Archive for June, 2009

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Nexenta Turns 2.0

June 30, 2009

Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer for SearchStorage.com, has an interview with Nexenta CEO Evan Powell about the release of NexentaStor 2.0 today. The open source storage vendor is making some fundamentally “enterprise focused” changes to its platform in this release by adding active-active high availability features and 24/7 phone support.

“Version 2.0 is Nexenta’s attempt to “cross the chasm” between the open-source community and the traditional enterprise. Chief among these new features is the ability to perform fully automated two-way high availability between ZFS server nodes. Nexenta has already made synchronous replication and manual failover available for ZFS, which doesn’t offer those features natively, Powell said. With the release of Nexenta’s High Availability 1.0 software, failover and failback to the secondary server can happen without human intervention.”

SearchStorage.com

In a related webinar and conference call today, Powell reiterated Nexenta’s support of open storage saying, “we believe that you should own your storage. Legacy vendors want to lock you into their storage platform, but with Nexenta you can take your storage to any platform that speaks ZFS.” Powell sees Nexenta’s anti-lock-in approach as part of their wider value proposition. When asked about de-duplication technology, he referred to Sun’s prototyped de-duplication technology and the promise to introduce it into the main line this summer.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tyan S8212 Spotted

June 26, 2009
Tyan S8212 Istanbul SR5890+SP5100 Motherboard

Tyan S8212 Istanbul SR5690+SP5100 Motherboard

Thanks to a tweet from @ErikBussink and the quick thinking of Charlie Demerjian at SemiAccurate we’ve been treated to a picture of the upcoming Tyan S8212 (2-way) based on AMD’s new line-up of motherboard chip sets. While we see a x16 and 3 x8 PCIe slots, 6 SATA and 8 SAS ports, there is (conspicuously) no 10GE LOM – just 1GE.

What this board does deliver is HT3.0 and IOMMU support for Opteron/Istanbul and that’s a good thing for virtualization. We know from earlier discussions with AMD that Istanbul needs the SR5890 SR5690 to unlock its hidden potential. Two internal USB ports cry-out for flash booting options…

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Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Strategy

June 26, 2009

Red Hat’s recently updated virtualization strategy has resulted in an “oversubscribed” beta program. The world leader in open source solutions swings a big stick with its kernel-based virtualization products. Some believe one of the keys to successful large scale cloud initiatives is an open source hypervisor, and with Xen going commercial, turning to the open source veteran Red Hat seems a logical move. You may recall that Red Hat – using KVM – was the first to demonstrate live migration between AMD and Intel hosts.

“We are very pleased by the welcome we have received from enterprise companies all over the world who are looking to adopt virtualization pervasively and value the benefits of our open source solutions. Our Beta program is oversubscribed. We are excited to be in a position to deliver a flexible, comprehensive and cost-effective virtualization portfolio in which products will share a consistent hardware and software certification portfolio. We are in a unique position to deliver a comprehensive portfolio of virtualization solutions, ranging from a standalone hypervisor to a virtualized operating system to a comprehensive virtualization management product suite.”

Scott Crenshaw, vice president, Platform Business Unit at Red Hat

Red Hat sees itself as an “agent of change” in the virtualization landscape and wants to deliver a cost effective “boxed” approach to virtualization and virtualization management. All of this is hinged on Red Hat’s new KVM-based approach – enabled through their acquisition of Qumranet in September 2008 – which delivers the virtualization and management layers to Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux and its kernel.

Along with Qumranet came Solid ICE and SPICE. Solid ICE is the VDI component running on KVM consisting of a virtual desktop server and controller front end. Solid ICE allows Red Hat to rapidly enter the VDI space without disrupting its Eco-System. Additionally, the SPICE protocol (Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments) enables an standardized connection protocol alternative to RDP with enhancements for the VDI user experience.

Red Hat’s SPICE claims to offer the following features in the enterprise:

  • Superior graphics performance (e.g. flash)
  • video quality (30+ frames per second)
  • bi-directional audio (for soft-phones/IP phones)
  • bi-directional video (for video telephony/ video conferencing)
  • No specialized hardware. Software only client that can be automatically installed via Active-X and a browser on the client machine

Red Hat’s virtualization strategy reveals more of it’s capabilities and depth in accompanying blogs and white papers. Adding to the vendor agnostic migration capabilities, Red Hat’s KVM is slated to support VM hosts to 96 cores and 1TB of memory with guests scaling to 16 vCPUs and 64GB of memory. Additional features include high availabitily, live migration, global system scheduler, global power saving (through migration and power down), memory page sharing, thin storage provisioning and SELinux security.

