Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

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Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:50 pm

After having a few beers tonight (Dogfish Burton. Yummy!), I got to thinking about the sheer compute power available at a data center, like the new one the NSA is building out the desert in Utah. Turning that around, and using it ,instead, as a resource for small to medium sized businesses and universities, could such an endeavor ever become profitable? Obviously the specifics of the system haven't been revealed, except that 3-12 exabytes of storage would be available in the short-term.

Assuming you could get enough servers, GPUs, internal network infrastructure, storage space, insane amounts of bandwidth in and out of the facility, electricity, and cooling, along with the requisite virtualization to divy up compute and storage resources amongst customers, does anyone here envision customers actually being willing to trust their data (and putting their business on the line) with an entity that would provide all the infrastructure they would need, allowing them to merely connect a terminal over a WAN connection to their own private "cloud", while everything else is taken care of for them seamlessly in the background?

Any thoughts/ideas?

/Sorry about the giant run-on sentence! :)
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 8:57 pm

To extend it a little further, what about using part of the capacity as an education resource? Like putting some Elementary, Middle, and High School materials/labs on it as well? Maybe pooling enough resources together for Universities to rent "supercomputer" time?
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:22 pm

After tokin a few doobies tonight (white widow & tangerine dream), I realized that you just popped in from the past in a 1980's model DeLorean.
I assume you have never heard of AWS or Azure or any of the other myriad of cloud service providers.
Also note, that in the year 2014, we don't care about education or any of that other dribble you were rambling on about. We only care about money. Money that we can make..RIGHT NOW!!!!

So break out this new thing we have now called "google" or "duckduckgo"( if you know what the definition of paranoia is), or maybe this other thing called "wikipedia" and research this "cloud" thing you speak of.

Expect the NSA to come visit you for suggesting such anti-american ideas for their precious hardware, you insensitive clod!!
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:26 pm

As zenlessyank just noted, you basically described how things were done back in the 1970's, except that now we have a heckuva lot more compute power so the terminals can be big fancy GUIs instead of green-screen text boxes.

The whole "cloud" thing is really a different play on the old mainframe concept (centralized computing power) except you aren't dealing with a single mainframe system but a "cloud" of servers that (theoretically) have similar reliability to a mainframe and are managed by someone else.
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:51 pm

You're both correct, this is the way things used to be done, but if you crack open a VSphere5 book, this is also the way virtualization in the enterprise is going. Everything would happen at the core of the network, and be distributed back out to the clients/terminals. A/V, Office, even GPU sharing are possible using virtualization. Why not make that type of computing power available, so that people could potentially have access to as much, or as little, compute resources as they need, and then charge accordingly?

At the end of the day, this is all just a thought experiment on my part. I'm working on my Cisco Data Center cert, and eventually I'll pick up VMWare certifications as well. I'm from the armpit of the South, where jobs are slim and futures grim, so I was just fantasizing about building a massive Data Center that could be commoditized to try and bring jobs and much needed cash into the region. I'm just postulating ways it could be useful to companies, schools, hospitals, to try and make my tiny corner of the world a slightly better place.

If you guys wanna play along, feel free. I'm always open to different ideas. :)

/I would sell my own mother for some white widow or tangerine dream right about now. Alas, I've gotta abstain, since I'm trying to find full-time work. This contract stuff is getting old fast. :)
Last edited by Hz so good on Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:36 pm

Like zenless said, what you describe is pretty much exactly how cloud computing works. They make a big deal about how its the big magical abstract thing that's everywhere and nowhere but in reality it's just a couple of giant server farms plugged into the backbone. The Amazon cloud got pwned by an actual cloud about a year ago because it wasn't very redundant and big storms > fragile data center.
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:53 pm

So i'm basically reinventing the wheel, huh? Alrighty...

I wonder how much bandwidth a remote user would need to get same user experience that having everything local would provide? VMWare recommends GigE links on the backbone, and wherever possible, and obviously AT&T isn't going to drop GPON at everybody's house/business any time soon. It would be pretty neat to be able to just buy a nice 27" LED widescreen with a little compute power, slave a nice wireless mouse and keyboard to it, and connect that to a GigE link back to your local telco, then (after the appropriate handshaking/credential exchange) just bring up your "desktop" and get to it. Spread that across every home, school, and businesses across a city, things could be pretty cool.

Assuming I used Titan as a model (since it's relevant to VSphere that I'm reading on, as opposed to Tianhe-2), would 17.5 Pflops be enough compute power for the needs of a mid to large sized city, again assuming everyone utilized it? What kind of backbone would be required to feed such a beast?
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:52 am

It would be cool right up until the point that the Internet gets pwned and nobody has anything. Remember PSN? PRISM? Stuxnet? Imagine all of that times a bajillion...the only reason the cloud hasn't been pwned yet is it's not a big enough target compared to juicy financial candy.

As far as bandwidth, just enough to send a streamed compressed video signal. Steambox and Shield both let you stream 1080p games from your PC over bog standard wifi. The problem is gonna be latency, Shield's mothership is in the other room and AWS is a thousand miles away behind several circa 1995 routers and Room 641As.

p.s. I'm hittin' the Freixenet hard tonight. Cheers!
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:12 am

NovusBogus wrote:It would be cool right up until the point that the Internet gets pwned and nobody has anything. Remember PSN? PRISM? Stuxnet? Imagine all of that times a bajillion...the only reason the cloud hasn't been pwned yet is it's not a big enough target compared to juicy financial candy.

