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This paper provides an overview of the Intelligent Bricks project in progress at IBM Research. It describes common problems faced by data center operators and proposes a comprehensive solution based on brick architectures. Bricks are hardware building blocks. Because of certain properties, defined here, scalable and reliable systems can be built with collections of identical bricks. An important feature is that brick-based systems must survive the failure of any brick without requiring human intervention, as long as most bricks are operational. This simplifies system management and allows very dense and very scalable systems to be built. A prototype storage server in the form of a 3 × 3 × 3 array of bricks, capable of storing 26 TB, is operational at the IBM Almaden Research Center. It successfully demonstrates the concepts of the Intelligent Bricks architecture. The paper describes this implementation of brick architectures based on newly developed communication and cooling technologies, the software developed, and techniques for building very reliable systems from low-cost bricks, and it discusses the performance and the future of intelligent brick systems.
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