Run Your Data Center: On iPhones?

By August 4, 2014Uncategorized

In 2010, at a D8 conference, Steve Jobs made the famous analogy that “back when we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks, because that’s what you needed on the farm …

But as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, cars got more popular. Innovations like automatic transmission and power steering and things that you didn’t care about in a truck as much started to become paramount in cars … PCs are going to be like trucks. They’re still going to be around, they’re still going to have a lot of value, but they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

Consider the three following data points:

Someday, perhaps in this decade, phones may be displaced by personal wearable computers in the same way that desktops are being replaced by mobile devices. There’s a lot of computing power each individual is carrying around with them, all day, every day. So this got me to thinking about technologies in the data center and how we could leverage the power of the phone. Literally.

“What would a 42U rack full of iPhones look like?”

What would a 42U rack full of iPhones look like? The specs of the original iPhone 5 include a dual-core 1.3Ghz CPU, 1GB of RAM, multiple network adapters, and plenty of fast solid-state storage with low latency. It weighs about ¼ lb. and costs about $849 (retail).

We could easily fit 1152 phones in a 42U rack: that’s 2300 cores, 1.15TB of RAM, 72TB of storage, and 270 Gigabit of network and storage performance. It would weigh 300-400 lbs, and would cost $978,000. I’m not suggesting that people would actually drop off their phones at the data center, but since users are already bringing in the phone to the workplace, it’s already been paid for, what’s missing to make this actually work?

My opinion is that desktops are declining and VDI isn’t taking off because the personal, mobile aspect of computing hasn’t made its way back to the phone where it clearly needs to be. The reason why the phone has taken off so well is because it’s personal, mobile, and we always have it on us. We can’t live without it. It’s powerful, and is the center of the personal IT universe. So we as IT need to find a better way to run our enterprise applications on it.

“The phone is the center of the personal IT universe. So we as IT need to find a better way to run our enterprise applications on it.”

Anyone who has already created an app to run their software on these phones is ahead of the game. But we still need someone to write the software that makes it possible to leverage the existing enterprise applications on the phone, and more importantly—and here’s where I think there’s a hidden gem of an opportunity—figure out a way to leverage the CPU, RAM, and storage in the phone to offload traditional data center costs.

For example, VDI processing actually runs on the data center servers, but is this ideal? Why not leverage the CPU on the phone somehow? I hate to see those 2300 cores just sitting there, mostly idle. Seems like such a waste.

Photo credit: moridin3335r via Flickr