Rack-Scale Architectures get Real with Intel RSA Introduction

Richard Fichera

What Is It?

We have been watching many variants on efficient packaging of servers for highly scalable workloads for years, including blades, modular servers, and dense HPC rack offerings from multiple vendors, most of the highly effective, and all highly proprietary. With the advent of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, the table was set for a wave of standardized rack servers and the prospect of very cost-effective rack-scale deployments of very standardized servers. But the IP for intelligently shared and managed power and cooling at a rack level needed a serious R&D effort that the OCP community, by and large, was unwilling to make. Into this opportunity stepped Intel, which has been quietly working on its internal Rack Scale Architecture (RSA) program for the last couple of years, and whose first product wave was officially outed recently as part of an announcement by Intel and Ericsson.

While not officially announcing Intel’s product nomenclature, Ericsson announced their “HDS 8000” based on Intel’s RSA, and Intel representatives then went on to explain the fundamental of RSA, including a view of the enhancements coming this year.

RSA is a combination of very standardized x86 servers, a specialized rack enclosure with shared Ethernet switching and power/cooling, and layers of firmware to accomplish a set of tasks common to managing a rack of servers, including:

·         Asset discovery

·         Switch setup and management

·         Power and cooling management across the servers with the rack

·         Server node management

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Global Vendors Should Expand Their Ecosystem In China

Frank Liu

Back in June, I blogged about why Chinese technology management professionals have started looking more closely at domestic vendors. One reason: a government-led push away from foreign IT vendors that is forcing global vendors to expand their local ecosystem to exploit new service models and improve service delivery. Chinese tech management teams should keep an eye on new trends and be aware of the benefits they bring.

I recently attended VMware’s vForum 2014 event in Beijing. The vendor has established a local ecosystem for the three pillars of its business: the software-defined data center (SDDC), cloud services, and end user computing. VMware is working with:

  • Huawei to refine SDDC technologies.VMware is leveraging Huawei’s technology capability to improve its product feature. VMware integrated Huawei Agile Controller into NSX and vCenter to operate and manage network automation and quickly migrate virtual machines online. Huawei provides the technology to unify the management of virtual and physical networks based on VMware’s virtualization platform. This partnership can help VMware optimize its existing software features and improve the customer experience.
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Dell Introduces FX system - the Shape of Infrastructure to Come?

Richard Fichera

Dell today announced its new FX system architecture, and I am decidedly impressed.

Dell FX is a 2U flexible infrastructure building block that allows infrastructure architects to compose an application-appropriate server and storage infrastructure out of the following set of resources:

  • Multiple choices of server nodes, ranging from multi-core Atom to new Xeon E5 V3 servers. With configurations ranging from 2 to 16 server nodes per enclosure, there is pretty much a configuration point for most mainstream applications.
  • A novel flexible method of mapping disks from up to three optional disk modules, each with 16 drives - the mapping, controlled by the onboard management, allows each server to appear as if the disk is locally attached DASD, so no changes are needed in any software that thinks it is accessing local storage. A very slick evolution in storage provisioning.
  • A set of I/O aggregators for consolidating Ethernet and FC I/O from the enclosure.

All in all, an attractive and flexible packaging scheme for infrastructure that needs to be tailored to specific combinations of server, storage and network configurations. Probably an ideal platform to support the Nutanix software suite that Dell is reselling as well. My guess is that other system design groups are thinking along these lines, but this is now a pretty unique package, and merits attention from infrastructure architects.

Forrester clients, I've published a Quick Take report on this, Quick Take: Dell's FX Architecture Holds Promise To Power Modern Services

Microsoft And Dell Change The Private/Hybrid Cloud Game With On-Premise Azure

Richard Fichera

What was announced?

On October 20 at TechEd, Microsoft quietly slipped in what looks like a potential game-changing announcement in the private/hybrid cloud world when they rolled out Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), an integrated hardware/software system that combines an Azure-consistent on premise cloud with an optimized hardware stack from Dell.

Why does it matter?

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Forrester’s First Report About The Private Cloud Market In China

Frank Liu

Early next month, Forrester will publish a report on the dynamics of China’s private cloud market. This research demonstrates that Chinese I&O pros have started to leverage the benefits of private cloud — including highly standardized and automated virtual pooling and metered pay-per-use chargeback — to support the digital transformation of traditional business. By using private cloud, Chinese I&O pros not only support their business units’ digital transformation, but also provide the cost transparency that the CFO’s office demands. In practical business terms, Chinese organizations use private cloud to:

  • Improve business agility. There is fierce market competition to give Chinese consumers more choices. To do this, Chinese organizations must shift their business operations to increase their product portfolio to win new customers and provide a better customer experience to serve and retain existing customers. Chinese I&O pros need to provide a cloud platform that also supports business units’ requirement to lower their capital and operating expenditures.
  • Avoid disruption by Internet companies. Chinese web-based companies have started to use high-quality service to disrupt traditional businesses. Chinese I&O pros need to provide more flexible computing to help the application development team to improve the development cycle and respond to customers more quickly, flexibly, and effectively.
  • Develop new business without adding redundancy. Chinese organizations want to scale up new business to offset declines in revenue. However, the existing IT infrastructure at these firms often cannot support new business models — and can even take a toll. Chinese I&O pros need to find a new way — such as private cloud — to support business development and reuse existing infrastructure.
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2014 Server and Data Center Predictions

