Packet Rat: The pods get bigger, even as they shrink

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

After setting up emergency voice over IP networks and other communications gear, the Rat was all too happy to hand off his temporary relief duties in the Gulf Coast region last week and get back home to the network command bunker. But things were hotter there than he had remembered.

'It's the three new racks of servers,' one of his lieutenants, dressed in a tank top and gym shorts, told him. 'I think we've maxed out our cooling capacity.'

'Well, that's an understatement,' the whiskered one said between swipes at sweat rolling down his face. 'We could get into the sauna business.'

The next day, the Rat took a jaunt up to New York to Sun Microsystems Inc.'s quarterly propaganda show to see if he could channel some of the hot air from Sun to power additional cooling systems.

Instead (after Sun played a marketing video that showed a fictional company turning failed Dell servers into a rock-climbing wall and starting a new profit center by roasting chicken over Xeon processors), he saw Sun vice president John Fowler unveil a new line of smaller, faster, cooler and more energy-efficient servers, called Galaxy.

'Honey, they shrank the server,' the cyberrodent drooled, his techno-lust starting to rise.

Sun has managed to squeeze an eight-way server with hot-swappable drives, power supplies and fans into a single-rack slot size. And Sun is selling the new servers with Java Enterprise System and management software in a 'data center in a rack' configuration called 'pods.'

As a gag, Fowler and Sun chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz put iPod-like 'skins' on their 'jPods,' plugged earphones into them and rocked to the Gorillaz song, 'Feel Good.'

The song fit Sun's overall message'Sun is now offering Level 1 support for Microsoft Windows on its servers and has renewed its licensing deal with Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., so the rest of the New York event was just one big love-fest.

Of course, Apple had shrunk some pods of its own the week before. The iPod nano, which uses flash memory from Samsung, has pushed the form factor for the music player down even farther.

'Great, now my kids will be hitting me up for another expensive toy they'll leave in their laundry,' the whiskered one whined as he browsed the New York Apple Store before jumping back on Amtrak.

Now, Samsung has released a new flash memory chip with twice the density'one that could allow for flash memory cards ranging up to 32GB.

And it might be a sign of what Samsung can do for enterprise storage, depending on how fast reads and writes are. With the price and capacity of flash memory headed in different directions, the Rat is having visions of a solid-state data center in his future.

'Of course, then, without all the heat and failing hard drives,' the Rat reflected, 'I'll have to come up with a new workout plan.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].

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