Entries tagged with “Personal computer”.


The Problem With Power.

The Problem with Power

We live in the Information Age where countless data is created, transmitted, and stored. We live in the Electronics Age where numerous electric-powered machines aid in business and household tasks, as well as entertain and inform us.

The reality of living in this time of technological innovation is that the power to run these machines can’t keep up (at least not yet). In many locations around the world, electricity generation, transmission and distribution have not evolved at the same pace as computer and communications equipment. What was built years ago for powering factories producing manufactured goods is struggling to adapt to provide continuous, sufficient-grade power to sensitive electronics processing valuable information.

What Is a Power Event?

Sags, surges, noise, spikes, blackouts…what really happens to connected devices when they experience a power anomaly? A lightning strike is a frequent example, although it is just one of countless problems that can strike your equipment.

Imagine lightning has just struck a nearby transformer. If the surge was powerful enough, it travelled instantaneously through wiring (AC, network, serial, phone lines and more) with the electrical equivalent force of a tidal wave. For PC users, the surge could have travelled into your computer via the AC outlet or phone lines. The first casualty is usually a modem or motherboard. Chips go next, and data is lost.

For info on different types of power problems and their effects on electronic equipment, click here.

Lightning Facts

The utility responds to overvoltages by disconnecting the grid. This creates brownouts and blackouts. If the voltage drops low enough, or blacks out, hard disks in computing machinery may crash, destroying the data stored on the disks. In all cases, work-in-progress stored in cache is instantly lost. In the worst case, password protection on the hard drives can be jumbled, or the file allocation tables may be upset, rendering the hard disks useless.

The Costs of Downtime

In the Information Age, data is quite valuable. It is the livelihood of businesses across the globe, whether in the form of financial transactions or online purchases or customer demographics or correspondence or spreadsheets or any number of business applications.

The Internet has emphasized that availability equals viability. If companies do not have reliable solutions for the continuing operation of their equipment, they lose money. If one company’s Web server goes down due to blackout, customers are apt to click over to a competitor’s. If mission-critical computers involved in manufacturing are damaged by a surge, inventory runs behind and schedules are missed. If electronic noise penetrates sensitive testing and measurement machinery, delays are inevitable.

Here are a few statistics that quantify the true costs of systems downtime:


[source: Network Computing (http://www.networkcomputing.com), March 5, 2001]
and
[source: META Group, Inc.,"Quantifying Performance Loss: IT Performance Engineering and Measurement Strategies", November 22, 2000
Clients of META Group, Inc. can read the full Delta Summary here: http://www.metagroup.com/cgi-bin/inetcgi/jsp/displayArticle.do?oid=18750

  • "Electrical interruptions will cost U.S. companies some $80 billion this year (2000)."
    [source: Worldwatch Institute (http://www.worldwatch.org)]
  • “Server downtime costs $108,000 a minute in lost brokerage operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $43,000 a minute in lost credit card operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $1,500 a minute in lost airline reservation operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Server downtime costs $1,200 a minute in lost telephone ticket sales operations.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Half of U.S. corporations rate their internet downtime costs at more than $1,000 per hour.”
    [source: Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com)]
  • “9% of U.S. corporations rate internet downtime costs at over $50,000 per hour.”
    [source: Yankee Group (http://www.yankeegroup.com)]
  • “Power outages interrupt operations at 72 percent of U.S. businesses.”
    [source: Contingency Planning & Management Online (http://www.ContingencyPlanning.com) and Ernst & Young (http://www.ey.com), 1997]
  • “Power problems (surges and lightning) were the number one cause of desktop computer loss in 1999 and 2000.”
    [source: Safeware, The Insurance Agency Inc., (http://www.safeware.com)] a member company of Assurant Group (http://www.assurant.com)]
  • “33.7% of U.S. companies have had business operations interrupted because of lightning storms.”
    [source: Contingency Planning & Management Online (http://www.ContingencyPlanning.com) and Ernst & Young (http://www.ey.com), 1997]
  • “31% of computer outages are the result of power failures.”
    [source: Contingency Planning Research (http://www.contingencyplanningresearch.com), a Division of Eagle Rock Alliance (http://www.eaglerockalliance.com)]
  • “Power disturbances account for about one third of all server failures.”
    [source: IDC (http://www.idc.com)]
  • “* Two-thirds of Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group (SVMG) member company respondents were directly impacted by the rolling blackouts.
    * The average blackout lasted 90 minutes in duration.
    * More than 100,000 workers at SVMG companies were left idle.
    * Immediate financial losses for Silicon Valley are estimated at the tens of millions of dollars, accounting for major effects like employee downtime, lost product and data, and the expense of retooling equipment.”
    [source: Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group press release (http://www.svmg.org)]
  • “According to a national survey conducted for Iomega Corporation by Bruskin Research, 57 percent of the Californian computer users surveyed fear loss of computer content due to a blackout or power failure. The survey indicates that 45 percent of computer users nationwide are concerned with losing power due to power problems.”
    [source: Iomega Corporation (http://www.iomega.com)]

