As server farms start to dominate the computer business, there is a specter casting a shadow. The huge energy consumption of these farms. Google has suggested reducing the A/C cost by putting the farms on ships and using sea water to cool them. Maybe they should add OTEC or wave power too. I pity the poor sods on board maintaining the systems.
Now Technology Review reports on an experiment to use smaller, more efficient and far less power hungry computers for a farm. FAWN (Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes) is a server bank using the CPUs and memories from net book computers. For applications that just need to deliver small amounts of data, this approach turns out to be faster and cheaper than conventional servers. The reason being that the IO bottleneck is usually the disk reads. Thus using lots of small processors and DRAM memory for storage, the server arary can deliver more requests. The 2 papers to be published can be obtained from the author's website http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dga/ or directly from here and here. Interesting reading.
Which leads me to a further idea. Why cannot we use smart phones as a cloud? Here were have the fastest growing market for CPUs and memory. They are ubiquitous and sit idle for much of the day. What if they could be linked to offer a huge cloud for small messages? The phones would need to update the system with their current ip address and host some sort of lightweight web server. Security would need to be handled in a sandbox. If a webserver could be installed as part of the OS, there could be a distributed cloud that encompassed the globe. Running in memory on low power CPUs, just like FAWN, but with billions of nodes. Small, cheap and out of control. Indeed.
Food for thought.