By Al Johnson
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Cloud Infographic: Tornado Proof Reflective Roof – U.S Data Centers
CloudTweaks has covered some interesting topics and data centers is always one that seems to pique the interest and curiosity of our readers. If it’s Data center downtime, Clandestine locations to Data center growth there is much to discover.
Included is an infographic provided by WhoIs HostingThis.com which offers an interesting insight into U.S Data Centers.
Perfect Power? 3 Data Centres With Unusual Power Sources
A couple of months ago we looked at data centres which have unusual locations. Varying from the cellars of a cathedral in Helsinki to a disused World War II fort, the lengths that companies would go to in order to save money and improve efficiency were remarkable.
The article proved popular, so to follow it up we now take a look at data centres with unusual power sources. Whether the power sources are used to save money, improve green credentials, or change the perception of the business, all these locations have something unique about them.
Gas Guzzling eBay
eBay’s data centre in Utah is huge for a reason. The company has a staggering 300+ million items for sale at any moment and completes $2,000 worth of transactions every second.
To power that, their Utah data centre uses 400V power distribution with hot aisle containment, granular temperature instrumentation, and server power instrumentation. That 400V is primarily powered by thirty fuel cells – cells which turn natural gas directly into electricity. It means eBay only needs to use the local grid as a backup, making it more reliable and less prone to grid blackouts. There’s also the environmental aspect – natural gas means less greenhouse gas emissions.
(Image Source: Ebay)
Microsoft – Blowing in the Wind
Microsoft haven’t always managed to perfect their PR image. A litany of failed projects, botched releases and disappointing software often obscures their frequently excellent products.
They are trying to claw back some good will among both the tech community and wider population by using wind energy to power data centre in Chicago. They have agreed to purchase 175 megawatts of wind power in Illinois for the next twenty years – an investment which marks their largest ever outlay on green energy supplies and will provide them with a level of energy that is equivalent to powering 70,000 homes.
“Microsoft is focused on transforming the energy supply chain for cloud services from the power plant to the chip. Commitments like Chicago ensure a cleaner grid to supply energy to our data centers,” said Microsoft’s director of energy strategy, Brian Janous, at the time.
Apple Runs on Old Apples
Apple are well are that human beings produce a lot of waste – as a species we created 2.6 trillion pounds of trash in 2012 alone. It didn’t take them long to realise that all the garbage could be put to good use.
The cells at its North Carolina data centre now run on biogas that is captured from landfills. It’s a renewable energy of sorts – we produce more waste, we make more gas. Apple hope that using biogas will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollutants whilst also diversifying the fuel used to generate electricity across the North American continent.
Do you know about any unusually powered data centres? Let us know in the comments below.
By Daniel Price
The Benefits Of Having A Data Warehouse
Since the advent of the Internet and the explosion of digital marketing, the potential for creating and using data has grown exponentially. In the 1990s, Bill Inmon published a book called “Building the Data Warehouse,” which introduced the modern concept of data warehouses. According to the book, “Data warehouses provided a much-needed strategy for organizations to collect, store, and analyze vast amounts of data. As businesses expand both brick-and-mortar and online activities, the field of data warehousing has become increasingly important.” Data warehouses provide an easy way to peruse vast stockpiles of information in order to discover pertinent facts about customers or products, which in turn can lead to more informed business decisions. For example, if you wanted to analyze a specific department, such as “sales” or “marketing,” you could do so with information extracted from the data warehouse.
A 2010 Forbes Insights study found that “data-related problems cost the majority of companies more than $5 million annually,” and costs 20 percent of companies more than $20 million annually. Utilizing a data warehouse can help ensure that the data being analyzed is accurate and consistent.
Because assembling a data warehouse can be an expensive undertaking, large corporations and companies are the primary warehouse customers. However, small businesses can gain many important benefits from creating their own data warehouse as well.
First, data warehouses can save companies’ valuable time by storing important information in the same location. Rather than keeping data in several different places (such as inside CRM programs, social media accounts, and Excel spreadsheets), business owners can store data in one centralized location. As a result, they can harness this centralized data to enhance strategic decisions, without having to aggregate different sources. Data warehouses can also save money as business owners and executives can search the data without extensive assistance from the IT department.
Second, companies can benefit from storing their data in the same format. Since data from different departments is standardized, each department will create results that are in sync with other departments. This ensures data quality and uniformity. As a result, business owners and executives can feel confident that their data is accurate, which will lead to more informed business decisions.
