Thinking Outside The Case

Nice Rack!

Note: The below is a straight off-the-top-of-my head rant I dashed off to my editor at a technology journal I occasionally write for. I'm looking for feedback to tighten it up. Feel free to tear it apart!

When it comes to data center metrics the one most often talked about is square footage. Nobody ever announces that they’ve built a facility with Y-tons of cooling, or Z-Megawatts. The first metric quoted is X-square feet. Talk to any data center manager however and they’ll tell you that floor space is completely irrelevant these days. It only matters to the real estate people. All that matters to the rest of us is power and cooling – Watts per square foot. How much space you have available is nowhere near as important as what you can actually do with it.

If you look at your datacenter with a fresh eye, where is the waste really happening?

Since liquid-cooled servers are at the far right-hand side of the bell curve, achieving electrical density for the majority of us is usually a matter of effectively moving air. So what is REALLY preventing the air from moving in your data center? I won’t rehash the raised floor vs. solid floor debate (since we all know that solid floors are better) but even I know that the perforated tiles, or the overhead duct work is not the REAL constraint. A lot of folks have focused a lot of energy on containment; hot aisle containment systems, cold aisle containment systems, and even in-row supplemental cooling systems.

In reality however, all of these solutions are addressing the environment around the servers, not the servers themselves which are after all, the source of all the heat. Why attack symptoms? Let’s go after the problem directly: The server.

First of all, the whole concept of a “rack unit” needs to be discarded. I’ve ranted before on the absurdity of 1U servers, and how they actually decrease datacenter density when deployed as they are currently built. I’d like to take this a step further and just get rid of the whole idea of a server case. Wrapping a computer in a steel and plastic box, a constrained space, a bottleneck for efficient airflow is a patently absurd thing. It was a good idea in the day of 66 Mhz CPUs and hard drives that were bigger than your head, but in today’s reality of multi-core power hogs burning like magnesium flares it is just asking for trouble. Trouble is what we’ve got right now. Trouble in the form of hot little boxes, be they 1U or blade servers. They are just too much heat in too constrained spaces. Virtualization won’t solve this problem. If anything it will just make it worse by increasing the efficiency of the individual CPUs making them run hotter more of the time. Virtualization might lower the power bills of the users inside the server, but it won’t really change anything for the facility that surrounds the servers in question. The watts per square foot impact won’t be as big as we hoped and we’ll still be faced with cooling a hot box within a constrained space.

So here is my challenge to the server manufactures: Think outside of the case.

This isn’t a new idea really, nor is it mine. We’ve all seen how Google has abandoned cases for their servers. Conventional wisdom says that only a monolithic deployment such as a Google datacenter can really make use of this innovation. Baloney. How often does anyone deploy single servers anymore? Hardly ever. If server manufacturers would think outside of the case, they could design and sell servers in 10 or 20 rack unit scale enclosures. They could even sell entire racks. By shedding cases altogether, both server cases and blade chassis, they could create dense, electrically simple, easy to maintain, and most importantly easy to cool servers. The front could be made of I/O ports, fans, and drives. Big fans for quiet efficiency. The backs could be left open, with electrical down one side and network connections down the other. Minimize the case itself to as little as possible… think of Colin Chapman‘s famous directive about building a better race car: “Just add lightness.” The case of a server should serve one purpose only: To anchor it to the rack. Everything else is a superfluous obstruction of airflow. No need for steel, as plenty of lighter weight materials exist that can do the job with less mass.

Go look in your datacenter with this new eye and envision all those server cases and chassis removed. No more artificial restriction of airflow. Your racks also weigh less than half of what they do today. You could pack twice the computing horsepower into the same amount of space and cool it more effectively than what you have installed.