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AMD Istanbul and Intel Nehalem-EP: Street Prices

June 22, 2009

It’s been three weeks after the official launch of AMD’s 6-core Istanbul processor and we wanted to take a look at prevailing street prices for the DIY upgrade option.

Istanbul Pricing (Street)

AMD “Istanbul” Opteron™ Processor Family
2400 Series Price 8400 Series Price
2.6GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2435 (75W ACP)
$1060.77 2.6GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 8435 (75W ACP)
$2,842.14
2.4GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2431 (75W ACP)
$743.74
$699.00
2.4GHz Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 8431 (75W ACP)
$2,305.70
2.2GHx Six-Core, 6-Thread
AMD Opteron 2427 (75W ACP)
$483.82
$499.99

Nehalem-EP/EX Pricing (Street)

After almost two months on the market, the Nehalem has been on the street long enough to see a 1-3% drop in prices. How does Istanbul stack-up against the Nehalem-EP/Xeon pricing?

Intel “Nehalem” Xeon Processor Family
EP Series Price EX Series Price
2.66GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP X5550 (95W TDP) $999.95
$999.99
Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EX TDB
2.4GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP E5530 (80W TDP) $548.66
$549.99
Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EX TBD
2.26GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP E5520 (80W TDP) $400.15
$379.99
2.26GHz Quad-Core, 8-Thread Intel Xeon EP L5520 (60W TDP) $558.77
$559.99

Compared to the competing Nehalem SKU’s, the Istanbul is fetching a premium price. This is likely due to the what AMD perceives to be the broader market that Istanbul is capable of serving (and its relative newness relative to demand, et al). Of course, there are no Xeon Nehalem-EX SKU’s in supply to compare against Istanbul in the 4P and 8P segments, but in 2P, it appears Istanbul is running 6% higher at the top bin SKU and 27% higher at the lower bin SKU – with the exception of the 60W TDP part, upon which Intel demands a 13% premium over the 2.2GHz Istanbul part.

This last SKU is the “green datacenter” battleground part. Since the higher priced 2.6GHz Istanbul rates a 15W (ACP) premium over the L5520, it will be interesting to see if system integrators will compare it to the low-power Xeon in power-performance implementations. Comparing SPECpower_ssj2008 between similarly configured Xeon L5520 and X5570, the performance-per-watt is within 2% for relatively anemic, dual-channel 8GB memory configurations.

In a virtualization system, this memory configuration would jump from an unusable 8GB to at least 48GB, increasing average power consumption by another 45-55W and dropping the performance-per-watt ratio by about 25%. Looking at the relative performance-per-watt of the Nehalem-EP as compared to the Istanbul in TechReport’s findings earlier this month, one could extrapolate that the virtualization performance-per-watt for Istanbul is very competitive – even with the lower-power Xeon – in large memory configurations. We’ll have to wait for similar SPECpower_ssj2008 in 4P configurations to know for sure.

System Memory Pricing (Street)

System memory represents 15-20% of system pricing – more in very large memory foot prints. We’ve indicated that Istanbul’s time-to-market strategy shows a clear advantage (CAPEX) in memory pricing alone – more than compensating for the slight premium in CPU pricing.

System Memory Pricing
DDR2 Series (1.8V) Price DDR3 Series (1.5V) Price

4GB 800MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL6 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (5.4W)
$100.00

4GB 1333MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL9 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (3.96W)

$138.00

4GB 667MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL5 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (5.94W)
$80.00

4GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL7 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (5.09W)
$132.00

8GB 667MHz DDR2 ECC Reg with Parity CL5 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 (7.236W)
$396.00

8GB 1066MHz DDR3 ECC Reg w/Parity CL7 DIMM Dual Rank, x4 w/Therm Sen (6.36W)
$1035.00

These parts show a 28%, 40% and 62% premium price for DDR3 components versus DDR2 which indicates Istanbul’s savings window is still wide-open. Since DDR3 prices are not expected to fall until Q3 at the earliest, this cost differential is expected to influence “private cloud” virtualization systems more strongly. However, with the 0.3V lower voltage requirement on the DDR3 modules, Nehalem-EP actually has a slight adavantage from a operational power perspective in dual-channel configurations. When using tripple-channel for the same memory footprint, Nehalem-EP’s memory consumes about 58% more power (4x8GB vs. 9x4GB).

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Quick Take: Vyatta Takes Virtual Networking to Cloud

June 22, 2009

Earlier this month, Vyatta announced completion of its Series C round of financing resulting in US$10M in new capital led primarily by new partner Citrix. Vyatta provides an open source alternative to traditional networking vendors like Cisco – providing software and hardware solutions targeted at the same routing, firewall and VPN market otherwise served by Cisco’s 2800, 7200 and ASA line of devices. Its software is certified to run in Xen and VMware environments.

