Can the iPad frenzy affect the datacenter?

Can the iPad frenzy affect the datacenter?

Summary: What will the impact of a general consumer "media available anywhere" approach mean to the commercial datacenter?


Special Report: Apple iPad You're probably wondering why there is any reason for a blog focused on datacenter issues is talking about the iPad. And frankly, the iPad was just about the last thing I expected to find myself writing about. But a recent conversation with some SMB clients who use cloud storage, coupled with all of the recent iPad coverage, actually brought up a datacenter concern that makes sense.

I have a lot of friends and clients who are taking advantage of the relatively inexpensive backup and storage technologies that are currently available from cloud service providers.

The clients are primarily business that fall into the small to medium size SMB space, while the friends are people who are looking for effective services for their sole proprietorship businesses.

In both cases they are taking advantage of the price and availability that cloud storage offers them, as well as inexpensive ISPs who offer low-priced web hosting with unlimited storage and bandwidth for very low prices.

So what does this have to do with the iPad? Well, if one of the major uses of the iPad will be as media devices, with users doing everything from reading books to watching movies, my first thought is where are the users going to store all that media content?

The easy answer is "Wherever Apple (and iTunes) tells them to" but I already know quite a few people who work around the way that iTunes stores media in order to utilize their media collection the way they want to, not the way Apple wants them to.

So what's to stop them from using their online storage to house, and stream, their media collection? It seems like a fairly simple thing to put everything from music to movies on your online storage, then connect to them from your iPad and play the media there.  Even if not in a true streaming format, the media stored at the host will still need to be downloaded to the iPad.

I wanted to make sure that my technical understanding of this was correct, so I took a couple of videos from my media server, re-encoded them as mp4 files, and uploaded them to one of my ISPs.  This particular ISP gives me unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth for under $100 a year.

So after putting the media online, I took myself out to my favorite breakfast joint, which happens to offer open WiFi access (though I could have connected over 3G). Now granted, I don't have an iPad (nor is one on the horizon for me) but I do have an iPhone, so I opened up Safari, entered the simplified URL to one of the videos I uploaded, and started watching a feature film while enjoying my meal.

Now multiply that by even a small percentage of iPad (or any other competing mobile device) users. People want their media anywhere they need to access it, so using the cloud to store it makes perfect sense.  As more devices become available that let users access their media from anywhere begin to appear, there will be an additional load, in storage and bandwidth, on the providers of cloud sites offering this easy availability.

This means that their datacenters will need to deal with increased storage requirements, increased bandwidth utilization, greater demands on their own backup facilities, and an overall increase in operational costs, which will need to be passed on to their consumers, likely of all types, not just the percentage that uses their facility in this way.

And before you complain that doing this requires a fair amount of technical skill on the part of the end-user, think about this;

How long will it be before I can say "there's an app for that."

Topics: Browser, Data Centers, Hardware, iPad, Mobility, Storage, Telcos

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  • Eh?

    Surely you are aware of Apple's $1 billion data centre in North Carolina?
    What do you suppose it's for?
    • You're missing the point

      I'm sure that Apple will happily sell backend services, and for what it's worth, ebook storage requires minimal space and really isn; the issue. Audio is larger, and video is significantly more resource intensive, in terms of both bandwidth and storqge. There is no reason to use an Apple backend for any of that as long as a less expensive and more open alternative is available.
      David Chernicoff
      • Same old song...

        'no reason to use an Apple backend for any of that as long as a less
        expensive and more open alternative is available.'
        No, the real issue is usability and access-ability. Users(not you), will vote
        with their money if the real and perceived value is great enough to
        overcome their frustrations with technology as presently implemented.
        I don't disagree with your point but Apple got there way ahead of you
        and the general consensus, of what the market requires to be done to
        make it all workable.
        Given that, you are only stating the obvious.
        • This has nothing to do with Apple's datacenters

          You seeem overly focused on what Apple can potentially offer on the backend. That's great; they can offer whatever they like. The point is the unintended effect on other providers.
          David Chernicoff
          • Well...

            It was you who put iPad front and centre of your post headline with
            several mentions thereafter of Apple, iTunes, iPad, competing with
            Apple etc all the way to "there's an app for that"
            Maybe your piece should be titled 'Industry lags behind Apple - Again'
  • A Gutenburg Moment

    Yes indeed, Apples new data center (amongst others) is
    going to do just that.

    But the largest dillema in converting people into a bit vs
    atom-based marketplace, is the issue of coveting. Folks
    like to have and hold and there has been an impasse.
    There is a reason that Apple's bookstore looks like a real
    bookshelf, that "pages" turn dynamically, and that the
    multitouch and data friendliness was the threshold that
    needed to be crossed. There may come a time when we
    won't rely on these metaphors, till then they are the
    transition paths we need. Apple has a glowing track record
    of making things accessible.

    It is beginning to sink in at ZDNet. After years of railing
    against Apple and their closed and mercurial ways, IT is
    watching this Gutenburg moment from the sidelines.
    Traditional pieties for the church of open architecture will
    be challenged by modular cloud services, vertically
    integrated consoles and computerized butlers.

    SMBs have needed to get out from under IT. This will start
    to happen. There is a rather large precedent for the
    consumer space driving business adoption. It is called the
    GUI. Blame Apple for sending Microsoft down the garden
    path, but blame Microsoft for taking business along with
    them. This time, business will be seduced by Apple
  • RE: Can the iPad frenzy affect the datacenter?

    All the more reason for data centers to run as efficiently as possible. This means a higher rate of tech refresh in order to ensure data storage, transmission, and manipulation capabilities are as high as possible per unit of energy. Metrics like IT useful work will need to be identified. Finally data center operators will need to manage their infrastructure assets in real-time in order to optimize performance per watt while ensuring availability / SLA levels are met under all conditions.

    Jack Pouchet
    • ipAd

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