Virtual environments lead to smaller physical sizes
The first real hint of the micro data center came from the results of virtualization in standard data centers. People began to see just how much could be done with servers which weren’t demanding as much power as a high-end server of the time demanded. It became very clear that even the most taxing jobs would only take a small amount of the larger resources. There was only one big problem standing in the way of a micro data center. People might want a new type of micro data center that operated on a much smaller scale. Smaller servers weren’t as easy as simply halving or quartering a standard processor, though.
Processor design was a very delicate process. The closest that could be found to an easy way to reduce power on a processor was by decoupling the cores within it. Even this wasn’t really a solid solution. The first multi-core processors tended to simply be a standard doubling of resources. Simple multi-core design quickly snowballed into true resource sharing. A modern multi-core processor is more than just multiple processors glued together on either a hardware or software level. The multiple cores are part of how the overall whole of a processor operates. Taking out a core is a bit more akin to taking out a support beam in a building. It could cause the whole thing to become unstable without really providing much in the way of concrete benefit.
The real boon to micro development came from a very unexpected place. When smartphones entered the market they pushed mobile design in a whole new direction. They needed far more processing power than even a top of the line PDA. In doing so they pushed a whole new type of CPU into the forefront of the industry. ARM chips had been around for a while. The lower powered ARM chips as they existed at the time simply weren’t a good match for the server space.
ARM chips would remain fairly simplistic until a huge investment in design came from the portable electronics sphere. A few generations down the line and ARM-based chips had advanced to a point of parity with the standard virtualized system within a data center. The newfound parity of ARM chips essentially offered up the exact thing that the server industry had been looking for. Even better, smartphones tended to use a software stack which was somewhat related to the more common types of server operating systems.
The software aspects of typical ARM design provided a lot of benefits simply by nature of the architecture. The server sector had essentially realized one of the biggest dreams of any industry. They had another semi-related field taking up most of the costs of research and development for something they could make use of. Data centers hadn’t had enough motivation to develop smaller CPU frameworks on their own. Data centers certainly had enough interest to adapt smaller processors to their industry when they did become available. Instead of wastefully fitting virtualized servers into overpowered hardware a data center now had the option of using the right tool for the job. Data centers finally had servers which perfectly matched the tasks needed of them.
Adoption of smaller processors in the server industry is where micro data centers first became a real force. The potential of micro data centers has only just started to really become clear in recent years, though.