Ten years from now we’ll look back at servers of this era and ask ourselves “what were we thinking??” The case as we know it will vanish from the data center, much like the horse and buggy a century before. We’ll be so much better without them.

rm -rf

I just deleted about 50 or so registered users off this site. I suspect that most of them were just completely bogus accounts created by spambots. The way I’ve configured WP on here it is unlikely that I’ll ever suffer from comment spam, but I think that some automated systems create bogus users in an attempt to make some fancy tinned meat in comments, if not posts themselves.

So I glanced through the list and removed any account that looked implausibly inhuman. If I’ve deleted your account, and you are a plausible human, I apologize. Pick a better username next time, or don’t use a mail address in some bizarro TLD.


Arlington Merchants Show & Shine, 2008

It has been a couple of weeks, but I’m finally getting around to posting about my little hometown car show. Every year the downtown merchants put on this show, usually the first or second weekend in June. It did not happen last year, as Olympic Avenue, the main street through town, was all torn up and being repaved. We didn’t even have a proper 4th of July Parade last year!

But now that disruption is over and life has returned to normal in sleepy little Arlington, washington so the show is on this year. Unlike past years, I actually got down there early this time, and found a great parking spot. Right on a corner diagonally across from City Hall. This meant my car was in the shade in the morning, and fell within the shadow of City Hall during the hottest time of the day. It was a good day, with mostly sunny skies and no threat of rain. It did rain the night before though, so I didn’t get a chance to wash the car. After the rainy Classic Motorcar Rally the weekend before, it was pretty dirty. I awoke at 5 AM, well past daybreak at this latitude at this time of year, and washed the Jaguar in the driveway, threw the rest of the cleaning stuff into the boot and drove down the hill into town.

As usual the show was completely dominated by American cars. Lots of pre-war stuff. Tons of 50s cars. Even more tons of 60s Muscle cars. And of course more Hot Rods than you could shake a stick at. My guess was a total of 350 cars or so. After I arrived I registered, and spent a bit of time cleaning up the car… mostly detailing (wheels, chrome and rubber bits.) Since the sun was out, I left the tonneau cover on the passenger side to keep the interior cool. I arrayed a few things on the luggage rack: A copy of the 2006 KZOK Classic Car Calendar, where my car starred as “Miss June” along with the SNG-Barratt E-type parts catalog with the famous “Miss January” shot of the car below Whitehorse Mountain. I figured the locals would appreciate the KZOK and local scenery recognition the car has earned. I also have a copy of the original Road & Track review of the E-type from 1961. I planted my “It is OK to Touch This Car” sign in the window, then took off to have a look at the cars for myself.

Walking as far south on Olympic as the cars were parked, I started photographing the cars that interested me. Mainly that was sports cars, which by default means non-US cars, of which there was few. Above is a Porsche Speedster.

A yellow Porsche 356.

A Sunbeam Alpine. Mine, and a Nash Metropolitan, plus this Sunbeam were the only British cars there. I saw a new Lotus Elise parked at the end of the street, but I don’t think it was in the show… it had no registration paper in the window. In addition to the Porsches (there were a couple more beyond what I shot, a 911 and a 914) there were a few German cars, several VWs, a Amphicar, a Mercedes, and this:

You don’t see these very often anymore!

There were a few Japanese cars too, but most were newer “riced” sport compacts. No 240Zs or the like.

Of course the people who organize the show actively discourage the unusual from showing up by not having ANY sort of import categories for judging. While I have no illusions or really desire to “bring home hardware” from these sort of shows, by laying out the prizes along strictly American car categories is discouraging. This area has an astounding number of very desirable foreign cars, from Gullwings to Rollers. It would be nice to see them at this show.

I did my part by talking to folks about my car, its history, its participation in events, etc. And of course I let anyone sit in it that desired.

This kid was here with his grandparents. He had on a ‘Lightning McQueen” shirt and hat, and was as animated as that character. I think I made his day.

Right across the street from my car was probably my favorite car of he day. Now I’m not a huge fan of the “T-bucket” but this one was so well executed, and had so much character and uniqueness to it, that I literally fell in love with the car.

