Less is More Gains Momentum, including data centers

The Economist discusses the popularity  of less is better in technology, and how it is growing in spite of technologies typical more is better.

But now there are signs that technologists are waking up to the benefits of minimalism, thanks to two things: feature fatigue among consumers who simply want things to work, and strong demand from less affluent consumers in the developing world. It is telling that the market value of Apple, the company most closely associated with simple, elegant high-tech products, recently overtook that of Microsoft, the company with the most notorious case of new-featuritis. True, Apple’s products contain lots of features under the hood, but the company has a knack for concealing such complexity using elegant design. Other companies have also prospered by providing easy-to-use products: think of the Nintendo Wii video-games console or the Flip video camera. Gadgets are no longer just for geeks, and if technology is to appeal to a broad audience, simplicity trumps fancy specifications.

One of the classic differences between Windows and Mac is you ask how to do something on the Mac, and there is one way.  You ask the same question on Windows and there will many times be three or more. Which way do you think is better the one way or give people multiple ways.  When you have the market share with the diversity of users then you collect the user data, develop the alternatives and test the usability.  If you are Apple you figure out the one way to do it, hope Steve Jobs doesn't think your way is ridiculed, and the feature ships.

With the growth of Apple's iPod, iPhone, and iPad, figuring out the simple user interface is being accepted more.

Frugality is the mother of invention

And then there is the phenomenon of “frugal” innovation—the new ideas that emerge when trying to reduce the cost of something in order to make it affordable to consumers in places like China, India and Brazil. The resulting products often turn out to have huge appeal in the rich world too, especially in an era of belt-tightening. The netbook, or low-cost laptop, was inspired by a scheme to produce cheap laptops for children in poor countries, but has since proved popular with consumers around the world. Tata devised the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, with India’s emerging middle classes in mind; it is now planning to launch it in Europe, too, where there is growing demand for cheap, simple vehicles.

Apple and Google are fighting for the Mobile space, and as they point out, the fight can be about control.

The mobile space also offers something that Jobs craves: control. Unlike being able to buy pretty much any software program you want for the personal computer, with the iPad you’re locked in. There’s only one place to buy apps: Apple’s online App Store. And Jobs keeps a 30 percent cut of the revenue. As for ads, Jobs will sell those, too, and he’ll keep 40 percent. Of course, Jobs also sells music, movies, and books via his iTunes Store, keeping 30 percent. So instead of a one-time sale of a Mac, each iPhone and iPad becomes an ongoing revenue stream. No wonder Jobs is going all-in for mobile.

KC Mares discusses another thing that is better if less, Vibration.

The Data Center Vibration Penalty to Storage Performance

Every now and then a really great way to reduce energy use comes along that is so simple we all whack our head wondering, “why didn’t I think of that!” My principles of achieving ultra-efficient data centers (PUEs between 1.03-1.08; I call anything less than 1.10 ultra-efficient) are based upon simplicity and a holistic approach while meeting the need not the want or convention. Generally the simpler the better, as simple is always lower cost up front and ongoing, as well as easier to maintain, more reliable and more efficient.

As KC mentions, think about all the equipment causing vibration.

If the vibration from yelling into a rack causes performance degradation, think about the vibration affects from HVAC systems, thousands of server fans, and even walking thru your data center.

Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to yell in data centers as vibration and noise was reduced.  Kind of make sense that the less noise there is the less energy is expended.  If you aren't listening to the noise your hard disks aren't hard of hearing the bits and they have to try again and again.

There are actually many reasons that less is better as I have listed a bunch of ideas above.

But, the common approach in technology is more is better.

Can you shift your thinking to less is better?

It is kind of a Zen thing.  Your life is not happier with more, but in understanding what you have in your life and why it is important.  Meditating, reflecting, questioning.

Maybe people need to spend more time in Data Center Meditation, but it is almost impossible with all the noise and vibration.


We finally have some sunny weather here, and as you can see we have very high water as the docks are under water on June 13, 2010.  It is very cool though to walk on the dock in 6 inches of water and think.


I am going to change one of my M's for memetics to meditation. So, now Monitoring, Modeling, and Meditating the green data center.