Richard Fichera

As the new year looms, thoughts turn once again to our annual reading of the tea leaves, in this case focused on what I see coming in server land. We’ve just published the full report, Predictions for 2014: Servers & Data Centers, but as teaser, here are a few of the major highlights from the report:

1.      Increasing choices in form factor and packaging – I&O pros will have to cope with a proliferation of new form factors, some optimized for dense low-power cloud workloads, some for general purpose legacy IT, and some for horizontal VM clusters (or internal cloud if you prefer). These will continue to appear in an increasing number of variants.

2.      ARM – Make or break time is coming, depending on the success of coming 64-bit ARM CPU/SOC designs with full server feature sets including VM support.

3.      The beat goes on – Major turn of the great wheel coming for server CPUs in early 2014.

4.      Huge potential disruption in flash architecture – Introduction of flash in main memory DIMM slots has the potential to completely disrupt how flash is used in storage tiers, and potentially can break the current storage tiering model, initially physically with the potential to ripple through memory architectures.

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Four Common Approaches To Private Cloud

Lauren Nelson

In 2012, I wrote a blog titled Private Cloud: 'Everyone's Got One, Where's Yours?' which looked at the perception of private cloud versus the reality of the environments that carry this name. Although reported interest and adoption were high, most environments fell short of the basic characteristics of cloud. Almost 1.5 years later, Forrester continues to see interest in and reported adoption of private cloud -- according to Forrester's Hardware Survey, in 2014, 55% of North American and European enterprises plan to prioritize building an internal private cloud, and 33% already having adopted private cloud. Despite the increased awareness in private cloud shortcomings, Forrester found that only 1/4 of these "private cloud" environments establish self-service access for its users. What's most interesting is that most of these enterprises aren't looking to private cloud for cloud-specific benefits. 

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Four Common Approaches To Private Cloud

Lauren Nelson

In 2012, I wrote a blog titled Private Cloud: 'Everyone's Got One, Where's Yours?' which looked at the perception of private cloud versus the reality of the environments that carry this name. Although reported interest and adoption were high, most environments fell short of the basic characteristics of cloud. Almost 1.5 years later, Forrester continues to see interest in and reported adoption of private cloud -- according to Forrester's Hardware Survey, in 2014, 55% of North American and European enterprises plan to prioritize building an internal private cloud, and 33% already having adopted private cloud. Despite the increased awareness in private cloud shortcomings, Forrester found that only 1/4 of these "private cloud" environments establish self-service access for its users. What's most interesting is that most of these enterprises aren't looking to private cloud for cloud-specific benefits. 

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Hosted private cloud Wave complete but no leaders identified

Lauren Nelson

In 2011, my colleague James Staten and I published two light-weight vendor assessments on the private cloud and public cloud market. These solutions sit at the extremes of the IaaS market. To kick off 2013, I published a full vendor evaluation of a market that sits in between these two IaaS deployment types — hosted private cloud. Forrester's Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2012 showed that 46% of enterprises are prioritizing investments in private clouds in 2013. While slightly more than half plan to build a private cloud in their own data center, more than 25% said they prefer to rent one. Hosted private cloud opens the door to a variety of benefits: 1) You reach cloud from day one. 2) Compute is dedicated from other clients. 3) It can enable future hybrid scenarios. 4) Easier-to-meet licensing and compliancy requirements. 5) Outsourcing the setup of the cloud and management of the infrastructure to focus on support and utilization. 

Overall this report revealed no leaders, but it did show some strengths and weaknesses across the market and provide framework and sample criteria to assess vendors within this space. This research process also revealed some unexpected nuances within this space: 

  •   Hosted private cloud and virtual private cloud are often used interchangeably within the market — despite being distinct deployment types. 
  •   Level and method of dedication varies greatly by solution. 
  •   Layers managed differ greatly by solution. 
  •   Although agility is a benefit, few enable self-service access to resources to its end users. Ticket-based request systems are common.
  •   Many enterprises are using hosted private cloud for some unexpected advantages:
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TechnoPolitics Podcast: Hey CIO, Here Is Your Hybrid Cloud Wake-Up Call

Mike Gualtieri

James Staten, Forrester TechnoPoliticsHybrid clouds are especially subject to the law of unintended consequences, says Forrester’s cloud expert James Staten. Many IT organizations don’t even acknowledge that they have a hybrid cloud. The reality: If enterprises are using public cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) and/or deploying any custom applications in the public cloud, then by definition they have a hybrid cloud, because it almost always connects to the back end.

In this episode of TechnoPolitics, James implores CIOs and IT professionals to get serious about hybrid cloud now to avoid spaghetti clouds in the future.

Podcast: Here Is Your Hybrid Cloud Wake-Up Call

Click here to download the MP3 file of this episode.

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