What really attracted me to it was the unique engine. Most T-buckets have a boring old V-8 crate motor dropped in. This one has a cool little SOHC I-4 with a toothed timing belt on the front, a home-made intake manifold sporting Dual Weber carbs, and that awesome straight exhaust running down the passenger side. Yes, it blocks the door, deal with it, ๐Ÿ˜‰

The little Ford just exuded character. It got my vote for best pre-war hot rod.

I also loved this 1929 Ford Speedster. I never did see the bonnet open so I have no idea what sort of engine it has, but it did arrive under its own power.

The 1922 Dodge Brothers car was another highlight in the pre-war cars. The car was a great example of a conservatively restored machine. Not over-done, it still had some old “original” repairs to wooden wheels intact.

Some details that caught my eye…

This unique intake manifold casting on this early 30s Chevrolet. I have no idea what the function to this particular form might be?

Nice curves on a late-40s Buick.

Nice arrangement of these 1930s Chevys.

Overall it was a great day. I met some nice folks, got my haircut at the barbershop, saw some nice cars.

JCNA Slalom in Vancouver BC

Above: Bruce Cox’s freshly painted S2 on the slalom course.

This past weekend I attended the Canadian XK Register’s first Slalom of the season in Surrey. Had a blast and turned a personal best time around the course.

Earlier last week I received a phone call out of the blue while I was at work. It was a reader of this very website who lives in the UK by the name of Nimal Jayaratna. He owns a 1961 E-type OTS and found my website via some Jaguar links. He was visiting Seattle on business and figured he’d try to contact me to chat about Jaguars. I went one better and said “come on up to my house this weekend and we’ll do something fun!”

I dragged him up to Vancouver in the 65E to see the JCNA slalom event. I think Nimal had a good time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bruce Cox from Burnaby was there. He recently completed a DIY paint job on his Series 2 E-type, and it looks fantastic. Awesome job Bruce! (Are you available for hire?) ๐Ÿ˜‰

I didn’t have my son Nick there to help me out on the course (Nick reminds me of the course layout while we’re underway… very helpful!) but I still did pretty good. I did my first run at a lope just to get the feel for the course… and somehow managed to clip a cone. I didn’t even note my time. The subsequent runs were better as the day went on. Here are the results in seconds:

47.041, 46.740, 46.788, 46.399

My previous personal best was 47.4 so I’m very happy with the results.

Practice makes perfect, and after the official timed runs I told Nimal to grab a helmet and climb in. We took two more runs and of course, since the pressure was off we ran it in 46.182 & 46.035! Whoo hoo!

Here are some pics from the fun runs:

The car was a tad “understeery” in its feel, which I found odd. I’ll have to look into that and report back.

Happy Solstice!

I love this time of year, especially at northern latitudes. The long, lingering twilight makes me so happy.

Tonight I noted a storm over the Cascades east of our house.. it even had thunder, a very are occurrence here in the Pacific Northwest. It sprouted a double rainbow for while as it passed. This photo was taken sometime after 9:00pm. It is 10:20 right now and finally getting dark, though the northern horizon still holds blue light and high clouds still reflect light.

Starting tomorrow is all starts marching backwards until December, when we have darkness for most of the day. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Outrunning the Highway Patrol with less than 50 HP

Over at “The Truth About Cars” they asked “What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a car?” Here was my answer. I thought I’d share it here too, as it is a fun story. I’ll look in my old photos and see if I can find a pic of that car, and/or me & Brad, circa 1985.

I once outran the Colorado Highway Patrol… in my 1980 Diesel Rabbit. Yes, all 49 Horsepower put to bad use.

It was July of 1985 and I was just out of the summer semester at Texas Tech and heading to Boulder & Estes Park, Colorado for several weeks of rock climbing with my buddy Brad. We’d spent the month of May doing the same thing and had a blast. We were rolling down the north side of Raton Pass on I-25. This was in the days of HARD CORE 55MPH enforcement, ESPECIALLY in Colorado. The CHP was famous for ticketing people for 56 MPH.

