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云计算能耗过高 就把服务器搬到太空去吧

本文摘要:When people talk about cloud computing, it’s usually understood that the cloud is a metaphor for groups of remote, networked servers. But when Lance Parker talks about “space computing,” he’s not taking poetic license. He means it literall


When people talk about cloud computing, it’s usually understood that the cloud is a metaphor for groups of remote, networked servers. But when Lance Parker talks about “space computing,” he’s not taking poetic license. He means it literally: physical servers operating in outer space. Parker is the CEO of ConnectX, a startup company based in Los Angeles that’s working on a way to take corporations’ data out of the cloud and into the final frontier. If his company succeeds, it could revolutionize the way we store, transmit, and analyze information.当人们谈及云计算时,大家都明白,所谓的“云”不过是一个比喻,象征物着一系列远程的服务器网络。但当兰斯o帕克提及“太空计算出来”这个概念时,他并不是在玩诗意,而是说真的:他想要把服务器搬到到太空展开运作。帕克是ConnectX公司的CEO,这家坐落于洛杉矶的初创公司致力于将企业储存于云端的数据搬到到太空。

一旦顺利,它可能会彻底改变我们储存、传输和分析信息的模式。As metaphors go, “cloud computing” sounds nice but is misleading. Clouds are in the sky; server farms are decidedly earthbound. Clouds are aesthetic and amorphous, a Rorschach test in the atmosphere; data warehouses are boxy and don’t leave much room for interpretation. But the bigger problem with cloud computing is that, according to Parker, it’s simply unsustainable. He may have a point. From the beginning of time until 2002, the world created five exabytes (five billion gigabytes) of information; today, we create that much data in about 10 minutes. Data storage technology just isn’t keeping pace with the exponential growth of data creation. Data centers are also energy hogs, using up 10% of the world’s electricity.“云计算”这个名字虽然难听,但有一定的误导性。云在天上飞舞,而构成云计算的服务器网络似乎是在地面上。




Putting servers in space could potentially remedy the energy problem, since they could be powered by free, plentiful solar radiation. And, Parker adds, the space environment would be advantageous for spinning disk drives. Zero-gravity allows the drives to spin with less resistance, and the extreme cold in space means the servers could process faster without overheating.将服务器放在太空也许需要解决问题能耗问题,因为太空中充裕的太阳光电磁辐射可以为它们获取免费的电力。另外,太空环境对旋转式硬盘驱动器十分不利。在零重力下,硬盘驱动器转动的阻力变大了,而太空中的极寒环境意味著服务器不必担忧短路问题,从而运转得更慢。

Of course, all of the benefits of space computing are worthless without a cost-effective way to launch a server into space. Fortunately for ConnectX, satellites are getting smaller and cheaper by the year. The CubeSat, which is about the size of a cantaloupe, can be placed into orbit for less than $100,000. The even smaller TubeSat can be launched for $8,000. Compare those costs to, say, a cellular tower at $150,000, and “the small satellite becomes the obvious choice,” Parker says.当然,如果没一种经济的方法能将服务器发送到太空,那么太空计算出来的所有益处都是无稽之谈。好在近年来,人造卫星的尺寸更加小,成本也在大幅减少。比如所谓的“立方体卫星”(CubeSat)只有一个甜瓜那么大,花上上将近10万美元的成本,就能将它送往太空轨道上。尺寸更加小的“管状卫星”(TubeSat)只必须8000美元就能升空。

