Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Smart Cities and the SSD-Driven Data Centre

We have smartphones, smart cars, and smart homes filled with dozens of smart devices. So, are you now ready for “smart cities”??? They may have been a fanciful thing of the past for futurists and dreamers, but smart cities are now here. They are beginning to emerge thanks to billions of devices across the globe able to communicate via the internet. And yes, data centres are playing a big part.

The data centre of the future is likely to be the bedrock of the smart city for obvious reasons. But, before we get to discussing what that might look like, let us first consider where we are right now. ITProPortal's Laurence James recently wrote a very timely blog post in which he cited data suggesting that upwards of 1.6 billion devices will be connected to smart city infrastructure before 2016 is out. He mentions things such as smart transport, traffic management systems via connected cars and even the local rubbish bin that is capable of sending a message that it needs to be emptied.

James used the 2012 Olympics in London as an example of how smart cities are already working. Officials at TfL had to put a system in place to manage traffic that could support up to 18 million journeys per day. The system they settled on used data analytics to predict traffic patterns so that trains, buses and other options could move through London as efficiently as possible.

Data Centres at the Heart of Smart

At the heart of smart is the data centre. But here's the thing: in order to make smart cities a reality, we are going to need a lot more local data centres that are capable of processing tremendous volumes of data extremely quickly. Relying on regional data centres will simply not be enough.

This presents a problem; especially in an era when we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint while at the same time consuming less energy. As we already know, data centres are hungry consumers of power. We need to find a way to reduce power consumption if we are going to build enough data centres to support smart cities without completely obliterating our energy goals. The solution appears to be the Solid State Drive (SSD) 'flash' drive.

In his post, James explains that experts predict mechanical hard drives will be capable of supporting 40 TB of data by 2020. As tremendous as that number is, it is insufficient. The good news is that SSDs should be able to support 128 TB at 10% of the power and 6% of the volume required by mechanical hard drives. In other words, SSDs can handle more data at faster speeds, at a lower cost, and with a smaller footprint requirement.

Smart cities are here now. In the future, they will be driven by local data centres that rely on SSDs to handle the massive data flow. Who knew the technology behind the flash drive in your pocket would be so integral to powering the future?


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

UK Solar Power Reaches New Milestone

Most of us are fully aware of the fact that the UK is a world leader in clean energy – particularly in the area of solar - so it should be no surprise that a new analysis offered by the Solar Trade Association (STA) reveals that producers have recently hit the latest milestone in solar energy production, by generating nearly 24% of the total energy demand during the afternoon hours of 5 June 2016.

According to the STA, the UK is now home to almost 12 GW of solar power capacity that, at peak generation, can produce up to 25% of the nation's total energy needs. The STA is firmly behind solar as the best way to provide clean energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Chief executive Paul Barwell was quoted by E&T magazine as saying, "This is what the country and the world needs to decarbonise the energy sector at the lowest price to the consumer."

Solar Farms and Rooftop Installations:

The popularity of solar power in the UK is evident by the rapid uptake of both solar farms and rooftop installations. According to E&T magazine, one particular rooftop installation in Telford consists of 14,000 solar panels on top of a commercial building operated by Lyreco. The magazine goes on to say that all of the clean energy sources currently in use in the UK, combine to provide more than 25% of the UK's total power generation.

Across the UK, more and more homes are being fitted with solar panels for two purposes. Consumers are utilising PV systems to generate direct electrical current and solar thermal systems for hot water and space heat. Commercial and industrial enterprises are also embracing solar for space heat, process heat and hot water.

The STA says that all the solar industry needs at this point is one more "push from the government" to reach its goal of being subsidy-free sometime early in the next decade. The government seems like it is on board, for now.

Solar for Data Centre Requirements:

We are thrilled to know that solar and other clean energy sources are doing so well and, to have UK solar capacity reach this most recent milestone is certainly encouraging. It leads us to wonder if we will ever see a viable solar application for powering data centres. Finding some sort of renewable solution is critical given the fact that data centres are among the most prolific power consumers in the world. If we can find a way to get data centres off fossil fuels, doing so would have a tremendous impact on meeting clean energy goals.

Solar isn't adequate for data centre needs in its present form. But we can envision a day when highly efficient solar thermal systems with sufficient storage capacity could be used to generate the power requirements of a data centre in order for it to operate 24/7. A development like this would certainly be exciting and one that all of us in the data centre industry would be absolutely thrilled to see.