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Interchangeable Data Storage Bricks?

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the rated-n-for-not-as-easy-as-they-say dept.

Data Storage 185

shokk writes "EWeek is reporting that IBM is working on a concept called Ice Cube Storage Bricks that uses a conductive ceramic or mylar plate to transmit data between bricks across an air gap. Research center staff member Robert Gardner says that the idea is 'to walk up to the system, attach the storage and then walk away.' No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced and the whole thing needs to be disassembled. To be really effective, this would need to be teamed up with some sort of a backplane, but the tech is new and neat."

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frits prost (-1, Offtopic)

Touisteur_EmporteUne (841264) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116696)

frits prost

Re:frits prost (0)

theundead (670428) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116722)

Jeysos, u ver en sucj e hury, u gott et al wronng!

Re:frits prost (0, Troll)

Touisteur_EmporteUne (841264) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116805)

my first post was a first post... I had to make it look good. not in a herry anymor... Think a dodecaedra is a better solution than "just" a cube... what a limited idea....

Dead bricks (-1, Redundant)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116706)

No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced

Actually, from TFA:

IBM is studying which configurations would be most effective for maintenance, Gardner said.

Re:Dead bricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116851)

interesting...

Re:Dead bricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116914)

+2 Informative

No mention of... (5, Informative)

TechnoLust (528463) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116712)

"No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced and the whole thing needs to be disassembled."

Well, except for where it was specifically mentioned in the article.

The bricks can use cheaper, less reliable components because the failure of a single brick or even several bricks will not shut down or corrupt data in the other bricks, because the data is mirrored in other sections of the array or in backup systems, he said. As a result, defective bricks can stay in place until they are replaced as part of scheduled maintenance, Gardner said.
It's getting bad when the person submitting the story doesn't even RTFA.

Re:No mention of... (1)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116860)

"It's getting bad when the person submitting the story doesn't even RTFA." Oh C'mon, he's still a slashdotter isn't he?

Re:No mention of... (1)

spac3manspiff (839454) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116868)

I dont think it would be too difficult to replace a brick during the scheduled maintance. They would probably need to shut down the data for 5 or 6 minutes, remove the defective brick, and it's back up. However this can be done during the end of the day because the other bricks have a mirror.
Seems like a really great idea.

Re:No mention of... (1)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116889)

Well I wonder if it is like current raid where you have to stack them back in the same order in your "Rubics cube" looking stack. That would be a pain if the one in the middle went bad.

Re:No mention of... (2, Insightful)

rcw-work (30090) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117180)

Well I wonder if it is like current raid where you have to stack them back in the same order in your "Rubics cube" looking stack

What kind of RAID setup do you have that doesn't write a GUID of what the disk is, as well as what all of the other disks in the set are, to each disk in the array?

Re:No mention of... (4, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116900)


It's getting bad when the person submitting the story doesn't even RTFA.

Reading the articles goes against the RFC.

Re:No mention of... (1)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117160)

Reading an article means making a copy of the content on the retina. This may infringe on someone's copyright. It's just safer to avoid such potentially illegal activities.

Re:No mention of... (1)

MrLint (519792) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117171)

Even that statement doesn't explicitly mention disassembly during scheduled maintenance.

However, one can reasonably conclude a brick in the middle would need some disassembly to make it physically accessible.

Re:No mention of... (1)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117238)

RTFA, I have mentioned this in another post, but just line the walls with them. Hell even the article mentions this is acceptable:

The bricks can be assembled "in a big pile of bricks or it could be a one-dimensional wall of bricks," which could make maintenance even easier. IBM is studying which configurations would be most effective for maintenance, Gardner said

Re:No mention of... (4, Funny)

FFFish (7567) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117280)

The solution is easy, too: there are three ceramic pads. One merely executes a Towers of Hanoi routine to work one's way down to the defective brick.