Now that little 1.6L Diesel Rabbit had a top speed of about 75, but that was only with gravity and wind in its favor. It was super-miserly with fuel, but completely lacking in any power. IIRC 0-60 took about 30 seconds. It handled well, and was a great cheap college car – 50 MPG with 65ร‚ยข a gallon fuel when gas was $1.25! But hoonage was out of the question, except that day on Raton Pass, where anything over 55 brought down the full force of The Man.

Brad was actually behind the wheel. Brad was a bad influence on me. He had no respect for authority. He always brought his Escort radar detector whenever we went anywhere, even in the World’s Slowest Rabbit. We were rolling down that LONG LONG grade into Colorado from New Mexico on I-25, taking advantage of the gravity boost to get the Rabbit screaming along at the shocking speed of about 75 or so. This is pushing Felony status in Colorado circa 1985. My job in the navigator’s chair is to keep an eye out for cops and I was sleeping on the job. Literally. It was just a light slumber however… that sort of eyes-open la-la land. I spotted the white, late-70s Chrysler product with the “Bubble Gum Machine” on the roof going southbound up the grade about a half second before the shoe-box-sized Escort “BRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPP!!! – ed it’s way off the dashboard in a fit of K-band radiation. I looked at the officer looking right at us as he passed us going the other way, foot to the floor. “Oh shit! Dude, we’re dead.”

Brad’s answer was a calm “Not if I can help it.”

He put what little throttle into the wee Oelmotor he could and pushed it up to Ludicrous Speed, which in this vehicle, was about 79. I watched the cop go over a rise in the hill. We knew he had about a quarter to a half mile to the next median cross over or exit further up the hill. Brad went balls out for the next exit, which was somewhere around a bend, and lead to a golf course. He deftly went up the ramp, took two right turns, and parked us in a nice hidden spot in some trees behind a shop of some sort, overlooking the exit ramp. Sure enough, the Highway Patrolman comes roaring up the ramp about 45 seconds after we parked! I thought we were dead meat.

He looks left, he looks right, then he roars off down the on-ramp and continues north on I-25 at high speed towards Trinidad, CO.

I was completely gobsmacked! Brad just got that cocky grin on his face that he always wore when he’d pulled off something. I however had a more practical question: What do we do now?

I whipped out my tools and went to work altering the appearance of the Rabbit. 80s cars were lightweight to the point of being flimsy. The Rabbit had a squared off nose with a big, broad grille. Oddly enough that grille was really just a very thin plastic bit and it popped off with five twist-lock phillips-head latches along the top. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pull… presto. The car is completely transformed! Without the plastic grille, the car looks completely different.. at least from the front. Brad climbed into the passenger side, the grille went into the back seat, under all our climbing gear. And I drove. We wandered into Trinidad, stopped for a snack, then headed off north after a bit towards Pueblo.

I don’t recall if it was before, or past Walsenburg but it was far enough to where the heightened sense of being hunted had finally left us, when sure enough, the Escort went “Brap!!” again… but this time with early warning rather than late. Brad crawled down down as flat he could go in the footwell to hide himself from view. I pulled the gigantic and now loudly buzzing Escort off the dash and threw it at Brad, cowering low. In those hot, dry flats below the Sangre de Christo peaks I saw the unmistakable profile of that very same white CHP car coming, once again, southbound as we rolled north. Except this time we were rolling along at the maximum rate of travel for fuel efficiency, 53 MPH, nowhere near our terminal velocity trip down Raton Pass an hour or so earlier. I kept my head pointed straight ahead as he went by, thankfully at a fair distance with a wide median. However I had my eyeballs as far left as they could go inside my sunglasses to see if he was looking at us. Sure enough he was, but no lights or sirens… he just kept driving.

