The downstream performance requirements of SaaS and streaming services are increasing constantly. The same goes for upstream workloads, which are rising dramatically as a result of IoT applications with voice control or with tens of thousands of vision sensors.
In order to balance this traffic better, more and more edge and fog server farms are emerging – compact server configurations between the central clouds and the end devices. In the telecom sector, they are called cloudlets or industrial clouds (see fig 1). Such decentralised data centres, not only operated by carriers, but also by industrial providers, are a first step to enable better network load distribution.
This decentralisation continues to be essential; but operators cannot expand these centres endlessly in order to meet rising performance requirements. On one hand, there is often not enough space for further expansion – particularly true for cloudlet server installations on mobile phone towers. On the other, it makes no sense to replace existing equipment after a few years since – at least in the carrier segment – the earnings per gigabit of bandwidth are decreasing. As a consequence, it takes longer to get a return on investment.
Operators of such high-availability server farms are therefore looking for ways to optimise their investments in new rack performance. The solution needs to be standardised as it is the only way to guarantee that it will last for decades. Since 19in rack servers are most common, it is advisable to stick with this design in order to maintain the infrastructure. But replacing individual rack servers requires a reinvestment of approximately 80%. It would be much better to reverse this ratio, so the incurred upgrade costs are only 20%. How can this be achieved?
On the technology side, it is generally processors that enable new performance levels. But it hasn’t been an easy job to replace a processor. Intel and AMD have, so far, failed to develop a socket technology for servers that reliably lasts longer than one tick-tock generation. The board, and often the entire workings of a server, have to be exchanged. The housing, invariably the smallest cost item, is then disposed of.
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