Re:No mention of... (1)

davesplace1 (729794) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117354)

Yea it always helps to read the story before submitting it to Slashdot. Storage bricks sounds like a good thing to me.

hehe (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116713)

More energon!

Re:hehe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116859)

I guess upgrading your system by walking into a store and stating 'bar weep grar ninny bar' would be pretty funny.

Or not...

IT Jenga game? (3, Funny)

jcostantino (585892) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116716)

If you have to replace a block in the middle and the pile collapses, does the server crash and you lose?

Da Cube? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116717)

Now that is some gangsta storage up in here! Props to big blue, fo shizzle. Peace. Out.

Re:Da Cube? (1)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117075)

Where the hell is the "-1, Retard" mod point? :P

Re:Da Cube? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117176)

Its up your ass. Pull out the stick & you'll find it.

Re:Da Cube? (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117144)

Why did snoop dog bring an umbrella? -Fo drizzle

Dendrites. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116733)

"EWeek is reporting that IBM is working on a concept called Ice Cube Storage Bricks that uses a conductive ceramic or mylar plate to transmit data between bricks across an air gap. "

Kind of like a neuron.

Re:Dendrites. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117197)

Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a neuron.

Legos (4, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116734)

The bricks can be assembled "in a big pile of bricks or it could be a one-dimensional wall of bricks," which could make maintenance even easier.

I knew that playing with legos would come in handy sooner or later.

Re:Legos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116795)

You just don't pluralise the word 'lego' ...

I belive it is derrived from 'lets play'

Do you often say to some body 'lets play's?

Re:Legos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116943)

Lego is a noun. Play is a verb. I don't get your point.

Re:Legos (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117347)

The name LEGO is a contraction of the Danish phrase "Leg Godt," which means "Play Well." The Danish pronunciation for this phrase is identical to the way most english speakers pronunce the word "LEGO".

However, word origins aside, LEGO may be a noun, but it's a proper noun that refers to the name of the company, and not the blocks themselves. The blocks themselves are called "LEGO(tm) bricks".

Re:Legos (1)

non-poster (529123) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117055)

When I read this in the article, I wondered to myself, "How can I assemble a physical set of things into a one-dimensional wall?" And as I think about it more, a wall can't really be one-dimensional...

Ultimate Geek Lego Blocks? (4, Funny)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116735)

How long before we see sites dedicated to storage array building contests?

More questions (1, Funny)

koi88 (640490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116738)


No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced

Or, when the ice melts?

In other news... (-1, Offtopic)

k4_pacific (736911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116743)

Astronaut: Interchangeable data storage bricks don't last!

Superman (1)

gUmbi (95629) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116759)

Did anyone else immediately think of the Superman's Fortress of Solitude? Guys?...Guys?..No?

Re:Superman (1)

chipandrews (596486) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116806)

I was thinking of 2010 and Hal's memory "bricks"...

Re:Superman (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117128)

I thought of the data storage crystals used in Stargate.

I can see it now (1)

hipbase (610975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116774)

Graffiti Array Contests

Deja vu? (0)

palad1 (571416) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116782)

storage tank.. [slashdot.org]
I recall another /. article about a storage brick as well, but I can't find it.

Re:Deja vu? (1)

Number44 (41761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116847)

Storage Tank is software, not hardware. It virtualizes all your storage into one bigass logical storage unit, which you can then attach your hosts to over a switched fiber or similar network. It's a very clever set of abstractions and protocol conversions.

I know a few of the guys working on this project, and they're most definitely software people.

Deja vu all over again (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116879)

This also works for cpu chips: see the Sun Research [sun.com] article on the sibject.

Both sound like lego bricks shoved into slots in a backplane (;-))

--dave

Should we worry? (3, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116790)

Called CIB (Collective Intelligent Bricks)...

That name for the individual bricks, coupled with the fact the picture they have on the website of the partially constructed collection looks kinda like this [google.com] is rather disturbing.

Re:Should we worry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116846)

this would be a more disturbing result [gateworld.net] IMO, since at least the Borg might keep you alive.