Third, data warehouses can improve business intelligence. Because the data warehouse combines information from various parts of the business, owners and executives can feel confident that their decisions are being made based on comprehensive information. Data warehouses can provide a full picture of a company’s marketing and financial plan, inventory management, and sales history. This allows key players to make decisions that are based on facts rather than intuition.
Forbes magazine stated, “While it’s true that data warehouses have been around for years, their value keeps growing because they represent a company’s crown jewels—prized data on customers and business performance.” For example, health care providers use information gleaned from data warehouses to streamline patient care and improve service. Marketing teams can use information collected in the data warehouse to make sure they are targeting the right demographics. Executives can use the data to streamline operations or reevaluate products.
Companies who want to create a data warehouse can start by figuring out what their business objectives are and how having a data warehouse will contribute to these goals. Next, they should choose a database management system for their data warehouse. Then, they need to construct a data model and plan the data transformation. Afterwards, businesses need to begin testing the plan to see what needs to be tweaked or changed.
WIRED magazine stated that Google spent years working to successfully master sophisticated data warehouses. Writer Steven noted, “Google knows exactly what it needs inside its rigorously controlled data centers—speed, power, and good connections—and saves money by not buying unnecessary extras. No graphic cards, for instance, since these machines never power a screen.” Small businesses should consider their business objectives and needs in order to create a data warehouse that’s right for them.
Data warehouses not only save time and energy through stockpiling data in one centralized location; they also guarantee that the information provided will be more accurate and reliable than data gleaned from other sources. Businesses that are serious about utilizing technology to their advantage should consider creating their data warehouse.
By Keith Cawley
Powering Up The Cloud
Battery life has been the biggest problem for almost all smartphone users, but manufacturers have rarely been seen trying to accommodate the user’s needs in this department. A high-end smartphone these days won’t last you a day if your performance is moderate to heavy. This need of smartphone users for more battery power has allowed the charge cases and external battery manufacturing companies to flourish over the years.
Lithium is considered the prime metal to be used for batteries because it offers the most potential since it is lightweight and has the highest energy density. Simply put, with lithium you get more power per volume and weight.
Nowadays, researchers are constantly looking for ways to decrease the workload on a smartphone in order to increase its battery life. It’s a new way to tackle the problem of a small smartphone battery. We can use Amazon cloud as an example; its cloud can store personal data and perform computations on that data. So the main question we can ask ourselves is, can offloading mobile applications into the cloud, save us energy? The answer is a complex one, especially since mobile computing uses limited energy and because of the data transfer speed of the wireless connection.
Everything boils down to efficiency. If a mobile application uses too much energy in the cloud, running it is not feasible. Increased energy consumption means smaller battery life, and since battery life is of key importance to smartphone users, this is not efficient. To make computation offloading more attractive, applications would need to be developed in such a way that they would be more efficient running within the cloud network, rather than on the mobile device itself.
There are obvious concerns to the privacy and security of such data transfers, not to mention that these mobile applications can only be used when we’re connected to a high-speed network; preferably 4G/LTE or a Wi-Fi connection. There are areas where there is no coverage of either of these two networks; so these applications would not be available to the user at that time. If the data transfer speed of these networks decreases, the smartphone would ultimately use more power to facilitate the transfer of data and the original purpose of offloading these applications would become moot since the power consumption would ultimately increase.
We can ultimately conclude that even though there are many ways to save battery life on a mobile device, many of these ways come built-in from the manufacturer themselves. Cloud computing can potentially save a lot of energy for mobile users and erase the need for high-tech batteries. Not all applications would be able to save energy when migrated to the cloud but rather, they would do the opposite. In the end, the quality of computation would depend upon the privacy, security and the reliability of the data connection because if the connection contained all these qualities, it would lead to the mobile offloading becoming common and a good share of the mobile battery being saved.
By Margaret Evans
For many, the cloud removes processing power constraints from the equation, allowing to think freely and creatively. The costs don’t increase much, or at all: using a single computer for 1000 hours costs the same as using 1000 for an hour. So cloud computing allows tackling big ideas and data, even for those without the proper infrastructure. Pharmaceutical companies, large enterprises and even the layman benefit from the availability of the cloud, already pushing the available technology to its limits.
But there is, you’d probably agree, the difference between a company that merely stores data in the cloud and a company that utilizes the bleeding-edge benefits that cloud computing can provide. The latter is what we’ll be concentrating on in this article.