Was it the Rabbit’s roadside nose job? The different driver? The apparent single occupant rather than two? I’ll never know, and until today, I’ve never put this story down in print. I imagine the statute of limitations is long since passed, and that Colorado Highway Patrol officer is long retired (he looked pretty old even then in 1985!) But I have a great tale of escape and evasion in what is likely the slowest car ever built in the 1980s.

2008 Classic Motorcar Rally – Part Two.

Given the weather, perhaps we should be in THIS Jaguar!

Yes, it has been a couple of weeks since the end of the 2008 CMR, but I’m finally getting around to posting the rest of the story. When we last left our heros, they were about to leave Port Townsend on a TSD leg… I drove so there are no photos. We rallied out to Marrowstone Island, a place I had not been to since my friend Bill Dickson‘s wedding in 2001. (man… it seems like just yesterday!) We, of course, made a wrong turn right near the end of the segment, but finally ended up at the park where the segment finished. A short hike lead us to the featured car collection of this year’s Rally. Doug, the Rally Organizer always manages to find an interesting collection for us to visit and this year’s certainly fit the bill of “interesting”! This gentleman on Marrowstone Island has been acquiring cars for over 50 years and, from what I can figure… building his house around them. The “centerpiece” of the collection is a Bugatti… in his living room. From there an extended house/garage wraps around in a little labyrinth of automobilia. Some are real, some are replicas, all are interesting.

Here are some photos:

…and of course, the Bugatti in the living room!

He had several Jaguars, including one of each XK (120, 140, 150), a C-type (replica), an E-type, an XKSS (replica), and a (of course replica since there was only ever one real) XJ-13. Also found were several Alfas, an MG, a Frazer-Nash, a Lister, a (partially assembled/replica?) GT40, a (real) 300sl, an Allard, a couple of Porsches (356 & what appeared to be a 550 Spyder, likely a replica), a Lotus 7 (provenance unknown), and of course, the honest-to-god Bugatti (Type 39 I think?) in the living room.

I can’t identify a few of these cars and would appreciate any spotters among my readers to call out the ones I missed. The speed-holed Ferrari looking job had an ‘Abarth’ scorpion on the nose. No idea what it could be specifically… I bet Shaun, Paul, or Roger know. Clue me in. (Bob Moore on the Jag-Lovers E-type list spotted the Abarth before any of you. It is a 205 Vignale Berlinetta. Wow.)

From here we rallied back to the hotel and likely put our score even farther into the hole. Dad & I were just not on our game this time! Perhaps a night’s rest will help? We had a great dinner and enjoyed David & Adele Cohen of Vancouver BC share their tale of running the Peking to Paris Rally in an old Model A Ford. Astounding tale really. Besides costing phenomenal amounts of money, this is a rally that goes on for over a month. And traverses the entirety of Asia and Europe. Let me put it this way, I’ll never complain about US roads of cops ever again.

We also heard preliminary results: We’re firmly in 7th place out of 11 cars. Not as bad as we felt, but really only as good as last year… and back then we had no clue HOW to do it. We are REALLY off our game. ๐Ÿ™

We awoke the next morning and rallied around in a light drizzle. We thought we were doing great, having rested well and ate a good breakfast.

Above: Crossing the Hood Canal Floating Bridge on a typical day of Pacific Northwet weather!

Above: Alan Chockie & Antoinette Slavich’s wonderful 1958 Alfa Romeo Guilietta.

Above: Lining up for the TSD start in Port Gamble.

Above: Duane Crandall & Bill Vilardi in Duane’s 1960 Aston-Martin DB4

We rallied over to Port Gamble in a Monte Carlo style segment. We’re pretty sure we nailed it, but under this format these “MC’s” are only worth bonus points and they are very easy to get right. The next TSD left Port Gamble and rallied through a fairly compact area at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula. The route was doubling back on itself and VERY confusing navigation choices. I was driving and Dad became thoroughly confused about halfway through. We made a HUGE error and ended up back at the start! Our odometer now miles off, and our time completely blown, we consulted the route book for the location of the next segment’s start and found where that was with a map. We basically wrote off the whole segment! Following major roads we found the next start point, a Shell station on an Indian Reservation. Oddly enough, we arrived in correct car-order (we were car 5) which made it seem, to our competitors at least, that we were not as completely incompetent as we felt!