I am such a geek. Posting anon.

Resistance is futile.... (1)

john_g_galt (522650) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116848)

I for one welcome our cube storage overlords.

Re:Resistance is futile.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117064)

I for one do not welcome you lame joke reposting scum

Re:Resistance is futile.... (1)

Deekin_Scalesinger (755062) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117172)

When we are all enslaved to the storage cubes you may regret those words...

(I confess I did chuckle at the GP merely for the fact that I have not seen an overlord joke in a little bit on here.)

Gives a whole new meaning to... (2, Funny)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116793)

the couplers are actually able to transmit data through the extremely thin layer of air between one brick and the next

the term "air borne viruses".

dave... (0)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116797)

My mind is going.... dum dee dum. B.

New and neat? (1)

the talented rmg (812831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116808)

Call me a luddite, but I find the hype around "new and neat" technologies a bit worrying. To me, the obvious problem of having to disassemble an entire block of these things just to get to one failed device is an indication of flawed design.

It's a neat idea just like hotswapping was, but it's going to be a while before it's affordable and reliable. I'll wait for that, I think. Until then, I'll just try to imagine a beowulf cluster of these things and stick to my tried and true server setup, sans bricks.

Go ahead... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116946)

Imagine a beowulf cluster. Just try not to think about replacing a brick at the bottom of the stack...

Re:New and neat? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117140)

You don't worry about a single brick. Consider a wall of these things like a RAID array made up of a few hundred drives. The failure of one cell/drive/brick is irrelevant, and as the TFA says, you ignore it until its scheduled to be replaced.

Besides, you don't have to assume they're in a wall. There are plenty of configurations that could allow you to easily access whatever bricks you need.

It doesnt seem as though the bricks need to stay in the same position either, so you can pull from the bottom, plop them on top, rinse and repeat until you get to the one you're after. High-tech Jenga.

The whole point of this is uber-redundancy. It's not a flawed design at all. You'd need to destroy a good 1/4 to 1/3 of the bricks to hurt things.

This isn't a chain, where a weak link kills the entire structure. Think of a pyramid. What happens when a brick or two at the center of the Great Pyramid at Giza crumble? Not a damned thing, it still stands for another few millenia.

Re:New and neat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117178)

um, luddite.

Re:New and neat? (1)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117214)

stack them horizontally in many rows just 2 high, or vertically to the ceiling just one row deep, intersecting at the corners of the room (ie line the walls with them), it does not say the cubes need be in a stack to resemble a cube itself, it just says they can be

Wow... (1)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116809)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these things!

Friday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116811)

It's Friday. You ain't got no job. You ain't got shit to do.

Thank you, Sollog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117265)

lol, so true... I think I'll just smoke reefers and play Doom 3.

Tried AO yesterday, man what a timesink.

Shame about Kieth Richards, really.

Very Tough Error Isolation (5, Informative)

Number44 (41761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116815)

Caveat: I'm an employee of IBM's Storage Systems/Technology group, but I'm not working on that particular project. I am only discussing things that were in the previous press releases about this product so you won't get anything confidential out of this post.

The original intent, when this was previewed a year or so ago, was that dead bricks would just stay in there and not require disassembly. See http://www.almaden.ibm.com/StorageSystems/autonomi c_storage/CIB_Hardware/ [ibm.com]
for some more discussion.

The concern I have (my role in storage systems is error isolation and recovery) is that when you are running all these individual cubes, each one is trying to isolate what might have happened to its peers (or to itself) and when an error starts to propagate from one cube to the next, which it will invariably do sometime, you could end up with multiple cubes saying "IT'S THAT GUY!" and shooting him (ie, cutting him off) when in fact it was yet ANOTHER cube that started the whole thing by corrupting a message and is innocently sitting there not showing any failures.

