[MLB-WIRELESS] OT: Green community datacentre

Fenn Bailey fenn_b at smktech.com.au
Mon Feb 5 12:54:03 EST 2007

Hi All,

A slightly off topic post that's part throwing round an idea, partly gauging
interest and partly just general rambling. This may not be the list to
discuss this, something like APANA or other lists may be far more suitable,
but I'm willing to give you guys first dibs :) - Feel free to forward as

Just as a precursor - this idea/project is not designed to take away from
any work/resources being directed towards melb-wireless, but is moreso
designed to be a complimentary (and possible means of funding/assisting)
melb-wireless. Apologies in advance if this email offends anyone on the list
- I just think that the melb-wireless group is one of the more
organized/intelligent/contstrucive groups around.

Anyway, on to it - Apart from affordable, community run metropolitan
networks, there is also a shortage (in australia) of community run and/or
affordable data hosting. This is for obvious historical reasons where high
quality/rate bandwidth (ie: ATM or Ethernet) was prohibitively expensive,
but this is no longer the case.

It is, however, very easy to get incredibly cheap US (or other
international) based hosting where bandwidth is cheap and plentiful,
however, increasing reliance of search engines and other applications
relying on geographical location mapping of IPs makes this less and less
desirable - plus, I don't believe that here in Australia we should be held
ransom (pardon the slightly inflammatory wording) to the big players in the

My thoughts are that a community funded, built and operated datacentre
(community telco like) would allow people and businesses alike to host
equipment in a secure, reliable, high speed datacentre for an affordable
shared amount.

I don't know about you guys, but judging on the traffic on the mailing list
(and my own behaviour), I'd guess that a large amount of you have various
routers, racks, patch-panels, power strips and various other paraphenalia
that was bought at some point and is now sitting languishing in your garage

I think it would be useful for many of us to put some of this equipment in a
single location and assemble it in a way that's mildly more useful than
banishing your car from the garage to the driveway.

Here's a brief rundown of how I think it could work:

The datacentre would be located in a suitable location - Ideally someone's
basement, workplace-basement or somewhere relatively cool/secure (this would
save on cooling costs/etc), that has independent entry from the rest of the

The setup/construction would be member-contributed, setup and maintained,
with any extraneous costs shared.

Symmetric bandwidth would be supplied most likely via fixed wireless sourced
from one of the commercial providers  - This is primarily because it has the
lowest setup/build cost, is the easiest to install/relocate and has the
highest symmetric speed. Ideal initial service speed would be somewhere in
order of 2-4Mbps (with potential more peered bandwidth).

The monthly costs would be shared amongst members - Ideally we would be able
to negotiate sufficient bandwidth for around $2000 - $2500/month. 10 - 15
members would allow the monthly cost to be $130 - $250/month. Cost scaling
could be shared based on user utilization. More members means cheaper rates.

The endeavour would be run commercially, but not-for-profit (like many
community telco projects) - That is, it would have full commercial
contracts, be usable for commercial purposes, but not make a profit in and
of itself: any profits would be re-invested into infrastructure or passed on
as savings to members.

Ideally, a location would be sourced that is suitable for either wind or
solar power generation, making the datacentre not only slightly "green" but
also cheaper. It is fairly easy to make a 1kW wind generator out of easily
sourceable home parts (I have the bulk of them myself already), so 2 of
these coupled to a battery bank would both decrease costs, increase
reliability (alternate power/UPS) and give us a warm fuzzy feeling at being
more environmentally friendly. With a bit of clever marketing, you could
probably get funding for this as well.

Data hosting/co-location could be provided for free for suitable like-minded
projects (melbwireless being an obvious first choice).

Setup/monthly fees for such a thing would not be cheap - ie: this is not a
$29.95 individual user type affair, but is more focussed at people who have
a vested need/interest for mid-high quality hosting/co-location, have the
no-how to run it, but not the numbers/volume to justify doing it by

Some points/thoughts/questions/answers:

1) Q: Why would we do this - surely we cannot compete with prices from the
big players who have larger amounts of customers and hence economies of

A: Possibly. Commercial datacentres have some additional major costs,
namely: Staff and trying to make a profit. Staff would be
volunteers/self-maintained for the minimal shared equipment and profit would
aim to be $0. Additionally, most datacentres were built years ago when the
outlay for initial infrastructure (ie: fibre and routers) were in the
millions and are still paying them off. Sufficient routing/equipment
capacity for a community setup would be significantly cheaper. Community
telcos exist already, and they have FAR higher build and maintenance costs.

2) Q: Why would you want to do this - I can get 24Mbps ADSL2+ at home for

A: Yes, you can. However, this doesn't let you host much, cannot scale past
your ~1Mbps of upstream, is contended rather than guaranteed bandwidth and
gains no benefits of sharing/contending bandwidth yourself. You also have to
maintain/monitor all your own equipment and cannot share resources such as
UPS, air-conditioning and backup. You'd also struggle to convince anyone to
host something commercially in your bedroom :) If this was a better way to
do it, everyone would run their own datacentres locally.

Anyway, that's my thoughts for the moment. I know there are several
like-minded people on this list that are either interested in this sort of
thing and/or have mentioned similar things in the past.

Cheers to anyone who made it this far though my long/rambling email.
Questions/replies welcome/encouraged either on or off list.



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