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By | Iain Thomson 13th October 2011 01:05

AOL demos the human-free datacenter

100% lights out facility eliminates the BOFH cost

AOL has been operating a trial datacenter that runs without any on-site staff since the start of the month, and reports that the system is resilient and cuts costs.

Dubbed ATC, the datacenter uses off-the-shelf, pre-racked/vendor integrated gear with open source code, is run as a 100 per cent lights out facility (no BOFH patrolling the racks), and was put together in 90 days from the first proposal. AOL’s special sauce is its configuration management system, which the company says can set up and start a virtual machine in eight seconds and set up global server systems in minutes.

“The provisioning systems were built to be universal so that if required we can do the same thing with stand-alone physical boxes or virtual machines. No difference. Same system.” Said Mike Manos, AOL's vice president of technology operations in a blog post.

This system was put to the test during this summer’s East Coast earthquake, a 5.8 magnitude shock in Virginia. “The flood of inquirers to AOL’s servers in the aftermath was handled using the system, adding new virtual machines to handle the steep surge in demand," he wrote.

The timing of the announcement is fortuitous, considering AOL is trying to sell itself and touting its datacenter management as one of the assets it brings to any deal. Reuters reports that COE Tim Armstrong told a meeting of top shareholders that the company could be a good buy for Yahoo! He estimated that the two companies, with a combined audience, elimination of overlaps and AOL’s datacenter prowess, could save $1.5bn.

"As far as Armstrong's desire for an exit, he doesn't want to be doing what he is doing 18 months from now," a source familiar with Armstrong's thinking told Reuters. "He wants to be out. He's an ambitious sort of guy and AOL is such an afterthought. But he would definitely put his hat in the ring to run a combined Yahoo/AOL." ®

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