So assuming that situation occurs, you have 1 failed and 1 not-failed cube which need to be fixed, and shutting off the failed one requires removal, which isn't part of the service model for the product. Needless to say, I'm going to be REALLY impressed when they get this working. My peers at IBM are awesome when it comes to storage, so I'm actually not being sarcastic when I say that.

Very Tough Error Isolation-Biological (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116937)

Ask yourself how biological systems handle error propogation?

Re:Very Tough Error Isolation-Biological (2, Insightful)

Number44 (41761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117039)

That's a pretty trite answer but I'm on vacation, so I'll respond.

Let me throw it back at you this way: assume you are SPRINTING a marathon, one that lasts a whole year. You are contractually obligated to run as fast as you can, at peak speed from the start to the end and you can't stop for anything, you have to eat and drink and eliminate on the run.

Now let's say you catch a cold, or the flu in the middle of the race. Your biological system starts to steal resources to increase white blood cell counts, to fight the infection and eliminate it. In the meantime you are slowing down, staggering, unable to concentrate on the task. The flu can take DAYS to eliminate from your system. In that time, you have failed to fulfill the contract (ie, maintain max speed) and lost the race.

These are the conditions placed on the vendors of enterprise level storage systems. Modelling error recovery after biological systems doesn't work that easily. You MUST FIX THE ERROR RIGHT NOW when it happens and reject the failed part and isolate it from the system. We strive to do it in mere seconds, which corresponds to just shy of the timeout values of the host system that's trying to use your storage.

When you stub your finger, it doesn't fall off immediately because it MIGHT inhibit your ability to work at max efficiency. Yet, that's how it has to happen in storage. We see a part start to fail, and blammo, we shut it off and call for service.

Re:Very Tough Error Isolation-Biological (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117257)

Except, of course, our bodies need a rest and recovery period. Maybe you could find some way of duplicating this biological process into the computer systewm?

Part of the problem, if we're going to make an analogy of computers to biological systems is we expect them to work 24/7 at our our will. Perhaps some downtime to verify errors is needed - particulalry in large data storage systems.

Deja Vu? (1, Funny)

rocket97 (565016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116818)

I remember reading about this a year or so ago.... ON SLASHDOT....

They already have bricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116826)

I like to call them disks.

RAID bricks (1)

VE3ECM (818278) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116827)

I imagine a plausible idea to solve the "middle brick" failure would be to have trays of bricks that you can slide out in the event of failure.

A simple RAID 5 type system would be able to mitigate the potential loss of a tray of bricks while the dead brick was swapped.

A more intelligent system may be able to actively monitor the health of each brick, detect a failure, shuffle data around, and plot a path on a screen to the dead brick.

ie. "To replace brick 1234, please remove brick 2345 first. Then remove 4532. Then remove 9786. Then remove 4575. Now remove 1234, replace. Now reinsert previously removed bricks"

Then the system would shuffle the data back to the bricks that went offline.

This idea is really only feasable for "small cubes", less than 5x5 or so... huge grids would need something along the lines of a tray system instead.

We are Borg (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116832)

So it's just like a fancy RAID setup. Very Borg-like ;)

What the advantage storage-wise? If it spreads the data across all the bricks wouldn't you lose a lot of storage space? I guess the point is ease of use.

The water cooling would be interesting to see, especially for the center Brick in a pile. That also defeats the purpose of ease of use if the center brick fails.

I don't have any experience with RAID. I'm too poor :(

I've already got some. (1)

Mal1 (840177) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116841)

My interchangable data storage bricks are my computers.

Bad Bricks answer (1)

RainbowSix (105550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116844)

No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced and the whole thing needs to be disassembled

IIRC, their idea is that when a brick dies, you just leave it there. Imagine a big room as a circle. You build bricks around the circle starting in one corner of the room. As you "upgrade", you stick new bricks on to one end. If a brick dies, screw it, just stick another one on at the end if you need it. When you run out of space at the end of the circle, you start dismantling the old obsolete (and possibly dead) bricks from the starting end and add the new snazzy bricks onto the end.

