Archive for July, 2009

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NEC Adds Top 48-Core, Dell Challenges 24-Core in VMmark Race

July 29, 2009

NEC’s venerable Express5800/A1160 tops the 48-core VMmark category today with a score of 34.05@24 tiles to wrest the title away from IBM who established the category back in June, 2009. NEC’s new “Dunnington” X7460 Xeon-based score represents a performance per tile ratio of 1.41 and a tile to core efficiency of 50% using 128GB of ECC DDR2 RAM.

Compared to the leading 24-core “Dunnington” results – held by IBM’s x3850 M2 at 20.41@14 tiles – the NEC benchmark sets a scalability factor of 85.7% when moving from 4-socket to 8-socket systems. Both servers from NEC and IBM are scalable systems allowing for multiple chassis to be interconnected to achieve greater CPU-per-system numbers – each scaling in 4-CPU increments – ostensibly for OLTP advantages. The NEC starts at around $70K for 128GB and 48-cores resulting in a $486/VM cost to VMmark.

Also released today, Dell’s PowerEdge R905 – with 24 2.8GHz Istanbul cores (8439 SE) and 128GB of ECC DDR2 RAM – secures the number two slot in the 24-category with a posting of 29.51@20 tiles. This represents a tile ratio of 1.475 and tile efficiency of 83.3% for the $29K rack server from Dell at about $240/VM. Compared to its 12-core counterpart, this represents a 91% scalability factor.

If AMD’s Istanbul scales to 8-socket at least as efficiently as Dunnington, we should be seeing some 48-core results in the 43.8@30 tile range in the next month or so from HP’s 785 G6 with 8-AMD 8439 SE processors. You might ask: what virtualization applications scale to 48-cores when $/VM is doubled at the same time? We don’t have that answer, and judging by Intel and AMD’s scale-by-hub designs coming in 2010, that market will need to be created at the OEM level.

Based on the performance we’re seeing in 8-socket systems relative to 4-socket and the upcoming “massively mult-core” processors in 2010, the law of diminishing returns seems to favor the 4-socket system as the limit for anything but massive OLTP workloads. Even then, we expect to see 48-core in a “4-way” box more efficient than the same number of cores in an 8-way box. The choice in virtualization will continue to be workload biased, with 2P systems offering the best “small footprint” $/VM solution and 4P systems offering the best “large footprint” $/VM solution.

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In The Lab: vSphere DPM, Quirky but Functional

July 24, 2009
ESX Hosts in Standby Using DRS's DPM Extension

ESX Hosts in Standby Using DRS's DPM Extension

It would be hard to complain that virtualization is contributing to any kind of “global warming” hysteria. In fact and by its very consolidating nature, virtualization offers many advantages over “traditional” computing models that make it “green” even in its most basic format. VMware reinforces this argument with the claims that “every server that is virtualized saves 7,000 kWh of electricity and four tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.”

However, virtualization’s promise was born out of the recognition that x86 servers were commonly operating with enormous “excess capacity.” In typical deployments, virtual servers are driven to only 30-40% of capacity, and where excess capacity abounds, there exists a potential for slashing available resources in a quest for limiting on-line power consumption.

Enter VMware’s power saving extension to its Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) that scrubs VMware clusters for unused capacity, automatically consolidates stray virtual machines away from near-idle members and shuts those members down to conserve power. This magic green genie is called Distributed Power Management (DPM) and, while simple to configure, has a few quirks that not only hinder its effectiveness but actually make no sense (more on that later).

DRS's DPM In Action

DRS's DPM In Action

“VMware DPM monitors the cumulative demand of all virtual machines in the cluster for memory and CPU resources and compares this to the total available resource capacity of all hosts in the cluster. If sufficient excess capacity is found, VMware DPM places one or more hosts in standby mode and powers them off after migrating their virtual machines to other hosts. Conversely, when capacity is deemed to be inadequate, DRS brings hosts out of standby mode (powers them on) and migrates virtual machines, using VMotion, to them. When making these calculations, VMware DPM considers not only current demand, but it also honors any user-specified virtual machine resource reservations.”

vSphere Resource Management Guide, Managing Power Resources

Read the rest of this entry ?

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RIP Dunnington: HP’s 4P/24-core Istanbul Takes VMmark Summit

July 15, 2009
HP has simultaneously achieved two near identical VMmark scores with their ProLiant DL585 G6 rack server and ProLiant BL685c G6 blade, claiming the summit from the reigning 24-core champion. Since first establishing the 24-core tier VMmark in September 2009, the Intel “Dunnington” 6-core processor (FSB architecture) has gone unchallenged. Now, with the release of the Opteron 8439SE raising the performance bar and the Opteron 8435 making a clear price-performance case, Dunnington’s vacation is over.

