Will High-Density Blades 'Break' Moore's Law?

The Uptime Institute warns that the cost of cooling high-density server rooms is ofsetting the savings from blade servers and faster processors.

An upcoming study from The Uptime Institute warns that the rapid shift of mission-critical infrastructure to blade servers may undo the cost benefits of smaller and faster servers. The study, which will be discussed by industry professionals at a conference in April, asserts that "unanticipated consequences" threaten to undo many of the cost advantages made possible by blade servers:

At least within the context of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of computing infrastructure systems necessary to support massive and ever-growing computing applications, these consequences, the report will suggest, may, in the short-term, break Moore's Law.

The study's attention-grabbing (if carefully couched) assertion isn't that advances in processing power will slow, but that those gains will no longer save money for end-users. The reason: high-density blade server installations are generating so much heat that the savings in capacity and space are being offset by the additional costs required to cool the servers and cabinets.

"The cost of the 'physical layer' of supporting infrastructure, for the first time, is now often exceeding the cost of IT hardware," said Ken Brill, principal author of the white paper and founding director of The Institute. "This is what we are seeing as causing the current and projected truncation of the economic corollary to Moore's Law."

The full study will be published in a white paper to be released at the institute's High-Density Computing Symposium scheduled for April 23-26 in Orlando. An executive summary will be made public, but the full study will only be available through The Uptime Institute's member library.

Moore's Law, named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles approximately every 18 months, and that this will generally hold true for at least another two decades. The "economic corollary" to Moore's Law is that while transistor density will double, it will continue to do so at about the same cost. The Uptime Institute says its findings now suggest that when the cost of facilities and infrastructure needed to manage the new densities are added into the total picture, costs are rising dramatically