It's pretty sweet, and that ignores the watercooling channels that require special plumbing :)

Re:Bad Bricks answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116874)

BTW, I guess I forgot to mention above that the brick layout is more than 1 brick thick so they can route around the bad brick.

cube in the middle (1)

Fr05t (69968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116855)

"No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced and the whole thing needs to be disassembled." - http://www.hasbro.com/jenga/ [hasbro.com]

Re:cube in the middle (1)

VE3ECM (818278) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116906)

You take a brick from the bottom and you put it on top,
You take a brick from the middle and you put it on top.
That's how you build the tower; you just don't stop.
You keep building that tower putting blocks on top.
It teeters and it totters, but you don't give up;
It weebles and it wobbles, but you build it on up.
You take a brick from the bottom and you put it on top,
You take a brick from the middle and you put it on top,
'Til someone knocks it over, and that's when you stop...

'Cause your ass got fired.

Mr. Obvious says... (1)

Smilin (840286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116857)

This is stupid.

This comes from a research lab where people have too much money and too many signs everywhere that say, "Think of a new idea." Current storage solutions aren't so broken that they need this kind of fix. If you want to be so frickin clever why don't you work on some high density, cost effective way to eliminate moving parts from storage.

Re:Mr. Obvious says... (4, Insightful)

Number44 (41761) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116948)

Wait one damn minute here.

As they say in the army: "If it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid."

We spend billions on research, and only a fraction of the technologies that we invent (yes I am an IBM employee) turn into real products, but that's the whole idea.

Think of copper interconnects. Think of the 'pixie dust'. Think of the Power5 architecture. All of these things are working their way into YOUR badass PC of the future. These weren't the only things we came up with, but our process DID create them.

We must look really far forward and not sit on our laurels, that's a great way to lose the game against our competitors.

Re:Mr. Obvious says... (1)

Smilin (840286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117288)

As they say in the army: "If it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid."

Man that is a stupid quote. :P No offence.

If something is stupid but works it's simply something stupid that works. By "army" logic this would be a good idea once I got it to work: Train a bunch of monkeys to hold an abacus and jot down the data I input to them. Introduce additional monkeys to hold the same data and act as parity so I could automatically correct when one monkey of many decided to pick a flea instead of store his current input.

IBM has come up with MANY great ideas (they've held the record for the most patents per year for a number of years). This one just happens to be stupid. The idea may work just fine but so does a clariion from EMC or a cheap promise IDE RAID controller. NASA spent untold dollars inventing a pen that would work in zero-G. The Russian's used a pencil.

The biggest gripe I have with the idea is, "Yeah, but WHY??" The interconnects are really clever for instance but wouldn't some (parallel obviously) variation of a 30 year old headphone jack work just as well?

Why even bother with the whole 3D "cube" idea if you have to slide cooling plates in-between? Stick with a 2D approach. Better yet, just apply your liquid cooling plates idea to existing technology!

Why add a CPU and cache for every "block" of data storage that you add? Cost obviously isn't the reason. The aerospace industry used to add additional jet engines to planes for redundancy (and power of course) until they found out that each added redundant engine also introduced about 1 million extra things that could break.

I could go on but I'll just "keep it simple" and say it's stupid. No offense to you or IBM as a whole I hope.

All in all, it's just a... (3, Funny)

jejones (115979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116858)

...nother brick in the mass storage unit.

Darn. Doesn't scan.

In case the article gets slashdotted (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116861)

IBM Makes Progress with Storage 'Bricks'
By John Pallatto
December 16, 2004

IBM has made progress over the past year in developing a new water-cooled, modular mass storage system designed to be highly fault-tolerant and make more efficient use of electric power and cooling capacity.

Called CIB (Collective Intelligent Bricks), the storage system is under development at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. IBM officials discussed its work on the prototype intelligent brick storage system with gave reporters
and editors Wednesday as part of a general briefing on its storage research efforts.

