In Tents computing

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Yesterday we had word from Nick Carr (whom I’ve never met but insist on using the familiar form of his name anyway) on a new Microsoft effort to test datacenters deployed in tents. No, seriously.

We have seen data centers in semitrailers, data centers in caves, data centers in Siberia, data centers in the Las Vegas desert, and data centers that float in the middle of the ocean. Today we have word, via Data Center Knowledge, that Microsoft has been testing data centers in tents. (They’re calling it In Tents Computing.)

Evidently this is part of a larger effort by engineers at MS to get down to datacenters with a PUE of 1.0 (Power Usage Effectiveness — a PUE of 1.0 means that all the power put into a datacenter is going into compute; you can read more about it at The Green Grid’s site here [warning: PDF]).

One of the dudes attempting this feat of back to nature computing has a great blog post about it:

As a former server designer, I know that server vendors “sandbag” their hardware. Sandbagging refers to the practice of knowing you can do more but holding back to hedge your risks; in reality, I believe that manufacturers can take greater risks in their operating environments and still achieve the same reliability levels. Knowing about the chronic sandbagging in the industry, I thought that if I could run some servers in the Building 2 garage or somewhere were the equipment is at least protected from the rain, we could show the world the idea is not that crazy and is worth exploring.

…Inside the tent, we had five HP DL585s running Sandra from November 2007 to June 2008 and we had ZERO failures or 100% uptime.

Cool anecdotes: water drips on the rack from the tent without incident, and a windstorm blew a fence onto the rack with no ill effect. The post is a great read, and I’m offering a free case of beer to the first one of you who sets up a cluster of at least 8 nodes in the out of doors running LINPACK for a week. 2 cases if you have a tropical storm during the experiment.