As far as bandwidth, just enough to send a streamed compressed video signal. Steambox and Shield both let you stream 1080p games from your PC over bog standard wifi. The problem is gonna be latency, Shield's mothership is in the other room and AWS is a thousand miles away behind several circa 1995 routers and Room 641As.

p.s. I'm hittin' the Freixenet hard tonight. Cheers!



In my hypothetical scenario, there would be several offsite backups of everything and redundant links out the wazoo. And I'm well aware of Stuxnet/Flame, PSN, the recent NTTP attacks. That stuff comes with the territory, naturally. ;)

I was just thinking about something local that would service the immediate geographical region around it, not necessarily everybody and his brother 10K miles away. Let's say 250-300K people use it 24/7. Maybe the pretend terminals have USB3 ports on them, and people love flinging files amongst themselves, so the local switches in the DC would have to handle Terabit per sec traffic loads, but maybe the average user could get away with a 10 or 100Mbit connection from home/work?

p.s. I'm hittin' the Freixenet hard tonight. Cheers!
*clunks glasses together* :)
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:36 am

I think in the near future we're going to see what I call the Community Area Network, which is sort of what you describe and has mirrors for a lot of what's currently found on the Internet, or rather what used to be on the Internet before the Great Information War of 2018. 802.11n isn't much faster than 100M so if a user's router actually handles 10/100 correctly (which most do not) that would probably be sufficient. Realistically, they're gonna need gigabit especially for more than one user. Good news is gigabit consumer routing is here, if only ISPs would catch up (admittedly unlikely in the current political/economic climate).

My prediction is that applications and sensitive data will live locally, and servers will be more heavily mirrored. A lot of web applications will be split up so that it works offline or with reduced network integrity, like how Steam can be brought offline. Since backbone routers have handled current Internet traffic effectively for years it's not a matter of needing new tech, just re-architecting what's already there. While nobody said it publicly the networking side of CES showed a lot of hints that the industry is moving in this direction
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:14 am

And somewhere Larry Ellison is going "neener-neener, I told you so 20+ years ago".
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:09 am

NovusBogus wrote:I think in the near future we're going to see what I call the Community Area Network, which is sort of what you describe and has mirrors for a lot of what's currently found on the Internet, or rather what used to be on the Internet before the Great Information War of 2018. 802.11n isn't much faster than 100M so if a user's router actually handles 10/100 correctly (which most do not) that would probably be sufficient. Realistically, they're gonna need gigabit especially for more than one user. Good news is gigabit consumer routing is here, if only ISPs would catch up (admittedly unlikely in the current political/economic climate).

My prediction is that applications and sensitive data will live locally, and servers will be more heavily mirrored. A lot of web applications will be split up so that it works offline or with reduced network integrity, like how Steam can be brought offline. Since backbone routers have handled current Internet traffic effectively for years it's not a matter of needing new tech, just re-architecting what's already there. While nobody said it publicly the networking side of CES showed a lot of hints that the industry is moving in this direction



I agree with the first part of your statement, especially in light of the recent ruling on Net Neutrality. It's almost back to the old original AOL days, where you were on their cached portion of the Internet as much as possible, before actually hitting out to the Net, proper.

It's nice that gigabit consumer routing is here, as I can envision some pretty sweet LAN setups in houses/apts. No major provider in CONUS is gonna upgrade their infrastructure, until somebody holds a gun to their head.


Captain Ned wrote:And somewhere Larry Ellison is going "neener-neener, I told you so 20+ years ago".


*notices Oracles stocks are down .21%*

neener-neener indeed, Darth Ellison. :P
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:30 am

Hz so good wrote:So i'm basically reinventing the wheel, huh? Alrighty...

Actually, you're re-inventing it the second time around. The cloud service providers already re-invented it once.
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Re: Using a Data Center like an old mainframe/terminal

Postposted on Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:42 am

There are several issues currently with these concepts:
1. Apps need to be rewritten to take advantage of this concept. Some apps already have (hello, Office 365) but many have not. If you work in an organization with in-house apps (I do) it is non-trivial to do (and will take years, and the organization will and cash to do it).

2. The dirty little secret of the current cloud environment is that it's fine for most things, but high compute/storage applications are actually more expensive to run in the cloud then local. Servers and storage are cheap these days (most of the servers we buy are ~$10,000 mark). But if you move an application that has occasional spikes it gets pretty expensive (even on-demand). And you pay the cost every month, so over the course of several years the break-even is not as good as the providers and industry have you think.

As an example, we are looking to move our Exchange instance. On an individual basis it looks like an outstanding deal (less then 10$ per user, depending on the exact features you select). But multiple by a couple thousand users, and you are looking at over a hundred thousand dollars a year, every year. This also does not take into account that all that traffic that was once on a LAN now moves to the WAN (so every attachment gets sent to the cloud out your WAN connection, even if it's being sent to the guy in the next cube over). That is additional cost. Now, how much does it cost to have all that infrastructure internally? The difference is not as great as the providers would have you think.

3. If your internet connection goes down, your business is down.

Now, are we moving that direction? Yes. And its very good for some things. (For example, I'm a big fan of Steam). But it is not a one size fits all solution. For example, moving GPU compute to the cloud to run 4k graphics requires a lot of low latency bandwidth. I don't know any provider that can currently provide that (or will in the next few years) Documents, e-mails, standard apps, that is another matter entirely.
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