CIB is an effort to make highly reliable storage systems from less-reliable standard components, said Robert Gardner, a research center staff member and co-leader of the development project at IBM. The storage units are literally designed as square bricks that can be assembled into large, Rubik's Cube-like blocks.

Each brick has its own CPU, memory, cache and networking connections. This makes the brick "appliance-like and easy to add by end-users," Gardner said.

Individual bricks can have varying amounts of storage capacity of up to 80 GB. The bricks can be assembled into systems containing terabytes or even petabytes of storage capacity.

PointerClick here to read about IBM's recent update of its TotalStorage SAN software suite.

Rather than using typical wire prongs or plugs, the bricks are connected with a
novel technology called "capacitive coupling," in which one block is mated to the next through a conductive plate. Gardner displayed two different prototype couplers, one made of Mylar and the other of thin ceramic. The couplers are actually able to transmit data through the extremely thin layer of air between one brick and the next., Gardner said.

One of the key goals is to make storage systems that are easier to build and maintain by customers, Gardner said. It should be easy enough, he said, to enable a data center technician "to walk up to the system, attach the storage and then walk away."

IBM also believes the bricks will allow it to design storage systems that are as much as three orders of magnitude more scalable than existing storage arrays while reducing complexity and simplifying maintenance, he said.

The bricks can use cheaper, less reliable components because the failure of a single brick or even several bricks will not shut down or corrupt data in the other bricks, because the data is mirrored in other sections of the array or in backup systems, he said. As a result, defective bricks can stay in place until they
are replaced as part of scheduled maintenance, Gardner said.

PointerTo read about how the latest storage systems are gaining built-in grid computing options, click here.

The bricks can be assembled "in a big pile of bricks or it could be a one-dimensional wall of bricks," which could make maintenance even easier. IBM is studying which configurations would be most effective for maintenance, Gardner said.

IBM is experimenting with water cooling with these systems because it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide efficient air cooling for the huge volume of storage devices that customers are cramming into their data centers, Gardner said. He and other IBM officials declined to say when the experimental IceCube technology might be released as a product.

Gardner indicated that his task was to demonstrate the effectiveness and practicality of the system before the company decided whether to release it as a product.

The system offers significant potential benefits to customers, he said, because
liquid cooling can save as much as seven times the amount of floor space required for effective air cooling and reduce the amount of power used for cooling by 20 percent to 50 percent, he said.

The laboratory model displayed by IBM used aluminum cooling jackets to circulate water through stacks of individual bricks. The water would pass through an external heat exchanger on a building roof or in an outdoor tank, much like an air-conditioning system, he said.

Seems like a solution looking for a problem. (3, Informative)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116865)

You can already fit about 2TB is a large desktop case. These cubes only store 60GB/cube.

I would rather use loads of desktops, each with a local RAID array. Depending on bandwidth needs, I would either connect them to a common gigabit ethernet router (not so scalable) or set up dedicated routers in a tree heirarchy with larger and larger pipes as you get near the root.

Scalability should not be too much of an issue, and with 10 or so HDDs in a single case, you don't waste too much electricity.

Naturally, they would be running Linux.

Re:Seems like a solution looking for a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116958)

Wow, I bet IBM never tought of that.

Re:Seems like a solution looking for a problem. (2, Insightful)

Cecil (37810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117245)

Seems like a solution looking for a problem

You know what? Once, computers were a solution looking for a problem too. Most people just can't think more than about 5 minutes ahead, it seems. Real invention, real innovation, real research and development, they're lost arts these days.

I think you read the article wrong (1)

erik umenhofer (782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117318)

Each brick of the planned prototype will contain 12 disks and up to 80GB of storage.

Either they are using 6.6 gig drives or they are using 12, 80 gig drives....which do you think it is?

Damn! (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116931)

If I had patented this idea when I had it ten years ago I would have been rich! (Let's for the moment gloss over the fact that I'm too dumb to design a working prototype.)

