apple_NC_datacenter

My Fantasy – A new consumer cloud Operating System from Apple and Dell Part 3 – Cloud Infrastructure

This is the third in a series of posts about one of my (geeky) fantasies about the search for the perfect cloud Operating system.

This is a Windows 8 site but as we push forward to a new operating system, I believe this becomes more and more important.

The first post was an overview.

The second post discussed the requirements for the new cloud based Operating system.

This post is going to discuss the requirements for Cloud Infrastructure on the backend.

It might be instructive if we look at what Apple is doing already.

Here’s what we know (from datacenterknowledge.com):

It’s pretty extensive:

How Extensive is Apple’s Internet Infrastructure?

Like many content companies, Apple operates data centers on both coasts of the United States, including California data centers in Newark and Cupertino, and a major East coast data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Apple also makes significant use of major commercial content delivery networks to deliver software and digital files.

The scope of the North Carolina data center, which is nearly five times the size of Apple’s primary California facility, suggests that the company anticipates major growth in its data storage needs. What could be driving this huge upgrade in Apple’s data center ambitions? Apple has said very little about its new data center, which has created an air of mystery around the “iDataCenter” and prompted active speculation about how Apple might use it. So let’s begin with a look at Apple’s North Carolina data center, and try to sort out fact from rumor.

It’s pretty big:

Apple intends to invest more than $1 billion over the next 10 years on its 183-acre data center campus in Maiden, a town of about 3,300 residents in Catawba County in western North Carolina. The company has completed construction of a 505,000 square foot facility (pictured above) that ranks as one of the world’s largest data centers.

The Apple data center in Maiden features a one-story data center floor spanning 184,814 of space, according to a property assessment from Catawba County (link via MacRumors). The central server area is enclosed by 262,328 square feet of space supporting mechanical and electrical systems to support power and cooling. The building also has 57,432 square feet of space for offices and loading docks, and has an exterior equipment yard that covers 141,806 square feet. The building’s height ranges from 24 to 38 feet.

Some of the technology choices in use:

As for the technology being used within the North Carolina data center, here are some factoids gleaned from Apple’s job postings:

  • Apple says that its “data center environment consists of MacOS X, IBM/AIX, Linux and SUN/Solaris systems.”
  • The Maiden facility will have a “heavy emphasis” on high availability technologies, including IBM’s HACMP and HAGEO solutions for high-availability clusters, Veritas Cluster Server, and Oracle’s DataGuard and Real Application Clusters.
  • Job candidates are also asked to be familiar with storage systems using IBM, NetApp and Data Domain, and data warehousing systems from Teradata.
  • Networking positions require a familiarity with Brocade and Qlogic switches.

Facilities positions include no major surprises, requiring expertise in the maintenance and repair of chillers, cooling towers, heat exchangers, water treatment, pumps, and computer room air conditioning (CRAC) and air handling (CRAH) units. Applicants are asked to be familiar with building management systems, wiring of three-phase motors, and cooling systems using chilled water (meaning Apple won’t be going “chiller-less” to save energy, as Google and Microsoft have done).

The final interesting quote:

One of the most interesting question flowing from the North Carolina project is whether Apple needs a much larger facility to support growth in its existing services, or is scaling up capacity for future offerings. One of the leading theories about the size of the NC project is that Apple is planning future cloud computing services that will require lots of data center storage.

This fits neatly with Apple’s purchase last year of the streaming music service LaLa. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is planning to “reboot” its iTunes service as a browser-based service that would allow users to stream their music from anywhere. Others speculate that the recent video-enablement of iPods is meant to lay the groundwork for a more ambitious video offering. This shift in the iTunes model would mean a change in Apple’s data storage requirements – hence the huge scaling up of its data center platform.

I for one think that Apple is already looking at becoming a MAJOR cloud provider.

In my mind, to support the ideal cloud operating system, the datacenter effort would have to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be able to support at least between 50 to 100 million people simultaneously from day one
  2. Be able to support software installs on the fly (more about that in a subsequent post)
  3. Be able to provide simultaneous/seamless background updates and upgrades
  4. Be able to provide access to software in an agnostic manner (not Mac or PC)

In my next post, I will talk about what the new operating system should look like…

Sources: Datacenterknowledge 1Datacenterknowledge 2

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  • Michale

    The burning question for me is what do they need Dell for?

  • Mkrajyana

    Mr. Onuora Amobi
    Thanks keeping me updated
    I love to read articles published by you

  • xinu

    Really nice article! Just shared it on twitter :D.