I went into the Shell station cum-cafe-cum-casino-cum-liquorstore and bought some Rain-X for the windscreen while Dad sat in the car and did Zen meditation, or Vulcan Mind Melds with his calculator, or something to try and get ourselves sorted out for the rest of the rally. Perhaps I should have just loaded up the Jag with cheap tax-free booze from the Reservation liquor store?

I got the magic juice on the window so I could see better and we set off on the next segment feeling bad, but at least willing to give it a go. We didn’t get completely lost we just made a wrong turn and ended up on the Hood Canal bridge… a four-mile mistake! Thankfully it was pretty much clear of traffic and managed to catch up and get to lunch feeling pretty good about our performance. Lunch was in a park with a boat launch on Hood Canal and a view of the floating bridge. This is where I saw the crab boat named “Jaguar” pictured above.

Above: Rallyists enjoying lunch.

Above: The 65E dwarfed by Mike & Howard Becker’s 1960 Pontiac Star Chief.

Dad scarfed down lunch and like so many other Navigators, climbed into the car to try and create a full set of calculations for the afternoon’s segments. I wandered around and took photographs, enjoying the views of the water, but missing seeing the mountains that ring the area. The clouds were low, thick, and grey.

Our time came and we drove off. FINALLY, we were doing it right. We made every turn correctly and were able to anticipate the traps and avoid them all. The last segment had us spinning around in slow circles through a residential area near Port Ludlow. Traps abounded but we never fell into any of them. How come we didn’t work like this earlier?? Oh well, such is TSD Rallying!

We finished up early and took a nap in the room… both of us completely worn out. Dinner was very nice, with Steve Norman sharing his “auto”biography, an annual tradition at this rally where a participant talks about the cars they have owned. Annie & Steve also showed photos from their recent winter rally in the Canadian arctic.

Prior to breakfast a Photographer from the local paper came and shot some photos of the cars. We assembled them on the side of the hotel:

Above: Phil Rome arrives in his 1969 Fiat 500.

Above: Nancy Dinh & Lauren Crandall pose next to their 1969 280sl.

Above: David & Goliath. The Fiat 500 parked next to Annie & Steve Norman’s 1964 Bentley S3 Continental.

After the photog was done everyone crowded around the pre-war Bentley and gave the right seat a try.

The gearshift is on the right side, unlike every other RHD car I’ve seen. Very odd. It is a 4.5 liter built in 1939. The car spent most of its life in the Southern Hemisphere, either Argentina (where it was raced actively during and after the war) and New Zealand.

We all gathered for the awards brunch on Sunday morning. To our eternal shock, we didn’t come in dead last. In fact we didn’t do that bad overall… 6th place, one better than last year’s performance. First place went to Duane Crandall & Bill Vilardi in that very nice Aston-Martin DB4. As tough and technical as this rally was, nobody came out without at least SOME penalty time, so we didn’t feel too bad but we do recognize that we need to get our act together for next year. We’ll have another go at this style of event in August for the Monte Shelton down in Oregon. We will do better there.

My dad had a plane to catch so we headed down to Winslow on Bainbridge Island. I could tell from the oncoming traffic as we crossed the island that a ferry had just landed… unfortunately traffic was such that as I pulled into the tollbooth JUST as the horn sounded and we missed it by just a few minutes. Oh well. We sat for another 40-some minutes for the next boat over to Seattle. At least we were loaded near the front.

Above: The iconic view of the Smith Tower in downtown Seattle as you arrive by ferry.

I drove dad up to my sister’s house to drop him off for a later ride to Sea-Tac, and met up with my brother-in-law and my nephew Ian. Ian got to drive the Jaguar:

Pretty cool huh?