Today’s Istanbul-based achievements – established in the same memory footprint as the top Dunnington – renders the venerable processor all but obsolete, besting the champ by 4 tiles (24 more virtual machines) with a score-tile ratio of 1.5 for the rack system and 1.46 (same as the Dunnington at 14 tiles) for the blade. Using the HP and IBM on-line configuration tools, we established the retail (on-line) price for each system – down to the Fiber Channel HBA’s – and compared them for $/VM value. Here are the results:

HP DL685 G6 HP BL685c G6 IBM x3850 M2
Processor 4x Opteron 8439SE 2.8GHz 4x Opteron 8435 2.6GHz 4x Xeon X7460 2.67GHz
Memory 128GB (16x8GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC) 128GB (16x8GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC) 128GB (32x4GB PC2-5300 Reg ECC)
LAN Controllers 1x Dual-Port NC371i 1Gbps,
3x Dual-Port NC380T 1Gbps
2x Dual-Port NC532i Flex-10 10Gbs,
1x Dual-Port NC360m 1Gbps
2x Intel PRO 1000PT Dual-Port 1Gbps
HBA Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC 2x Qlogic QMH2462 Dual-Port FC
OS RAID Controller HP Smart Array P800 HP Smart Array P400i HBA
OS Disks 2x 73Gb SAS 10K 2x 73Gb SAS 10K SAN
On-line Price $36,862.00 $35,296.00 $34,269.00
On-line w/3rd Party Memory $28,712.00 $27,356.00 $33,207.00
VMmark Results 29.95@20 tiles 29.19@20 tiles 20.5@14 tiles
VMmark Tile Ratio 1.5 1.46 1.46
Cost/VM Retail $307.18 $294.13 $407.96
Cost/VM 3rd Party $239.27 $227.97 $276.73

The results indicate a 21-38% savings per-VM for Istanbul over Dunnington in the 4P/24-core virtualization space. This is bread-and-butter territory for VDI implementations and SQL virtualizations, and Intel’s last remaining market place for the Dunnington processor. With the top-bin Istanbul weighing-in with 3% better performance, 18% less power consumption and 30% more capacity against Dunnington at the same price point, Intel’s 4P gambit is played-out and Nehalem-EX cannot arrive too soon for Intel.

It is worth asking the question: does the HP ProLiant 4P/24-core offer the best value? The answer depends on the value proposition. From a straight $/VM vantage point, the HP DL385 G6 comparison demonstrated a more economical $182/VM – a difference of $40/VM lower than the BL685c G6 – so the 2P rack system still comes out on top for the absolute bottom-line concious. However, for applications like SQL consolidations, the additional savings in licensing on 4P platforms versus 2P platforms dwarfs this differential.

What is clear: AMD’s Istanbul solution will remain unchallenged in the 4P space both in raw performance and in price-performance until Nehalem-EX is delivered. That means if Nehalem-EX does not arrive in Q3/2009, the market will likely wait for Q1/2010 to make any long-term purchasing decisions in anticipation of the new platforms slated to break-in the new year.
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Quick Take: AMD Releases SE/HE Six-Cores

July 14, 2009

Today AMD published pricing for 5 new Istanbul SKUs – two designated as 105W APC high-performance SE and three as 55W APC low-power HE models.

In the SE category, the 2439SE and 8439SE at 2.8GHz replace the top-bin 2435/8435 Istanbul which occupies the 2.6GHz, 75W APC bin. Besides the clock frequency changes, maximum CPU temp is reduced from 76C to 71C. As with all other Istanbul’s so far, these are HT3 bus parts running at 4.8GT/s. Price per socket has been announced at $1,019 and $2,649 for the 2439SE and 8439SE, respectively.

While the new SE parts do little to help the Opteron surpass the X5560 in raw performance, they fit well into the price-performance picture for AMD so long as street prices for the X5560 continue to hover in the $1,200-1,300 range.

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul SE SKU's

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul SE SKU's

In the HE category, the 2425HE/8425HE and 2423HE are new clock speed bins running at 2.1GHz and 2.0GHz, respectively. These parts maintain the same 76C maximum CPU temp as the normal 75W ACP parts, but are selected to consume just 55W ACP. Again, these SKU’s also carry the 4.8GT/s HT3 bus of their Istanbul brethren. Pricing per socket has been announced at $523 and $1,514 for the 2425HE and 8425HE, respectively, with the 2423 HE targeted at $455 each.

