Local batteries only illustrate the bigger problem of server industry by Doug Mohney
Researchers say putting batteries in at the rack or server level could significantly reduce both power costs and power supplies needed to run a CDN network, according to a GigaOm article. The bigger issue is the long-overdue refresh of the data center server and the sloth of hardware designers.
Batteries applied to content delivery network servers could provide power savings of up to 14 percent over networks without batteries at the rack or server level. Google has had a lead acid battery per server for a while, sparing the cost and expense of a centralized UPS setup. Since the battery is local to the server, the efficiency of battery storage is pretty close to 100 percent as compared to the 92 to 95 percent you get from a big UPS setup.
Other benefits you get out of a distributed battery setup are reducing a single point of failure at the big UPS level and not having to worry about ventilation, high-voltage DC power issues or emergency showers by putting so many batteries in one centralized location.
Akamai says power savings could go up to 35 percent if new types of servers were created that can throttle energy usage based on load, rather than either being an "always on" or "always off" mode. Facebook is already kinda-sorta gone down this path with its "Sub-Zero" long term storage facility with low-power hard drive devices that will power off when not in use.
Facebook plans to use the facility in lieu of traditional tape backups, but the Bookers aren't dumb and probably already are pursing multiple paths to build an "adjustable server" that consumes energy based upon load. Such a server would apply concepts like "instant on" and hybrid solid-state/disk drives you see today in use for tablets and laptops.
Which brings me to my next point: The hardware industry has been lazy. It took Facebook and others to start the reinvention of servers with the Open Compute project. Innovation, such as it is, has been driven by Intel setting designs built around its latest silicon. For over a decade, new server models have shown up with faster processors, graphics, and I/O capabilities in the same clunky case and power supplies with little thought to being more power-efficient. Certainly there's been an improvement to make the bits and wires more environmentally friendly, but the most visible change seems to be less disposable packaging rather than better compute-per-watt efficiency.
It's not like putting an easily removable battery into a computer is rocket science. We have these things called "laptops" that have successfully used the concept for decades. But the me-too world of Intel-based computer design never took the next step to integrate an onboard backup capability into tower boxes, leaving UPS power backup to an after-market purchase for consumers and businesses alike.
As I've noted before, if the computer hardware industry doesn't start picking up the pace of innovation, Facebook and others will ultimately contract to have servers built to their own specs. Microsoft has already taken this step in the tablet industry, much to the chagrin of traditional manufacturers.