Most people think of servers as merely upgraded desktop machines – perhaps with a lot of flashing lights and an ominous presence!
But anyone who’s worked in a data center knows that they can be quite innocuous looking. Even though web servers take on the load of millions of visitors to websites every day, they are still shrouded in mystery to the average user. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about servers.
Anyone who’s watched movies like Mission Impossible knows that a highly secure server is kept in a “closed room” with a pullout monitor and keyboard. Except that is not reality. In the tech world, we talk of “server boxes” because they rarely if ever have input devices like monitors, keyboards, or mouses. The reason is that these machines are not designed for humans to sit in front of and directly work with. Rather, they are made to be compact so that they can be easily stacked on each other to use up as little space as possible. Having input devices is not only useless, it’s also a complete waste of space.
Most of the configuration work and interaction with a server is done remotely – usually on a console. In order to achieve maximum performance, they don’t present a GUI operating system that requires expensive CPU cycles for rendering graphics. All of its functions are accessed via the command line from someone sitting a safe distance away.
Most Don’t Run Windows
In the desktop world, most computers run either Windows or Mac OS. The server environment however is a completely different ballgame. The sheer diversity of operating systems is staggering with some corporate environments sticking with highly specialized server software to suit their needs. Way back in 2008, Steve, admitted that Linux is installed on around 60% of servers. That equation has changed a lot in the past six years, but there’s no doubt that Linux still retains a dominating market share in the Web server industry.
This is hardly surprising given that a Content Management System or CMS like WordPress accounts for 19% of all website deployments. WordPress runs on PHP which is best implemented in a Linux environment. As long as there are powerful applications designed for Linux, its market share will continue to grow.
They Generate Tons of Heat
Data centers are notorious for consuming vast amounts of power. Unfortunately, most of that is wasted as heat energy. When you have thousands of server boxes living in close proximity to each other, the thermal energy generated is tremendous. Much of the effort to improve energy efficiency in data centers revolves around finding ways to reduce the amount of heat generated. Innovative options have been proposed and companies like Google and Facebook are among the pioneers in this regard.
It’s not surprising that cold countries like Iceland are positioning themselves as data center hubs. Their environment is most conducive to keep a bunch of servers purring along coolly.
It Might be Virtual
That server you think is running your code or processing up your site might not be “real” at all! In fact with the proliferation of cloud computing in today’s world, you are almost certainly interacting with a virtual machine that shares its space with many others on the same hardware. This is to be expected. Servers are so powerful these days that they can easily support many “virtual servers” at the same time. This allows data centers and enterprises to quickly setup and teardown resources in order to meet the demands of a dynamic environment.
Parts are Hot Swappable
Imagine if you had to change the hard drive on your computer without shutting it down? Impossible right? The fact is that servers require constant maintenance and they are built in such a modular manner that it is possible to replace virtually any resource on the server without damaging its functionality for a significant period of time. Almost everything is upgradable and “hot-swappable.” Memory, disk space, CPU capacity, you name it.
Servers are designed to run all the time without ever shutting down or needing a restart. Talk about resilience!
There’s a lot more to servers that people are aware of. While they share the same basic principles with any other computing device, their specialized requirements are so far beyond regular retail needs, that they have morphed beyond recognition to most of us.
Audrei Zencowski authored this post and writes for Hostoople. She lives in Michigan, loves Basketball. Oh, and loves riding Motorcycles!