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul HE SKU's

SPECint_rate2006 - AMD Istanbul HE SKU's

Here, AMD’s lower power target and pricing help the chip maker do some profit-taking as the price-performance of the HE parts appear to offer a measurable advantage over the L5506 (60W TDP) which is circling the $475 region (street price). See AMD’s official press release about High Energy Efficiency and the Processing Power of Six-Cores for more details.

SOLORI’s Take: AMD has expanded the Istanbul line with both high-performance and low-power SKU’s as promised. With DDR3 prices inching downward, AMD’s price-performance position is eroding slowly as Q3/2009 approaches. However, the 2-to-1 price penalty for top-bin Xeon/Nehalem platforms will take a lot more time to overcome, leaving the AMD the solid choice for budget conscious virtualization.

What’s perhaps more exciting for AMD followers – especially in the good-enough performance market – is sitting in the HE bin. The HE shows weakness in the 2P space, however, against the 2.26GHz L5520 part from Intel which sports 8 thread per CPU and can burst core speeds in excess of 3GHz with its “turbo” feature. This places the 2P 2425 HE somewhere in-between L5506 and L5520 in performance-per-watt, with 2425 HE maintaining a reasonable price-performance advantage.

In the unchallenged 4P space, the 8425 HE, at 2.1GHz and $1,580 (est. street price) offers nearly 3:2 power savings over the standard part offering 24-cores at a little over 200W ACP (4P configurations). This savings will help scale-out clouds both private and public.

(Note: SPEC CPU results gathered from published tables at http://spec.org.)

Updated 7/15/2009:  Added link to AMD’s press release.

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Quick Take: Virtual Iron Amnesty from VMware

July 7, 2009

From now until September 30, 2009, Virtual Iron customers will be able to cash in their licenses for a 40% discount on comparable VMware products including:

  • VMware vSphere™ 4 Advanced Edition
  • VMware vSphere™ 4 Enterprise Plus Edition
  • VMware vCenter™ Server Foundation, and
  • VMware vCenter™ Server Standard

Support and Subscription Contracts are eligible for a 10% discount as well – longer terms are not eligible. Virtual Iron customers should check with their VMware integrator for more details and migration options. VMware’s has posted its entire offer – including exceptions and rules – on the VMware website.

Such an offer begs the question: should Virtual Iron customers migrate to VMware or XenSource? While both Virtual Iron and XenSource are based on the Xen VMM, the capabilities of Virtual Iron Extended Enterprise Edition would suggest either VMware Enterprise (about $4,175/2P server with 1-year support and announced discount) or XenSource Enterprise Essentials (about $4,250/2P server with 1-yr support) – or 2.5 times their current Virtual Iron investment.

On the VMware side, the switch will add DPM, Fault Tolerance, VCB and Storage vMotion to the equation plus a significant number of additional non-Windows guests. On the XenSource side, the switch will add XCB and some additional guest support.

SOLORI’s Take: Virtual Iron customers may eschew the “for pay” route altogether and either pocket the money awaiting a more valuable market shift, or evaluate the remaining “no cost” alternatives to VMware and XenSource. Our recommendation is to consider any shift in vendor based strictly on ROI and need. There will be many of the (reportedly) 3,000+ Virtual Iron customers that will show no immediate need to shift over the next 6 months.

Between their remaining support contracts and the relationship with their virtualization infrastructure reseller, very few Virtual Iron customers will be left in the dark. The death of a VMM is much like a server model being discontinued: the server keeps working well after the factory shuts down and so will the VMM. However, as newer features and capabilities move forward with the competition, the old server starts to show its age…

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Quick Take: Oracle, Sun and Virtual Iron Redux

July 6, 2009

In May, 2009, we presented a Quick Take on the acquisition of Virtual Iron – a company that developed and delivered Xen manager to alternative to Citrix. While Oracle has officially killed the “product” that was Virtual Iron, it has released a roadmap to its incorporation into Oracle’s own OracleVM product: a virtualization platform targeted at enterprises using Oracle products and offered for free (via support model.)

What does this mean for Virtual Iron subscribers? Last month, Oracle stopped providing new licenses for Virtual Iron and released Oracle VM 2.1.5, but Virtual Iron represented less that 1% of the virtualization market. According to Oracle’s Virtual Iron employees (reportedly about 15 in total) are expected to continue with the company – perhaps to shore-up Oracle’s VM Management Pack with the addition of Virtual Iron’ expertise.

