Archive for May, 2009

h1

Micro-Cloud Anyone? Supermicro Unleashes a (tiny) Monster

May 29, 2009
Supermicro 2021TM-BTRF - 4-nodes in 2U with redundant power.

Supermicro 2021TM-BTRF - 4-nodes in 2U with redundant power.

Supermicro’s been holding the AS-2021TM 4-node-in-2U platform back for several weeks but finally it’s out from behind proprietary OEM’s. We’re talking about the Supermicro 2021TM-B “mini cluster” of course and we’ve been watching this platform for some time.

Why is this a great platform for right now? The H8DMT-F motherboard, supporting only 64GB of DDR2/800 memory, also supports HT3.0 links to enable the slightly higher HT bandwidth of the upcoming Istanbul 6-core processors. The on-board IPMI 2.0 management (WPCM450, supporting KVM/IP and serial-over-LAN) with dedicated LAN port and two inboard USB ports (supporting boot flash) make this an ideal platform for “cloud computing” operations with high-density needs and limited budgets.

The inclusion of the on-board Intel Zoar (82575) dual-port Gigabit Ethernet controller means VMDq support for 4 recieve queues per port using the “igb driver” as we’ve reported in a previous post on “cheap” IOV. An nVidia MCP55-Pro provides Southbridge functions for 6xUSB 2.0, 4x SATA and 1xPCI-express x16 (low-profile) slot. This is a VMware “vSphere ready” configuration.

Supermicro H8DMT-F Motherboard from 4-node-in-2U chassis

Supermicro H8DMT-F Motherboard from 4-node-in-2U chassis

Each motherboard is installed on a removable try allowing for hot-swapping of motherboard trays (similar to blade architectures). The available x16 PCI-express slot allows for a single, dual-port 10GE card to drive higher network densities per node. An optional 20Gbps Mellanox Infiniband controller (MT25408A0-FCC-DI) is available on-board (PCI-express x8 connected) for HPC applications.

Each node is connected to a bank of 3-SATA hot-swap drive bays supporting RAID 0, 1 or 5 modes of operation (MCP55 Pro NVRAID). This makes the 2021TM a good choice for dense Terminal Services applications, HPC cluster nodes or VMware ESX/ESXi service nodes.

Key Factors:

  • Redundant power supply with Gold Level 93% efficiency rating
  • up to 64GB DDR2/800 per node (256GB/2U) – Istanbul’s sweet-spot is 32-48GB
  • HT3.0 for best Socket-F I/O and memory performance
  • Modern i82575 1Gbps (dual-port) with IOV
  • Inboard USB flash for boot-from-flash (ESXi)
  • Low-profile PCI-express x16 (support for dual-port 1oGE & CNA’s)
  • Hot-swap motherboard trays for easy maintenance
  • Full KVM/IP with Media/IP per node (dedicated LAN port)
  • Available with on-board Mellanox Infiniband (AS-2021TM-BiBTRF) or without (AS-2021TM-BTRF)
h1

Server Watch: Istanbul, G34, C32, Itanium and Nehalem-EX

May 29, 2009
Istanbul is launching in June, 2009 and will be a precursor to the G34 and C32 platforms to come in Q1/2010. To that end, AMD will be providing an overview of its next generation of Direct Connect Architecture, or DCA 2.0, which which separates Socket-F systems from G34/C32. This overview will be available as a live webcast on June 1, 2009 at 11:00AM Central Time. In advance of the announcement, AMD has (silently) reduced prices for its Opteron processors across the board. This move will place additional pressure on Intel’s Nehalem-EP systems already weakened (virtualization) price-performance.

We expect to hear more news about Istanbul’s availability in keeping with Tyan’s upcoming announcement next week. Based on current technology and economic trends, Istanbul and G34 could offer AMD a solid one-two punch to counter Intel’s relentless “tick-tock” pace. With Nehalem servers sales weak despite early expectations and compounding economic pressures, market timing may be more ideally suited for AMD’s products than Intel’s for a change. As Gartner puts it, “the timing of Nehalem is a bit off, and it probably won’t make much of an impact this year.”

