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Could Raspberry Pi Cook Up Green Data Centres?

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Low energy ARM processors are ready to take over the data centre. They need some software, and the Raspberr Pi can help, says Peter Judge

We like the Raspberry Pi because it is a do-it-yourself device that will encourage people to have a go. We like it because it is British. We like it because it uses open source. But we just found a new reason to like the £22 computing device.

We like it because it is green.

We don’t mean that the thing itself will save electricity – although there are projects you could do with a Raspberry Pi that might cut your electricity bills by automating your house.

No, the Pi is green because it could be the vanguard for the next wave of higher efficiency in our data centres.

It doesn’t cost an ARM

raspberry pi supercomputer 5The Pi is based around an ARM processor and runs a Linux operating system. Raspberry enthusiasts have already used it to build a clustered “supercomputer” (in a lego chassis).

But some people are taking its use beyond this sort of project. There is a software team in Seneca College in Toronto who have put the Fedora Linux distribution onto the Pi.

That is a good thing in itself, but the team told TechWeekEurope there was more to it than that. The ARM processor is being groomed for low-energy servers, that can be packed into data centres in huge densities.

That could provide a massive amount of processing  per Watt of power supplied – and more importantly, per square metre of floorspace.

The trouble is, ARM servers are still scarce, and developers need experience. That’s where the Seneca group sees the Raspberry Pi coming in – providing a cheap test bed for the software that will drive the low power server revolution.

It is certainly a thought. Intel servers would not have had such a good run of displacing RISC processors such as the Oracle (Sun) SPARC and IBM’s Power architecture in data centres, if there wasn’t a mass of software developed for the processor in standalone Windows servers and PCs.

Now the Raspberry Pi is a long way off the kind of penetration that could realistically seed a new processor with lots of software. Even though many have been sold, most will be used in lower spec projects and some will stay in their boxes, as resolutions to learn programming come to nothing.

But I think it is worth saying, to borrow some Tesco terminology, “every little helps” here. There’s no barrier to entry on the Raspberry Pi. Assuming it’s compatible enough with the ARM servers to be worth using as a preliminary bed, then why not go ahead?

The Raspberry Pi may not be here for ever, but Linux and ARM will be here for a good long while, and the Pi could turn out to be the epicentre of some powerful coding communities for that platform.

We certainly hope so.

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