Gartner, the industry analyst firm, predicts that organisations should consider computing fabrics in their IT strategies over the next three years.
A computing fabric is the next stage of server design. Servers are boxes containing a processor or two, some memory and a hard drive, all connected to a network.
If, for example, your mail server were running out of disk space, you'd have to add more hard-drive capacity to that box. Or, if your database server needed more random access memory, you'd add more to that box.
A computing fabric merges all your server resources - memory, processors, disks, input/output cards - into a pool, which combines the resources to provide a kind of virtual server and recombines them when appropriate, should the resources be required. For example, a 'server' can be created, comprising, say, eight processors from across the fabric, but appearing to the outside world as a single server. Unlike former resource-pooling methodologies, such as grid computing and clustering, a computing fabric pools all server resources to be combined and recombined into servers suited to the task.
Will this make a difference to charities? Data centres will be able to provide greater processing resources at less cost, both financially and environmentally, because the wasted resource in hosting large numbers of boxes in power-consuming racks will be diminished. Charities with in-house resources may be able to create their own computing fabric from their existing boxes.
You can't go to a shop and buy a computing fabric solution, because it's a standards-based methodology; but organisations that care about the effective use of their resources and the advance of 'green computing' will at least consider it in their IT strategies over the next few years.
- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.