Author Topic: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.  (Read 1995 times)

Online KelvinZero

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Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« on: 12/29/2013 11:49 AM »
Hi, didn't want to bump the other thread but it got me trying to think up any advantage of putting computer power in orbit.

What about geek factor? If you think cloud computing is cool just because you are a nerd, wouldn't you love to be able to host your webpage or ascii MUD game or whatever from a server in orbit? Lag is suddenly something to brag about... you only have 500ms lag? Ha. I have 2500ms because Im coming from the frikken moon you lame-o :)

I admit the market might be fairly small, but the hardware you need to launch is potentially negligible. It may already exist. You could be just attaching a bit of extra computing power and bandwidth to a communications satellite, or making use of computing power that it otherwise would not use. It is barely about the scale of computing power. Nerds got all excited about putting their name on space missions, thats the cost of a handful of bytes.

There are a lot of us :)

Offline Hauerg

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #1 on: 12/29/2013 12:16 PM »
LEO is not a good place for cooling your equipment.

Offline Nomadd

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #2 on: 12/29/2013 04:24 PM »
 If you're going through a satellite, you have the same exact lag no matter where the server is. What possible advantage could having it in orbit have over being on the ground? In gaming or just about anything else the response time between you and the far end is what counts, not between you and the server or relay. And what's the problem with cooling your equipment in LEO? The tiny bit of Earthlight you have to deal with is insignificant compared to sunlight.
« Last Edit: 12/29/2013 04:28 PM by Nomadd »

Offline Lar

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #3 on: 12/29/2013 04:48 PM »
If you're going through a satellite, you have the same exact lag no matter where the server is. What possible advantage could having it in orbit have over being on the ground? In gaming or just about anything else the response time between you and the far end is what counts, not between you and the server or relay. And what's the problem with cooling your equipment in LEO? The tiny bit of Earthlight you have to deal with is insignificant compared to sunlight.

I don't think that's right. If I am in AZ and am roundtripping to a server in IL via satellite, that's 4 hops  (AZ-bird-IL, process process process, IL-bird-AZ  with each hop a "-")

If I am in AZ and roundtripping to a satellite server, that's only 2 hops (AZ-bird  process process process  bird-AZ again with each hop a "-")
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Online RonM

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #4 on: 12/29/2013 05:01 PM »
If you're going through a satellite, you have the same exact lag no matter where the server is. What possible advantage could having it in orbit have over being on the ground? In gaming or just about anything else the response time between you and the far end is what counts, not between you and the server or relay. And what's the problem with cooling your equipment in LEO? The tiny bit of Earthlight you have to deal with is insignificant compared to sunlight.

I don't think that's right. If I am in AZ and am roundtripping to a server in IL via satellite, that's 4 hops  (AZ-bird-IL, process process process, IL-bird-AZ  with each hop a "-")

If I am in AZ and roundtripping to a satellite server, that's only 2 hops (AZ-bird  process process process  bird-AZ again with each hop a "-")

That's right, 4 hops versus 2 hops for GEO satellite servers. If the server is in LEO, that's still 4 hops.

Cooling in space is difficult because you can only radiate heat, no convection or conduction. That's about 1/3rd as effective.

How are you going to swap out a bad hard drive? A $56.5 million F9 launch, not counting the Dragon capsule or robotic vehicle?

For a more cost effective slow server farm, how about staying on the ground and use a 56K modem?  :)


Offline rklaehn

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #5 on: 12/29/2013 05:47 PM »
Hi, didn't want to bump the other thread but it got me trying to think up any advantage of putting computer power in orbit.

What about geek factor? If you think cloud computing is cool just because you are a nerd, wouldn't you love to be able to host your webpage or ascii MUD game or whatever from a server in orbit? Lag is suddenly something to brag about... you only have 500ms lag? Ha. I have 2500ms because Im coming from the frikken moon you lame-o :)

I admit the market might be fairly small, but the hardware you need to launch is potentially negligible. It may already exist. You could be just attaching a bit of extra computing power and bandwidth to a communications satellite, or making use of computing power that it otherwise would not use. It is barely about the scale of computing power. Nerds got all excited about putting their name on space missions, thats the cost of a handful of bytes.

There are a lot of us :)

I like the idea. Having a modern general purpose computer in space would be a really good playground for designing fault-tolerant software. It would be a nice challenge to design a system that is reliable despite the occasional bitflip or other disturbance due to cosmic radiation.

In the long run, doing computation in space might even make sense. A possible first application would probably be LEO satellite data processing.

LEO earth observation satellites produce huge amounts of raw data that have to be processed. The downlink capacity is often a limiting factor. So if you could do some of the postprocessing and compression on a computer on a GEO platform before downlink, you could save a lot of downlink capacity and thus increase science return.
« Last Edit: 12/29/2013 05:48 PM by rklaehn »
Try the ISS 3D visualization at http://www.heavens-above.com/ISS_3D.aspx

Offline AlanSE

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #6 on: 01/02/2014 07:40 PM »
You could be just attaching a bit of extra computing power and bandwidth to a communications satellite, or making use of computing power that it otherwise would not use. It is barely about the scale of computing power.

Although vague, this is obviously the only near-term implication.  The thermodynamic argument is a futurology concept.  It is very robust when proposing that an economic crossover time will occur in the future, but it's outside the present planning horizon by definition.

Somewhat related - there's the possibility of space data relays.  The inverse-square law is a big limitation for deep-space.  A network of satellites could receive and amplify signals that would otherwise be hopelessly faint by the end of the trip.  The problem with this idea is that Earth-based systems can be really large and power hungry compared to a space probe.  Neglecting that factor, a figure of merit for the improvement in signal intensity would be N^2, where N is the number of relays along the trip.

The tiny bit of Earthlight you have to deal with is insignificant compared to sunlight.

This is wrong.  In terms of the radiative balance, Earthlight is of a similar magnitude to sunlight.  This is because Earthlight comes from sunlight.  Almost all Earthlight is re-emitted sunlight.  What's more, the energy flows going into the Earth from the sun, and going out of the Earth into space, are identical for our purposes.

There's still a geometric factor of 4.  The area that Earth presents to the sun's rays is 1/4th of the area that Earth presents to space.  That's because the surface area of a sphere is 4 Pi r^2.  Equilibrium black body temperature on the dark side of Earth is something like -30 Celsius.  Adding in the sun doesn't change this much on the absolute temperature scale because of the T^4 relationship.  Radiators mostly exist because the on-board heat production must be dispelled.  It's not only that.  You just have to understand heat transfer.

Offline savuporo

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Re: Orbital data centers.. as geek factor.
« Reply #7 on: 01/02/2014 08:49 PM »
I like the idea. Having a modern general purpose computer in space would be a really good playground for designing fault-tolerant software. It would be a nice challenge to design a system that is reliable despite the occasional bitflip or other disturbance due to cosmic radiation.
Thats not how computers, or digital electronics in general, work. General purpose computers simply wont work much farther out than LEO.
The challenge is to design a hardware system that is fault tolerant, using COTS parts and components. That's what a lot of cubesat builders are working on.

It's entirely possible to do, like configuring a bunch of flash memory storage in RAID-6 array, but its a specialized hardware setup, not a software function. Basically, the hardware has to be robust enough so that the software can keep running at all.
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