I often hear phrases like "I'm going to spool up a new instance" or "I'm going to spool down the server" and so on.

I haven't found the term "spool up" on any IT dictionary.

Can anyone tell me if this term is correct and what it means?

  • 1
    I've heard of the print spool, and spin the server up/down, but never spool the server up/down. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 11 '15 at 12:20
  • If you "often hear" (present tense) "phrases like...", why don't you ask those who speak the phrases about the meaning right there and then? – Victor Bazarov Nov 11 '15 at 13:35
  • For them, it means starting and stopping instances. But it looks like this term only exists in their heads, but it doesn't exist in any dictionaries – user1883212 Nov 11 '15 at 13:48
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    Spool up is certainly in dictionaries. Did you try just googling the phrase "spool up"? It is not an IT-specific term; they are using it as an analogy to a jet engine, for which spool up means to come up to speed. – stangdon Nov 11 '15 at 15:09

Jet engines "spool up" when accelerating. This is because the rotating components in a jet engine resemble a thread spool.

Jet engines spooling up take a moment to get to full power.

This leaves us with two similarities to a server

  1. Servers usually take a few moments to start (longer than a conventional PC)
  2. Servers usually spin up their (already noisy) fans to full power for a moment when starting. This makes them very noisy and the phrase "it sounds like a jet engine in there" or similar is sometimes used to describe the fact a server room is noisy (particularly when starting servers)

The combination of these two has led to some crossover into IT (mostly starting within the Aviation industry, one of the industries which adopted IT heavily, early) and "spooling up" a server becoming a phrase sometimes used. "Spin up" is more common, but "spool up" is certainly a phrase within aviation, and starting to spread outside it.

Source: I used to work in IT within the Aviation industry until ~1 year ago.

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