In order to prevent costs involved with downtime or damaged equipment, businesses and even home owners require solutions from a vendor known for its reliability.

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Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

A Microsoft patent application details a business model whereby the user gets a free or heavily subsidized PC but is charged for usage time, application and performance. Microsoft has applied for a patent on metered, pay-as-you-go computing.

US patent application number 20080319910, published on Christmas Day2008, details Microsoft’s vision of a situation where a “standard model” of PC is given away or heavily subsidized by someone in the supply chain. The end user then pays to use the computer, with charges based on both the length of usage time and the performance levels utilized, along with a “one-time charge”.

Microsoft notes in the application that the end user could end up paying more for the computer, compared with the one-off cost entailed in the existing PC business model, but argues the user would benefit by having a PC with an extended “useful life”.

“A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected,” reads the patent application’s abstract.

“The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed,” the abstract continues.

Integral to Microsoft’s vision is a security module, embedded in the PC, that would effectively lock the PC to a certain supplier.

“The metering agents and specific elements of the security module… allow an underwriter in the supply chain to confidently supply a computer at little or no upfront cost to a user or business, aware that their investment is protected and that the scalable performance capabilities generate revenue commensurate with actual performance level settings and usage,” the application reads.

‘A more granular approach’
According to the application, the issue with the existing PC business model is that it “requires more or less a one chance at the consumer kind of mentality, where elasticity curves are based on the pressure to maximize profits on a one-time-sale, one-shot-at-the-consumer mentality”.

Microsoft’s proposed model, on the other hand, could “allow a more granular approach to hardware and software sales”, the application states, adding that the user “may be able to select a level of performance related to processor, memory, graphics power, etc that is driven not by a lifetime maximum requirement but rather by the need of the moment”.

“When the need is browsing, a low level of performance may be used and, when network-based interactive gaming is the need of the moment, the highest available performance may be made available to the user,” the document reads. “Because the user only pays for the performance level of the moment, the user may see no reason to not acquire a device with a high degree of functionality, in terms of both hardware and software, and experiment with a usage level that suits different performance requirements.”

By way of example, the application posits a situation involving three “bundles” of applications and performance: office, gaming and browsing.

“The office bundle may include word-processing and spreadsheet applications, medium graphics performance and two of three processor cores,” the document reads. “The gaming bundle may include no productivity applications but may include 3D graphics support and three of three processor cores. The browsing bundle may include no productivity applications, medium graphics performance and high-speed network interface.”

“Charging for the various bundles may be by bundle and by duration. For example, the office bundle may be $1.00 [68 pence] per hour, the gaming bundle may be $1.25 per hour and the browsing bundle may be $0.80 per hour. The usage charges may be abstracted to ‘units/hour’ to make currency conversions simpler. Alternatively, a bundle may incur a one-time charge that is operable until changed or for a fixed-usage period,” the document reads.

Microsoft’s patent application does acknowledge that a per-use model of computing would probably increase the cost of ownership over the PC’s lifetime. The company argues in its application, however, that “the payments can be deferred and the user can extend the useful life of the computer beyond that of the one-time purchase machine”.

The document suggests that “both users and suppliers benefit from this new business model” because “the user is able to migrate the performance level of the computer as needs change over time, while the supplier can develop a revenue stream business that may actually have higher value than the one-time purchase model currently practiced”.

“Rather than suffering through less-than-adequate performance for a significant portion of the life of a computer, a user can increase performance level over time, at a slight premium of payments,” the application reads. “When the performance level finally reaches its maximum and still better performance is required, then the user may upgrade to a new computer, running at a relatively low performance level, probably with little or no change in the cost of use.”

By David Meyer ZDNet.co.uk
Posted on ZDNet News: Dec 29, 2008 6:20:34 AM

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