Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Free beer, or free puppy?

Sun have just bought mySQL, the open source web database company, and one of the VPs was taking part in one of the sessions. He was great – very interesting, and gave a lot of insights into the world of open source, particularly into the commercial aspects. Obviously because of the theme of the conference he talked a lot about the community aspects of open source development. In his words, “if you operate transparently your users will tell you if you screw up”. Scale fast and fail fast – if something’s not working, find out why and do something differently.

We also had a session on some of Sun’s products for storage and HPC. This was a much more technical session, and one which I won’t go into in too much detail – lots of talk about teraflops (a great word). Also mentioned was project Blackbox – this is a datacentre in a shipping container. I saw one last year at this conference, and wanted one! A shipping container full of racks. Three plugs on the outside – power, data and chilled water. A datacentre that you could put in a car park, or a warehouse. You might not want to have Sun plastered all over it if you were going to put it in a car park though.

A panel session on open source in admin computing produced a good quote about open source not being free and needing a lot of support: “It’s not free beer, it’s a free puppy”.

Final sessions of the day were on energy and the environment. Sun have a VP for Eco Responsibility, and seem to be taking the issues seriously. In order to be sustainable, we’re going to have to be innovative – computing being part of the solution to how we do things differently but also part of the problem. I’ve quoted this before, but IT is responsible for as many carbon emissions as the airline industry. Although Sun are looking at many areas – they saved 99m sheets of paper for example by not printing their Annual Report – their main priority is energy efficiency of computers. Some facts:

Data centres cost $7.2billion to operate annually
Power consumption doubled between 2000 and 2005 and will probably double again by 2010
60% of data centres are running out of power, cooling and space
Utility grids are not keeping up with the demand for power.

He outlined a number of initiatives Sun are taking, including redesigning data centres, rolling out sunrays instead of PCs (they use about 1/20th of the power), looking at energy efficiency at every component level and designing for disassembly and recycling.


Chris said...

The problem with open source or free software in admin computing is that there would be no all expenses paid trips to San Francisco for senior administrators.

Got to keep those support contracts coming.

Just for information
Free Software

Open Source Definition

Mike said...

I hope you don't mind but here's a plug for the OSS Watch (JISC-funded advisory service) one day event, Risk Management in Open Source Procurement, on 18 March in Oxford, which might be of interest to your readers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

I like the quote about Open Source computing, although you could extend the analogy to commercial software... like an expensive pedigree puppy. Looks great when you get it, good luck when the vets bill comes!