In a related announcement, Citrix has certified Vyatta’s products for use with its Citrix Cloud Center (C3) product family to “make it as easy as possible for service providers and enterprises to use Vyatta with Citrix products such as XenDesktop, XenApp, XenServer and NetScaler.” With the addition of Citrix Delivery Systems Division GM Gordon Payne to the Vyatta board of directors, the now “closer coupling” of Citrix with Vyatta could accelerate the adoption of Vyatta in virtual infrastructures.

SOLORI’s Take: We’ve been using Vyatta’s software in lab and production applications for some time – primarily in HA routing applications where automatic routing protocols like OSPF or BGP are needed. Virtualizing Vyatta provides additional HA capabilities to cloud environments by extending infrastructure migration from the application layer all the way down to layer-3. In applications where it is a good fit, Vyatta provides an excellent solution component for the 100% virtualized environment.

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ExtremeTech: Shanghai to Istanbul

June 22, 2009

ExtremeTech runs some tests on the AMD Istanbul 6-core processor and compares the 2435 (2.6GHz) part to the 2384 (2.7GHz) part in a drop-in replacement using PassMark and Spec_JBB2005. Testing was performed in the same Supermicro system running an updated (AGESA 3.5.0.0) BIOS supporting Istanbul processors.

“Perhaps, the most tell tale result comes from the BOPS rating scored using SpecJBB2005, which simulates a server’s ability to process JAVA code. Here, there was a 20% increase in performance, with BOPS increasing from 380721 to 471440. That 20% performance boost would [definitely] be noticed on a busy server in a data center.”

Loyd Case, ExtremeTech.com

While not as thorough as Scott Wassman’s drop-in testing at TechReport (reported earlier this month), ExtremeTech’s results and conclusions were about the same: Istanbul makes a great upgrade processor.

“It all comes down to simple math, where one has to consider the cost of the CPUs and the time needed to perform an upgrade to see if the return on investment is worthwhile. Most will find that in this case, it is…”

– Lloyd Case, ExtremeTech

“And if you have existing, compatible Socket F servers, the Istanbul Opterons should be an excellent drop-in upgrade. They’re a no-brainer, really, when one considers energy costs and per-socket/per-server software licensing fees.”

Scott Wassman, TechReport

Both ExtremeTech and TechReport make compelling upgrade arguments in their testing. Compared to a new system architecture like Nehalem, it is logistically less disruptive – technologically and economically – to certify a CPU upgrade versus as platform replacement. After internal certification, a BIOS and CPU upgrade takes about 20-minutes per system to implement. In a virtualized datacenter where low-level differences are abstracted-away by the hypervisor certification testing should be much less invasive. Likewise, rolling upgrades in a virtualized datacenter with vMotion technology can provide a non-disruptive path from 4-core to 6-core. As Case puts it:

“Simply put, by just upgrading five servers in a data center, data center managers can eliminate the need to purchase an additional server to meet performance needs.”

Lloyd Case, ExtremeTech

However, this “upgrade proposition” is a difficult position for AMD as it does little to sell new systems. Historically, CPU upgrades only happen in 10-15% of the installed base, making CPU sales based on BIOS/drop-in upgrades an interesting footnote. Integrators want to move new hardware with Instanbul pre-installed, not sell “upgrade packages.” Perhaps the dynamics of the new economy will drive a statistical anomoly based on the strength of the Istanbul proposition. Datacenter managers face a familiar dilemma with some new twists.


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Dell Posts Top 4P/16-core VMmark

June 21, 2009

Dell has posted a new VMmark for its PowerEdge M905 series with a score of 22.90@17 tiles for a 4P Opteron 8393 SE based system. Although newly posted on VMware’s VMmark scoreboard, this test was performed on ESX 4.0 (build 159706) and completed May 19, 2009. This is the the first time a 4P Opteron system has exceeded 1-tile-per-core to achieve the highest composite score and bests the previous high score – a Dell R905 – by 1% and 1 tile (102 virtual machines total).

Dell’s M905 was fitted with 128GB of PC2-5300 (DDR2/667) registered ECC memory, 4 on-board Broadcom NetXtreme 1Gbps, and a QLogic QLE2462 FC adapter for virtual machine storage. Three Dell/EMC CX3-4of’s were used including 6 enclosures with 15 disks per enclosure to deliver 18 LUNx (6 per enclosure, 90 physical disks total.)