Wired: The Information Factories
October 10th, 2006 By: Rich Miller
This month’s edition of Wired includes an article on data centers titled The Information Factories and written by telecom pundit George Gilder, which is now available online. Much of the article focuses on Google’s celebrity data center at The Dalles, Oregon, which has been written about extensively on the front page of the New York Times and elsewhere. There are times when Gilder’s self-referential writing gets in the way of the information. “When I wanted to electrify crowds with my uncanny sense of futurity, I would talk terascale (10 to the 12th power), describing a Web with an unimaginably enormous total of 15 terabytes of content,” he notes early in the story. For much of the piece, he seems to still be trying to impress readers with his “uncanny sense of futurity.” After an interesting look at Ask.com, Gilder gets telecosmic as he ponders next steps in the evolutionary process begun by these data centers :
The next wave of innovation will compress today’s parallel solutions in an evolutionary convergence of electronics and optics: 3-D and even holographic memory cells; lasers inscribed on the tops of chips, replacing copper pins with streams of photons; and all-optical networks in which thousands of colors of light travel along a single fiber. As these advances find their way into an increasing variety of devices, the petascale computer will shrink from a dinosaur to a teleputer
Indeed, why postulate about “futurity” when we can’t even power the present at a reasonable cost?
Nobody is penalizing the chipmakers (yet) for their power-hungry ways… why? Because the datacenter operators, still reeling from the 2001-2005 market downturn are still pricing datacenter space at break-even levels. The companies with the capital to do it themselves (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc) have taken away the top end, and the bottom and even middle-end players are not willing to pay what it costs to house, power and cool their gear. No chipmaker is offering a low-power alternative in a platform that people are buying, so the chipmakers feels no IMMEDIATE pressure from their customers to produce. Datacenter operators aren’t penalizing power-hungry customers (enough) to create the push on the chipmakers.
If the market would bear 1999/2000 era pricing the datacenter operators would be financially healthy and turning a good profit… as it is today though, nobody is making good money at this game.