Surreal! (1)

CompuSwerve (792986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116932)

I think they should get Frank Gehry working on some new sculptural/architectural designs with this technology, so companies can go back to the good old days of showing off their data center to the world with a huge wall of glass. Aww, screw it, just cover the whole thing with titanium plates. Same effect.

like Hackers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11116942)

If we are lucky it'll look like the Gibson in Hackers complete with arcing.

Rap Bricks (1)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116944)

...Ice Cube Storage Bricks...

In addition to storing corporate data, they play rap music [donmega.com] and scratch records.

When are they coming out with Snoop Dogg Storage Bricks?

Re:Rap Bricks (1)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117046)

Will the solid-state version be called Grandmaster Flash?

hmmm, easily removable good? (2, Insightful)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116945)

Is an easily removable drive really that great of an idea? What if I trip on the power cord and knock the whole stack over? It seems to me that there is some benefit derived from drives that are securely in place.

I think that the real invention here is not the drive array itself, but the connector that is used. This would be a great way to dock things like handheld devices, cell phones, and cameras. It would also be great for portable media. It seems like it could be called "electrical connections for dummies." I can't understand how a person could have trouble with a USB plug, but people still do. I think anyone could handle putting the camera down on the big blue pad!

Not consumer electronics (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117031)

I think the issue of tripping over wires is moot. Because it's mainly for professionals in a professional environment. Initially, anyway. This is like complaining of the danger of nailguns, because most people can't operate a hammer correctly without hurting themselves.

Re:Not consumer electronics (1)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117121)

True, the probablity of a professional knocking over the array is much lower, but the damage caused by a professional knocking over an array is much greater. If I knock over my personal array its not a big deal. In fact, it may be a nonissue, I just have to put it back together. If a webserver admin somehow knocks over his array...boom, the webpage is down, it could be very serious. I agree though, the risk is much lower. It just seems that there are better solutions for swappable drives that are as effective but more "sturdy" for lack of a better term. Is anyone swapping out drives so much that taking 10 seconds to remove a drive is that much better than 5 seconds?

Re:hmmm, easily removable good? (1)

TarrVetus (597895) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117210)

What if I trip on the power cord and knock the whole stack over?
I may be observing this incorrectly, but judging from the photo [eweek.com] Funny you should mention that. I think that each one of the bricks is secured by a large pole, much like a skewer through kabobs. This way the cubes won't easily lose contact with one another or get knocked over.
This would be a great way to dock things like handheld devices, cell phones, and cameras. It would also be great for portable media.
I've always thought that a great way for computer design to move would be totally modular computers and this cube system would be a great way to do it. Each block could contain a component of the system--from processors and memory to graphics cards to disk drives--and the owner would simply connect them all together, easily adding and removing parts when needed. And, as the article states, IBM's cube system is incredibly cool, meaning that there would be no need for a case, leaving all parts open and easiliy accessible.

But, of course, that's just an idea.

ob. (1)

nmec (810091) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116959)

Imagine a beo....

ahh forget it you know the rest

x^3 x^2 right? Worng in this case (2, Insightful)

bigbensheldo (833525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11116960)

Now I understand what the point of this is, that if you have some room with dimensions W*L*H you can definitely fit more space into it if you fill the entire room with cubes, as opposed to just covering the walls with racks.

But as a people are mentioning, what about maintenance. You have a big stack of cubes, with something wrong in the middle, you have to dissassemble a bunch to get at it. And even if the data is mirrored on another brick, what happens when you have to remove that brick to get at the dead one.

Seems to me the most efficient manner is a two dimensional spread, i.e. cover one wall with cubes to a depth of only one cube. But then in that case, you migh as well go with a traditional rack server.

Cubes are stupid especially because (think about this) even if you have a wall of cubes stacked up, if you remove one, you may have to remove all of them on top of eachother (how are these things affixed?) Wouldn't it be smarter to have it be hexagonal? Removing one wouldn't collapse a column. There are more networking connections too.

