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Supermicro builds new, clever data storage servers

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June 3, 2014

Server maker Supermicro is now building a 'cold storage' appliance aimed at data that must be kept for a very long time, can't be deleted but is accessed very rarely.

That new type of storage server "minimizes power consumption and reduces cooling requirements by spinning down or powering off idle drives and managing specific data streams via Supermicro’s compact, low-power Intel Atom C2750-based serverboard for cold storage," according to Supermicro.

The new server comes in a 1U form factor, 32-inch deep rack enclosure holding a dozen 4 TB or 6 TB 3.5-inch drives with Atom or, for more data-intensive apps, Xeon processors. The various options are:

  • A1SA7-2550, 4-core Atom CPU, up to 64GB, GbitE, redundant 400W power supplies. For cloud-based cold storage with drive spin-down.
  • A1SA7-2750, 8-core Atom CPU, up to 64GB, 10GbitE add-on-card, redundant 400W power supplies. For online, low-tier, scale-out storage.
  • X10SL7, 4-core Xeon E3-1200 v3 series CPU, up to 32GB, 10GbE add-on-card, redundant 400W power supplies. A big data or data lake platform for scale-out and object storage in cloud environments.
  • X9SRH-TPF, 6-12 core Xeon E5-1600/2600 v2 series CPU, up to 256GB ECC LR/RDIM or 64GB ECC UDIMM, onboard 10GbitE SFP+, redundant 600W power supplies. For big data analytics and native Hadoop 2.0 real time applications.
  • This is a bit like the Facebook OCP OpenVault cold storage product which is a 2U x 30-drive enclosures with two x86 server nodes to be built by Foxconn.

    But for its part, the Supermicro product is smaller, both physically and capacity-wise, while it also consumes less power and runs cooler.

    Stifel MD Aaron Rakers says-- "We believe that SuperMicro is finding some traction in cold storage (high-capacity) discussions, while also benefiting from supplier partnerships with emerging vendors such as Nimble Storage, Nutanix, Sun Hosting, Nexenta, Coho Data, Scale Computing, and a few others."

    In other IT news

    HP said earlier this morning that it has added two SAP-specific implementations to its ConvergedSystem product line-- the CS-900 for enterprise customers, and the CS-500 for smaller companies.

    HP says that with a configuration purpose-built for different application environments such as this one, it can get customers firing with new servers, without the system admins having to build and tune things for its very own specific needs.

    And the company has already rolled out ConvergedSystem variants for Citrix-- the Vertica and Microsoft big data environments and VMware virtualization environments.

    Born out of HP and SAP's Project Kraken, the SAP HANA-pitched CS-900 enterprise platform offers 12 TB per node as a single pool of memory, and can be scaled-out to 80 TB on multiple nodes.

    According to director and general manager for HP Servers & Converged Systems for the company's South Pacific Enterprise Group, Raj Thakur, “the system is optimized for in-memory computing and we have added the smarts from our Superdome Integrity line to provide high availability.”

    In particular, the Superdome's hardware-level partitioning is implemented in the CS-900 to provide better uptime and availability, said Thakur.

    “To be sure, the hardware partitioning is about twenty times more reliable than software-only virtualization”, Thakur added, saying that workloads will still move automatically between partitioned process chunks.

    “SAP HANA has a requirement for high in-memory computing capacity,” he continued, “so the CS-900 is pre-certified for that configuration. Not all workloads need or are tuned to run in-memory database and analytics workloads”.

    Since not everybody needs between 6 TB and 12 TB of in-memory computing power, there's also an SMB-level variant, the CS-500, a two-to-four socket server running between 1 TB and 256 TB of RAM per node, depending on the needs of the customer.

    The CS-500s can scale out to 16 TB, Thakur said, and there's an SAP Business Suite variant that's a four-socket machine supporting up to 2 TB of RAM per node.

    “We will also wrap flexible capacity services around it,” Thakur said, a model that fits the increasingly popular pay-as-you-grow program.

    Hewlett Packard is hoping that its channel partners will take on the SAP HANA solutions as an as-a-service offering, he said, with extra capabilities soon to be offered.

