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A server farm.

A server farm or server cluster, also called a data center[1], is a collection of computer servers usually maintained by an enterprise to accomplish server needs far beyond the capability of one machine. Server farms often have backup servers, which can take over the function of primary servers in the event of a primary server failure.

Server farms are typically co-located with the network switches and/or routers which enable communication between the different parts of the cluster and the users of the cluster.

The computers, routers, power supplies, and related electronics are typically mounted on 19-inch racks in a server room or data center.

Contents

Applications

This server farm supports the various computer networks of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo

Server farms are commonly used for cluster computing. Many modern supercomputers comprise giant server farms of high-speed processors connected by either Gigabit Ethernet or custom interconnects such as Infiniband or Myrinet.

Another common use of server farms is for web hosting, which are sometimes referred to as web farms.

Server farms are increasingly being used instead of or in addition to mainframe computers by large enterprises, although server farms do not as yet reach the same reliability levels as mainframes. Because of the sheer number of computers in large server farms, the failure of individual machines is a commonplace event, and the management of large server farms needs to take this into account, by providing support for redundancy, automatic failover, and rapid reconfiguration of the server cluster.

Performance

The performance of the very largest server farms (thousands of processors and up) is typically limited by the performance of the data center's cooling systems and the total electricity cost rather than by the performance of the processors.[2] A computer that runs 24/7 consumes (over its lifetime) electricity worth many times its initial purchase cost. For this reason, the critical design parameter for both large and continuous systems tends to be performance per watt, rather than cost of peak performance or (peak performance / (unit * initial cost)). Also, for high availability systems that must run 24/7 (unlike supercomputers that can be power-cycled to demand, and also tend to run at much higher utilizations), there is more attention placed on power saving features such as variable clock-speed and the ability to turn off both computer parts, processor parts, and entire computers (WoL and virtualization) according to demand without bringing down services.

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Performance per watt

The EEMBC EnergyBench, SPECpower, and the Transaction Processing Performance Council TPC-Energy are benchmarks designed to predict performance per watt in a server farm. [3]

The power used by each rack of equipment can be measured at the power distribution unit. Some servers include power tracking hardware so the people running the server farm can measure the power used by each server.[4] The power used by the entire server farm may be reported in terms of power usage effectiveness or data center infrastructure efficiency.

Environmental impact

According to some estimates, for every 100 watts spent on running the servers, roughly another 50 watts is needed to cool them.[5] Iceland, which has a cold climate all year as well as cheap and carbon-neutral geothermal electricity supply, is building its first site.[5] Fibre optic cables are being laid from Iceland to North America and Europe to enable companies there to locate their servers in Iceland.

See also

External links


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