把这个成本与15万美元的蜂窝基站比起,“小型卫星就变为了一个很明智的自由选择。”帕克说道。But if cost is not the main barrier to space computing, data transmission rates could well be. Currently, servers and computers send and receive information mostly through cables or fiber optics, which allow a data transfer rate of around 100 megabits per second for typical applications. Satellites and cell phones, on the other hand, beam information using electromagnetic waves. (The data is delivered in a code of ones and zeroes, with the height or the frequency of the wave distinguishing between the numerals. A series of numerals is then translated by the receiver into useable information. For example, the letter “A” is represented by eight zeroes and ones—eight waves.) This method of transmission is much slower than using wires. Verizon claims that its LTE wireless network, for example, downloads at speeds between five and 12 megabits per second. At that rate, storing large amounts of data in space is just not feasible.如果说成本并非太空计算出来的主要障碍,那么传输效率问题很有可能是。目前,服务器和电脑发送信息主要还是倚赖电缆或光纤,典型的应用程序的传输速度可以超过每秒100兆左右。





ConnectX’s proposed solution to the transfer rate challenge is twofold. First, the company is working on a way to twist radio beams to increase data transmission rates. This might sound farfetched, but Alan Willner, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, has recently developed a similar technique, which achieved a rate of 32 gigabits per second—about 30 times faster than LTE wireless. Willner published an account of the research in Nature Communications on September 16. “It was interesting to see that come out,” Parker says, “because our technology requires spin, but we do it in a different way that’s much more effective.”ConnectX公司早已明确提出了一个双重解决方案。首先,该公司正在尝试着通过“扭结”无线电波束的方法来提升数据传输速率。这听得一起或许有些天方夜谭,但南加利福尼亚大学电子工程学教授艾伦o威尔纳最近早已研发出有一种类似于技术,需要使无线电传播速率超过每秒32G——约比LTE无线传输慢了30倍。威尔纳早已在9月16日的《大自然通讯》上公开发表了一篇论文。

帕克回应:“看著这个研究成果出来很有意思,因为我们的技术也必须转动,但我们用于了另一种更为有效地的方式。”That different approach is where the real blockbuster innovation of ConnectX might be found. In addition to twisting the radio beams for faster transmission, the beams will be sending the data in a condensed, non-binary symbol structure. Instead of the letter “A” requiring eight waves, it could require just one. Or an entire sentence, “The apple fell far from the tree,” could be communicated with a single symbol. “Our symbol structure can get even more complex as we evolve it,” Parker says, “where a symbol can mean more and more information.” This eases not only transfer rates, but could also speed up analytics by reducing the sheer volume of data that must be combed through to find actionable intelligence.这种有所不同的方式是指ConnectX公司有可能早已构建的一项突破性创意。除了将无线电波束展开扭结以减缓传输速度之外,无线电波束还将以一种传输的、非二进制的符号结构展开传输。


”这不仅解决问题了传输速率的问题,也可以减缓数据的分析速度,因为它大大减少了数据辨别过程所闲置的时间。According to the head of data science at a Fortune 500 company, who is familiar with ConnectX’s work, the value of the company’s proprietary symbol structure can be communicated in one word: visualization. In the traditional approach to big data analytics, records are two dimensional and it’s therefore difficult to see relationships between products and people or changes over time. “That’s what ConnectX is trying to fix,” the data science manager says, “picturing the data as an object with relationships, attributes and movement. That’s what’s missing on the market now: something that can show the insights, and help executives figure out the next steps for the company.”一家熟知ConnectX业务的《财富》美国500强劲企业的数据科学总监回应,ConnectX专有的符号结构可以用一个词来总结,那就是“可视化”。在传统的大数据分析模式中,记录是二维的,因此很难仔细观察到产品和人的关系,或者随着时间的流逝而产生的变化。

那位数据科学总监回应:“这正是ConnectX想缺失的,它想要把数据描绘成具备关系、特性和运动的物体。这也正是目前市场上所缺乏的——一种需要展出分析结果,并协助企业高管说明公司下一步南北的方法。”ConnectX’s team of 13 employees, most of whom are engineers and scientists, are hoping the company can fill that void. They plan to prove the transmission technology on earth first, then test it in space. The beta launch is slated for 2017.ConnectX的团队目前享有13名员工,其中大多数都是工程师和科学家,他们期望空缺市场空白。这个团队计划首先在地面上检验符号传输技术的可行性,然后再行在太空展开测试。




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