    Those would include fault-tolerance and DB replication, which he said would offer “around 60 percent reduction in downtime”. He added that the system can failover in “as little as four seconds”.

    In other IT news

    Panasonic said earlier this morning that it is recalling 43,000 ToughBook batteries across the globe, including in Australia, and after three caught fire in Asia. The CF-H2 tablet computer batteries were supplied from July 2011 until May 2012, battery model Model CF-VZSU53AW, in manufacturing lots B6NA, B6YA, B71A, B74A, B75A, B76A, B7CA, B7VA, B83A, BBGA, BBHA, BBJA, and BBWA are all affected.

    So far, two of the fires occurred in Japan and one in Thailand, with no injuries reported. Panasonic's recall notice for Australian customers can be found on its website.

    Users should remove the battery and only use the ToughBook on its AC adapter until they have obtained a free replacement from the company.

    Panasonic recently just said it wants to be the only battery supplier in Tesla's planned Gigafactory. Refreshingly, the Li-ion batteries supplied in Tesla cars aren't the same as used in the tablets. Thank God for that.

    In other IT and electronics news

    Cloud systems operator Joyent went through a catastrophic failure late yesterday when an absent-minded administrator brought down an entire data center's computing assets.

    The cloud services provider began reporting "transient availability issues" for its US-East-1 data center at around 6.30 PM, EST.

    "Due to an internal operator error, all computing nodes in our US-East-1 data center were simultaneously rebooted," Joyent wrote.

    "Some computing nodes are already backed up, but due to the very high loads on the control plane, this is taking some time to reboot the whole system. We are dedicating all operational and engineering resources to getting this issue resolved, and will be providing a full report on this failure once every computing node and customer virtual machine is back online and operational," to company added.

    A percentage of the issues were fixed an hour or so later. A datacenter-wide forced reboot on all servers is just about the worst thing that can happen to a provider aside from the deletion of customer data, or multiple data centers going down simultaneously.

    "While the immediate cause was operator error, there are broader systemic issues that allowed a 'fat finger' to take down a datacenter," explained Joyent's chief technology officer Brian Cantrill.

    "As soon as we reasonably can, we will analyze how this was architecturally possible, what exactly happened, how the system recovered, and what improvements we will be making to both the software and to operational procedures to assure that this doesn't happen again in the future," added Cantrill.

    Joyent has service-level agreements in place that will compensate customers for downtime. In going through such a stomach-churning fault, Joyent has joined an illustrious group of service providers that includes Rackspace, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon which have all had similarly catastrophic failures.

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    "Anything that allows you to administer many servers and VMs will allow you to do this," Cantrill added. "There was a silver lining here in the sense that it was an opportunity to see how the system behaved. There are lots of ways it could have been much worse."

    "The system admin that made the error is mortified, there is nothing we could do or say for that operator that is going to make it any worse, frankly," Cantrill said.

    The goal for the company is to learn from the problem and get better. "You don't teach dolphins with a shock collar," Cantrill explained. As to what will happen to that system admin is anybody's guest for now.

    In other IT news

    Facebook's wish that its open compute project (OCP) could bring hyperscale-style innovation to the internet community is somewhat bearing fruit, with an Australian company revealing a range of converged infrastructure and virtual SAN products using its server designs.

    The company in question, Infrx, is a very small business with just four people. But that hasn't stopped it from working with Facebook, striking up a relationship with server makers Quanta and Wiwynn and releasing a range of products.

    They include a pre-configured SAN based on VMware's vSAN, plus stack-in-a-box rigs running either Hyper-V, OpenStack or Hadoop, with Cumulus in the background handling software-defined networking chores.

    The products have been designed in close collaboration with software vendors-- Whithouse said senior VMware staff assisted with the design of the vSAN equipment while Infrx's Metacloud offering is based on templates used to deploy the stack at Disney and Australian telco Telstra.

    Founder Mark Whithouse says that users in Australia know of OCP, appreciate the low acquisition and operating costs it offers and feel it represents a chance to improve their operations.

    Source: Supermicro.

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