While it is unclear when Virtual Iron additions will show-up in Oracle VM, it is clear that customers relying on Virtual Iron will either migrate to an improved Oracle VM or switch vendors altogether. It is also clear that with better virtualization management on the horizon for Oracle VM, Oracle will entrench itself behind Oracle VM for support of Oracle applications in virtual environments. While this makes sense, given the “free” status of Oracle VM and its close ties to Oracle support, it limits enterprise deployment options and cloud-based strategies for Oracle products.

SOLORI’s take: What does this mean for the rest of the market? Oracle’s acquisition or Sun and Virtual Iron show that chosing a virtualization suite from smaller players can be risky. Unless your solution is delivered by the open source leader, the enterprise virtualization leader or “embedded” in the leading server operating system, your solution is at risk in any future technology acquisition. Likewise, Oracle’s position clearly demonstrates a closed eco-system of applications and support: eschewing the general purpose hypervisor suite for a tailor-made application stack for Oracle-only products.

In our original Quick Take on the subject, we predicted that Oracle’s would concentrate on its self-sufficiency needs and show little interest in the “forward thinking” applications of VI-Center’s encorporation of Hyper-V and KVM. With the removal of Virtual Iron and Sun xVM from the market, the likelihood of a new virtualization technology hitting the market is about 0%. In 12 months time, we expect to see only three players in enterprise virtualization: VMware, Microsoft and Red Hat.

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Lenovo Claims Top VMmark Spot: 2P, 8C

July 1, 2009

The new top spot for VMmark in the “8 core” category is now held by Lenovo’s R525 G2 rack server with a score of 24.35@17 tiles (tile ratio of 1.43 over 102 VMs). As this server appears to be available in the overseas (China) markets only, we can only estimate the street price of the system used in the benchmark based on the reported build-out at to be around $20,330 per server (street):

  • Base Lenovo R525 G2 ($4,900 – 30,000 yuan)
  • 2 x Intel Xeon X5570 Processors ($1,500/ea)
  • 96GB ECC DDR3/1066 (12x8GB) ($900/DIMM from Kingston)
  • 1 x Intel 82575EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (on-board)
  • 2 x Intel 82571EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (2x PCIe slot, $150/ea)
  • 1 x QLogic QLE2462 FC HBA (1x PCIe slot, $1,300)
  • 1 x LSI1078 SAS Controller (on-board)
  • 2 x SAS OS drive ($300 est.)

An EMC CX3-40f was used as the storage backing of the test. The storage system included 4GB cache, 4 enclosures and 55 146GB 15K FC disks (10, 15, 15, 15), and 17 LUNs at 100GB each. Interestingly, a Cisco Linksys SR2024 GigabitEthernet switch was used for the network interconnection (about $299/each at NewEgg) which implies that test results are not being influenced on network performance or latency. Given the use of a 2-port FC HBA for storage, iSCSI network performance is not a factor.

At about $1,094/tile ($182/VM) the new “top dog” delivers its best at a 5% price-per-VM premium over Istanbul’s only VMmark results (1.41 tile ratio) and an 80% system price premium (assuming memory sourced by third parties).  Since we had to go to the street to configure the Lenovo system, the Istanbul system saves about $1,570 [in mark-up] under similar (non-vendor pricing) circumstances:

  • Base HP DL385 G6  ($5,100)
  • 2 x AMD 2435 Istanbul Processors (included)
  • 64GB ECC DDR2/800 (8x8GB) ($370/DIMM)
  • 2 x Broadcom 5709 dual-port GigabitEthernet (on-board)
  • 1 x Intel 82571EB dual-port GigabitEthernet (1x PCIe slot, $150/ea)
  • 1 x QLogic QLE2462 FC HBA (1x PCIe slot, $1,300)
  • 1 x HP SAS Controller (on-board)
  • 2 x SAS OS drive (included)
  • $9,810/system total (versus $11,378 complete from HP)

Street pricing changes Istanbul’s numbers to $892/tile ($149/VM) signifying a 22% per-VM savings and a 52% savings in system price. Given that virtualization systems are generally sold in pairs, this comparison shows that a redundant Istanbul system can be had for less than the cost of a non-redundant Nehalem. For SMB’s getting started in virtualization, Istanbul continues to offer a compelling system value proposition over Nehalem.