In the meantime, Phil Hughes at AMD has a posted a personal reflection on Opteron’s initial launch, starting with the IBM e325 in 2003, and ending with Opteron’s impact on the Intel Itanium market by year-end (while resisting a reference to “the sinking of the Itanic“). Phil acknowledges Sun’s influence on Opteron and links to some news articles from 2003. See his full post, “The Sun Also Rises,” here… As 64-bit processors go, 2003 was much more the year of the Opteron rather than “the year of the Itanium” (as predicted by Intel’s Paul Otellini.)

Speaking of Itanium, TechWorld has an article outlining how Intel’s upcoming Nehalem-EX – with the addition of MCA technology derived from Itanium – could bring an end to the beleagered proprietary platform. TechWorld cites Insight 64 analyst Nathan Brookwood as saying the new Xeon will finally break Intel’s policy of artificially crippling of the x86 processor which has prevented Xeon from being competitive with Itanium. The 8-core, SMT-enabled EX processor was being demonstrated by IBM in an 8-socket configuration.
h1

Tyan Announces “Istanbul Ready” Systems at Computex

May 29, 2009

Tyan will be announcing full support for AMD’s upcoming “Istanbul” 6-core processor at Computex 2009 (June 2-6) for the following system SKUs:

Motherboards:

8-Socket: S4985-SI & M4985-SI

4-Socket: S4989-SI, S4992 & S8802

2-Socket: S3992-E, S2932-SI & S8212

Barebones Systems:

4-Socket: TN68-B4989-SI & GT26-B4989-LE

2-Socket: TA26-B2932-SI

We have no information on the new S8802 and S8212 motherboards or their intended systems at this time. See their announcement card here…

h1

Preview: Install ESXi 4.0 to Flash

May 22, 2009

VMware’s vSphere’s ESXi 4.0 now installs directly to USB flash from the install CD without the “funky” methods we’ve explained in earlier posts. By comparison, the installation process is straight-forward, simple and painless.

vSphere ESXi Install to USB Flash

vSphere ESXi Install to USB Flash (click for animation)

After the quick installation to USB flash, the system reboots into ESXi for the first time: Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Operton vs. Nehalem-EP at AnandTech

May 22, 2009

AnandTech’s Johan DeGelas has an interesting article on what he calls “real world virtualization” using a benchmark process his team calls “vApus Mk I” and runs it on ESX 3.5 Update 4. Essentially, it is a suite of Web 2.0 flavored apps running entirely on Windows in a mixed 32/64 structure. We’re cautiously encouraged by this effort as it opens the field of potential reviewers wide open.

Additionally, he finally comes to the same conclusion we’ve presented (in an economic impact context) about Shanghai’s virtualization value proposition. While his results are consistent with what we have been describing – that Shanghai has a good price-performance position against Nehalem-EP – there are some elements about his process that need further refinement.

Our biggest issue comes with his handling of 32-bit virtual machines (VM) and disclosure of using AMD’s Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI) with 32-bit VMs. In the DeGalas post, he points out some well known “table thrashing” consequences of TLB misses:

“However, the web portal (MCS eFMS) will give the hypervisor a lot of work if Hardware Assisted Paging (RVI, NPT, EPT) is not available. If EPT or RVI is available, the TLBs (Translation Lookaside Buffer) of the CPUs will be stressed quite a bit, and TLB misses will be costly.”

However, the MCS eFMS web portal (2 VMs) is running in a 32-bit OS. What makes this problematic is VMware’s default handling of page tables in 32-bit VM’s is “shadow page table” using VMware’s binary translation engine (BT). In otherwords, RVI is not enabled by default for ESX 3.5.x:

“By default, ESX automatically runs 32bit VMs (Mail, File, and Standby) with BT, and runs 64bit VMS (Database, Web, and Java) with AMD-V + RVI.”

