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A Roadmap for the Edge of the Internet

04/08/2008 8"404
Dr. Alan Benner, Senior Engineer, IBM Server Division

Description: In the curious way of technological evolution, we first had computers that occupied entire rooms, watched them shrink to desktop, laptop and palm"sized devices, and now find ourselves coming full circle, and then some, Alan Benner reports. He tells this MIT class about warehouse"sized data centers, linking processors, and ensembles of processors, in dizzyingly complex hierarchies. These gigantic operations, some with their own power and air conditioning plants, are central to the enterprise of Internet behemoths Google, Amazon and YouTube, but have not yet percolated out to more traditional companies like insurance firms -- a situation Benner and his IBM colleagues would like to remedy.

Benner describes in broad strokes how these data operations are organized into levels of "virtualization and consolidation," where the hardware is hidden, yet the data is both fully accessible and secure, no matter where the user and the computers are located. These new enterprise data centers aim to maximize efficiency, both in utilization and power consumption. It's better to have fewer, bigger and well"integrated machines, says Benner, working as much as possible. Since even idle servers use a lot of power, users should share processing time in a manner that keeps the processors occupied. Benner describes computer architecture and software that aims at "statistically multiplexing jobs," matching peaks in one group's workload to nonpeaks in another group's. Ideally, users remain blissfully unaware of this traffic management, and need never worry whether their information is getting crunched next door, or on the other side of the planet.

Benner hopes that companies will see advantages in migrating their data and services to a bigger, shared infrastructure, especially now with the near"ubiquity of high bandwidth networks. Given the rapid rise of energy costs, and the burdens of supporting a growing IT administration, it may save money "to move work to where it can be done most efficiently," he says.

About the Speaker(s): Alan Benner focuses on the architecture, design, and development of optical and electronic networks for high"performance servers and parallel systems. Benner earned a B.S. at Harvey Mudd College (Physics, 1986), and M.S. and Ph.D (1992) from the University of Colorado at Boulder's Optoelectronic Computing Systems Center, researching nonlinear interactions between wavelength"multiplexed optical fiber solitons. He has also done research work at AT&T Bell Laboratories on photonic networks and components. He has written 2 editions of a book on Fibre Channel, and co"authored several of the specifications for the InfiniBand architecture. He has over 20 technical publications and 25 issued patents in the U.S. and other countries. Benner is currently working on I/O and networking infrastructure for Cell"based blade servers.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Materials Processing Center

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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