Creative uses of cloud computing
Some uses can be deemed creative focus entirely on resource saving or increasing profits. The City of Seattle teamed up with Accenture and Microsoft last year in an effort to reduce power consumption across the city by 10 to 25%. The gist is that with comprehensive data analysis maintenance and power costs of buildings can be driven down significantly, but only cloud computing can provide the necessary processing power as hardware in each building is just too costly. Healthcare companies leverage cloud computing as well. The private sector, on the other hand, uses cloud computing to process huge data sets that result in better consumer recommendations (Amazon and eBay being the obvious examples).
(Image Source: Shutterstock)
On the other hand, companies like Adobe leverage cloud computing to streamline data across different platforms, as well as move their software to the cloud. Although their Creative Cloud has its opponents, you can’t disagree with the lower starting costs to businesses and freelancers. The SaaS model seems to be working out quite well for Adobe, and them being the first company to push for an integrated marketing cloud sends a welcome signal to consumers looking for a solution that simplifies managing their marketing efforts from channel to channel.
However, some companies leverage cloud computing – and, yes, data sets that can be deemed ‘big’ – to come up with altogether unprecedented services. The Real Estate market is seeing some stuff that sounds right out of a sci-fi movie: tools like SmartZip allow realtors to mail prospective clients that are, according to an algorithm, about to sell their property. Relocality is another app catered to real estate, but is instead focused on regular customers. It suggests people which NYC neighborhood would suit them best, based on their Facebook interests. While the pendulum is swinging towards Big Data, not cloud computing here, it’s still a wild idea that leverages the hyperconnectivity of today’s data.
What we can gather from this, is that now we have insights where previously we had only the opinion of an expert, or no opinion at all. Data-driven insights that can be processed quicker than ever before, and will eventually, and sometimes already do, outpace human decision making. Cloud-based software allows for a streamlined experience and lower starting costs though some do lament that ultimately the chance to “invest” in software will be lost.
By Lauris Veips
Wearable Tech In The Workplace
Wearable tech is already profoundly altering the way we interact with our personal lives, but as the industry continues to grow relentlessly it will inevitably permeate into the workplace. This shift has the potential to greatly change the way employees are managed and monitored – for better or for worse.
Already companies such as Kronos and Hitachi are developing technology that can be integrated with wearables in the workplace. Kronos’ watches and wristbands include tracking and communication capabilities, while Hitachi’s ‘Business Microscope’ looks like an employee ID badge but includes sensors that track who is speak to whom, where those conversations take place and how frequently they occur. It means managers can monitor the who are the most active participants in meetings, or who spends more time away from their desk than they should.
The natural conclusion of wearable tech in the workplace is employers who have the ability to track their employee’s movements, send them alerts, remind them about responsibilities, and discuss ideas. It could happen at any time of the day and regardless of where the employee is location-wise. Such technology has business leaders drooling at the prospect of increased productivity, while have workers fretting about privacy concerns and being hassled during breaks and vacations.
Clearly, companies need to exercise extreme caution when implementing wearable tracking systems. The current law in the United States is that employees have to verify that they agree to allow employers track their location, and this is unlikely to change. Stephen Burnett – a management school professor – says that while more data and more analytics is a good thing, it has to be a joint effort between employer and employee.
“It can’t be a top down thing” he said. “It can’t be ‘I’m going to measure you, spy on you, and control you’, it has to be a joint venture between the company and the employees”. Crucially, he believes the most important feature is that workers must benefit from any system as much as the business does. “Companies should be smart enough to still give employees discretion on how they do their work. Employees who know their job will resent being turned into a robot” he added.
Kronos seem to be sensitive to Burnett’s points. Their software will also track employees’ skills, meaning it can aid with targeted training and will also allow companies to easily send questions, comments and feedback to a worker who is well-suited for a specific task – empowering the employee and giving them a sense of value. It is hoped that this technology can ultimately be fused with other wearable tech – specifically health-related wearable tech – and can tell managers which people in a manual job are most in need of a rest and advise them on the best person to replace them with, in terms of both skill-set and physical condition.
Ultimately, wearable tech in the workplace that is implemented in the right way could lead to a happier, more productive and more motivated workforce. Get it wrong and it could backfire, with employees leaving or sabotaging the system.
What do you think are reasonable limits for the use of wearable tech in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below.
By Daniel Price
With more businesses relying on the cloud for their IT infrastructure (or to deliver products to their customers), 802.11ac provides a great advantage. The move to the cloud has increased the amount of traffic on the networks and even with the increased speed and bandwidth of 802.11ac, this move requires proper network analysis and troubleshooting to ensure reliability.
Provided is an infographic courtesy of Jay Botelho, Director of product management, WildPackets which outlines the growing need for speed. With faster more reliable connections means quicker access, better execution and collaboration of cloud services resulting in increased productivity.
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