August 03, 2010, 11:30 AM — Sure, consumer gadgets are getting most of the attention these days, but data centers are getting some love too. These new products and technologies promise to solve real data center problems or are already working to make enterprise operations run more smoothly. How many are on your wish list?
1. Fiber optics with a twist
The success of the HDMI cable in consumer electronics has proved that having a common cable that works with Blu-ray players, HDTV sets and just about any set-top box helps remove clutter and confusion. Intel has developed Light Peak following this same approach. It's fiber-optic cable that will first be used with laptop and desktop computers to reduce clutter and to speed transmission, but it could also make its way to the data center as a way to connect servers and switches.
The 3.2mm cable, which is about as thin as a USB cable, can be up to 100 feet long. Intel has designed a controller that will sit inside a computer, and cables are currently in production. Third parties, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell, will start making computers with Light Peak fiber-optic cables in them by 2011, according to Intel.
For data centers, Light Peak presents a few interesting possibilities. Fiber optics have been in the data center since the early 1990s, when IBM introduced its Escon (Enterprise Systems Connection) product line; it connects mainframes at 200Mbit/sec. Light Peak differs in that it runs at 10GB/sec., and Intel claims that the components will be less expensive and lighter-weight than existing fiber-optic products.
"Intel claims Light Peak will be less complex and easier to manage by eliminating unnecessary ports, and deliver the higher throughput required by high performance e-SATA and DisplayPort systems," says Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT in Concord, Mass. "If the company delivers on these promises, Light Peak could simplify life for data center managers plagued by installing, managing and troubleshooting miles of unruly optical cables."
Success here will depend on "how willingly developers and vendors" embrace Light Peak and build products around it, King explains.
2. Submerged liquid cooling and horizontal racks