couldn't trivially alarm it. With a bit of thought, I don't see why an outdoor "micro datacenter" would be any more of a theft risk than the indoor variety businesses have. Both are a far cry from the professional security available at a dedicated co-location facility, of course.

No Bad movie references yet? (1)

Rabidcat (104455) | about 2 years ago | (#40576337)

Come on guys, this is Slashdot, no one has yet made the comparison of this idea to one of the worst movies of all time, that being Manos: The Hands of Fate [wikipedia.org] given the name of the CTO at AOL that is announcing this "breakthrough" in computing?

And here's an idea to help with the cooling on this outside enclosure - don't paint it BLACK!

Cool (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 2 years ago | (#40576387)

This has seemed like an obvious idea to me for a while. I figured Google would be the first. But I'm glad somebody is finally doing it. I wonder how many of these AOL could possibly roll-out? Hundreds, at least. Thousands?

Bargaining chip (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#40576425)

Sounds like a bargaining chip as they negotiate for colo space in switching centers. It might be useful in some special situations where you can terminate dark fiber into your own box and save on backbone costs, then have a short distance link into some other facility.

I would have expected this from Comcast or Verizon. If a local box held a few thousand hours of video cache, including recent TV and movies, most requests might be satisfied locally, unloading the upstream network.

Humidity? (1)

crow (16139) | about 2 years ago | (#40576441)

How will they handle humidity? They've been designing servers to handle higher temperatures to save on air conditioning, but they won't deal well if the humidity gets too high. I expect these outdoor servers will get lost in the fog.

They'll also have issues with air pollution, insects, and animals.

There are plenty of data centers that use outdoor air for cooling, but they filter it and monitor the humidity.

Re:Humidity? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 2 years ago | (#40577687)

What matters to electronics is relative humidity not absolute humidity (and the tolerable range is pretty wide 5% to 95% according to wikipedia) snd the absense of condensation. Condensation is generally caused by rapid changes in air temperature that leave solid objects colder than the surrounding air.

So as long as the following conditions hold I don't think humidity will be too much of a problem.

1:internal temperature is higher than outside temperature (it will be unless you are employing refridgeration techniques)
2:incoming air is mixed with recirculating air
3:no significant moisture is released inside the datacenter (e.g. humans are kept out as much as possible)
4:rapid changes in internal air temperature are avioded (this can be acheived by altering the mix ratios in response to outside air temperature)

In this way the absoloute humidity of air circulating in the datacenter will be about the same as the absoloute humidity outside and the relative humidity inside will be lower than the relative humidity outside.

20xx (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576629)

the future!!!

http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/293760-mega-man-x-dos-screenshot-forest-levels.png

And for the broader view... (1)

Zemran (3101) | about 2 years ago | (#40576645)

I could not think about this without wondering what Compuserve are up to ... so I looked at their site http://webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com/menu/about.jsp [compuserve.com] and cracked up when I saw the Netscape logo at the bottom... These people still think that they are important :-)

Re:And for the broader view... (1)

pete6677 (681676) | about 2 years ago | (#40577217)

They have actually updated their "dialer" software for Windows 7, as if there is anyone who upgraded to Windows 7 but connects to the internets via dialup. There must be a group of computer programmers from the 90s that have been kept in a cave somewhere that still maintain the CompuServe network and are mostly unaware of what has changed in the last 15 years. Maybe 5 years from now they'll find out about that Facebook thing everyone has been talking about.

Re:And for the broader view... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40577355)

1. If you live out in the sticks, up in the mountains, or in the desert (we have all these in the US), dialup is the only reasonably-affordable connectivity you're gonna get. Satellite? Sure, talk to Hughes. They don't even list their prices, which should tell you something.
2. Some people like the option of back-up connectivity. Don't plan on fast, GB-range file transfers, but you can email (Mutt), surf (Links), remotely administrate (SSH, RDP, VNC), and do small file transfers.

The next headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40576931)

AOL servers will soon require debugging from being outdoors. Literary. Tons of flies and stuff...

Similar to electricity distribution AC vs DC (1)

j-stroy (640921) | about 2 years ago | (#40577263)

This is reminiscent of the original standards battle between AC vs DC distribution systems.. monolithic centralized infrastructure vs distributed regional systems. You remember the one where Edison electrocuted an elephant. [wired.com]

Anyways the pendulum goes back and forth on these things, and if period doubling is occurring that means that fine grained rapid deployment is required to keep pace with that. Won't be long before data centres are riding electric trains, semi-trucks (a la Walmart's warehouse on wheels model) or even public transit busses with high speed datalinks to physically shorten that last mile.

Why is Google so interested in autonomous vehicles anyways? Could it be something do with an inevitable trajectory towards automated containerized data centre deployment? After all, there is a similarity with a third world concept [wi-fiplanet.com] where poverty drives innovation. So really shouldn't the discussion be about graphing costs of data delivery vs cost of caching & updating?

And if History Repeats Itself... (1)

NickRCody (1352571) | about 2 years ago | (#40577675)

Their end goal is that these huts will eventually become so small AOL will include one in each issue of PC World.

Re:And if History Repeats Itself... (1)

almaden (631213) | about 2 years ago | (#40577719)

Is AOL anything more than the Huffington Post and Tech-Crunch these days?

will it have? (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 2 years ago | (#40577823)

Will it have a door with a heart shaped hole cut into it? How about a horizontal board about 2 feet from the ground with a 1 foot hole in it?
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