Seems like a gimmick to me. Play tetris with your SAN!

Terrahawks.... (1)

voice of unreason (231784) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117043)

This reminds me of the old Gerry Anderson puppet-based TV show Terrahawks. The bad guys had evil cube shaped robots, that could stack on each other to make big laser cannons, and the like.

When our data bricks start to kill people, we'll know IBM's up to something :)

Power and water cooling connections (2, Insightful)

enosys (705759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117060)

I don't see what's the point of sending data through the air when you have to make connections to the bricks anyways. Each brick has to have a power connection and that isn't through the air. They could easily just add a high speed serial interface to that connector.

They also talk about water cooling this system. Those connections are even harder to deal with. Hoses are always going to be thicker and more difficult to handle and there's the possibility of leaks, especially when connecting and disconnecting hoses.

Re:Power and water cooling connections (1)

thpr (786837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117310)

I don't see what's the point of sending data through the air when you have to make connections to the bricks anyways. Each brick has to have a power connection and that isn't through the air. They could easily just add a high speed serial interface to that connector.

The high speed connection is something you simply don't want anywhere near the power connection. Power is noisy beyond any comprehension when you're talking high speed communications and data integrity. So you don't want the second connection.

Besides, the point behind wireless is not having to connect and disconnect items... the management of the wires is itself a pain, since in large bundles they need to be labeled and only the proper one disconnected. Allowing the devices to communicate with each other without a central switch changes that management dynamic. The equivalent (using wires without a central switch) would be four or six wires per box (one to each of its neighbors, 4 or 6 depending on # of dimensions used) and that gets to be a rat's nest (and requires innovative design or prohibits you from using the 3rd dimension because it requires a connection location for a cable)

They also talk about water cooling this system. Those connections are even harder to deal with. Hoses are always going to be thicker and more difficult to handle and there's the possibility of leaks, especially when connecting and disconnecting hoses.

Water cooling != hoses. It did in the old S/390 mainframes, but there are modern systems (Apple G5s) that use liquid cooling [apple.com] without most people realizing it.

this is not at all new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117065)

Back in the 1980's there was a computer system that ran an operating system called BTOS/CTOS. The hardware consisted of boxes that could be connected together via a backplane. You could add peripherals, memory, etc, until the assemblage stretched across your entire desk.

Yes, and Slashdot readers are smarter... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117084)

"To be really effective, this would need to be teamed up with some sort of a backplane, but the tech is new and neat."

Yes, and /. reader Shok knows better than the IBM engineers working on this technology and is paid the big bucks.

SponGe (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117150)

ink splashes acroos Consider worthwhile

Just imagine... (1)

mr_snarf (807002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117183)

...These in a rubiks cube! Move them around to find the best connections incase important bricks' connections fail :P

Solving huge data organization problems with CIB.. (1)

TheLoneGundam (615596) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117202)

Consult Rubik - LLRLR gives you financial data; LRLRLLRLR is payroll; tables are normalized if all their bricks show the same color data.

2001's data storage mechanism (1)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117216)

No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs to be replaced and the whole thing needs to be disassembled.

Someone else already mentioned that the article does discuss this... But I think what would look really cool in a corporate datacenter would be memory "cartridges" (for lack of a better word) like those seen in the memory bay of 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 computer. Glass-looking cartriges that can be inserted and removed at will. You could have rows of walls with these cartridges on both sides. One can be removed and another installed, and the RAID-like setup will automatically rebuild the data at RAM-like speeds.

Messages on Bricks and Rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11117222)

Others have already transferred data on notes tied to bricks -- and sometimes rocks -- thrown through windows. ...and I've frequently wanted to through a brick at Windows.

Rubik's cube (1)

suso (153703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11117277)

No mention is made of what happens when a brick in the middle of the cube needs

Maybe a solution to something like this would be to have some kind of rubik's cube like configuration where the data would still be accessable as long as it was connected to at least one other block, but you could move the blocks around in a preset way along "rails"
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