–    VROOM! Blog, 3/2009

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Quick Take: AMD Istanbul Update

May 21, 2009

AMD was gracious enough to invite us to their Reviewer’s Day on May 20th to have a final look at “Istanbul” and discuss their plans for the product’s upcoming release. While much of the information we received is embargoed until the June, 2009 release date, we can tell you that we’ve have received a couple of AMD’s new 6-core “Istanbul” Opterons for testing and review. We’ll look forward to seeing “Istanbul” in action inside our lab over the next couple of weeks. Our verdict will be available at launch.

Instead of typical benchmarks, we’ll be focusing on Istanbul’s implications for vSphere before the new Opteron hits the streets (remember 6-core is the limit for “free” and “reduced capability” vSphere license). If what we saw from AMD’s internal testing at Reviewer’s Day is accurate , then our AMD/VMware Eco-System partners are going to be very happy with the results. What we can confirm today is that AGESA 3.3.0.3+ 3.5.0.0+ is required to run Istanbul, so start looking for BIOS updates from your vendors as the launch date approaches. The systems we reported on from Tyan back in April will be good-to-go at launch (our GT28 test systems are already running it require a beta BIOS).

SOLORI’s take: We made a somewhat bold prediction on April 30, 2009 that “Shanghai-Istanbul Eco-System looks like an economic stimulus all its own” when comparing the AMD upgrade path to Intel’s (rip and replace) where VMware infrastructures are concerned. That article, Shanghai Economics 101, was one of our most popular AMD-related postings yet, and – judging from what we’ve seen already – it looks like we may have been correct!

While we’re impressed with the ability to flawlessly vMotion from socket 940 to socket-F, we were more impressed with the ability to insert an Istanbul into a Barcelona or Shanghai system and immediately realize the benefits. We’re going to look at our review samples, revisit our price-performance data and Watt/VM calculations before making sweeping recommendation. However, we expect to find Istanbul to be a very good match to on-premise cloud/virtualization initiatives.

SOLORI’s 2nd take: VDI and databased consolidation systems running on 4P AMD boxes are about to take a giant leap forward. We can’t wait to see 24-core and 48-core VMmark scores updated over the next two months. Start asking your system vendor for updated BIOS supporting AGESA 3.5.0.0+ (Tyan are you listening? Supermicro’s AS2041M is already there), and get your 4P test mule updated and prepare to be amazed…

h1

VMware’s vSphere – Available Today

May 21, 2009

VMware’s new flagship product, vSphere , has hit general release and is now available.

As we reported earlier, vSphere’s license model has changed so existing SnS customers will need to either:

  1. Check your e-mail for updated licenses;
  2. Redeem their VI3 licenses (under SnS) for new vSphere versions;
  3. Download the vSphere trial and request evaluation license (recommended);
  4. Contact their VMware Partner for assistance;

We are strongly recommending a 30-day trial period for Existing VMware customers to vet vSphere in your environment and Eco-System. We’ll be releasing some guidance for upgrades and vSphere ESXi deployment to flash over the next 30-days. We also recommend:

  1. Remember that vSphere’s ESX Server 4.0 is 64-bit ONLY – your 32-bit machines are not upgradeable;
  2. Download the vSphere Evaluation Guide from VMware and review it completely;
  3. Take advantage of VMware’s On-Line Guided Evaluation Training;
  4. Check the vSphere Hardware Compatibility Guide for issues specific to your hardware;
  5. Arrange for a Demonstration and Training through your VMware Partner;
  6. Backup your vCenter database (or virtual machine and database) prior to upgrading;
  7. Sign-up for free vSphere 4 QuickStart training;

Not all of the announced features may be available in licensed version your SnS upgrade entitles you to receive. Please make sure that you are working with your VMware Partner or Consultant to insure that your VI3-to-vSphere trial, training and upgrade goes smoothly.