Dell chief stuffs data center into suitcase
Ripped and replaced
Sun Microsystems took data centers mobile when it embraced shipping containers, but Dell's gone further - and smaller - with a data center in a briefcase.
Self-outed Dell geek Jimmy Pike has built a data-center in a briefcase, hacking together a dual-socket server cluster featuring a pair of 2.5GHz Intel processors and a combined 32Gb memory and 4Tb storage on two machines running Windows Server 2003 and Red hat Enterprise Linux.
Pike happens to be the director of systems architecture for Dell's data center solutions group, and he likes to take his work - meaning servers - home.
Dell's director, a veteran of NCR and Intel, said he just started hacking things together in his garage one Saturday afternoon.
"I decided it could be a cool thing to build a couple of servers in a brief case. That way, when I bring things back and forth from home to work, it wouldn't be so much trouble," he told Dell cloud computing evangelist Barton George during a video posted here and below.
"I wondered if I could cram everything I wanted into this briefcase."
Turns out he could. "I call it a portable for the architect on the go," Pike said.
What exactly is in Pike's portable? Two 16Gb servers running a pair of L5420 Xeon 2.5 processors - previously known as Harpertown - and sporting a pair of one-terabyte, 3.5 SATA devices. There's a five-port Ethernet switch and everything's running off one of Dell's single, central power supply units.
Pike's also thrown in two 500Gb scratch discs for testing and a pair of Solid-State Drives because he's "constantly running into questions about SSDs and how they behave." And yes, there's cooling with six fans.
The only thing not included is virtualization, so the two machines are running their copies of Windows 2003 and RHEL separately. ®
If 4Tb of storage makes a data centre, I've got one in my study.
It's in an Antek ATX case, and it runs Windows Server Hyper-V with a couple of VM's. It has 16Gb of RAM and 6Tb of storage.
I thought it was just a server.
I think this thing is, too.
Limits and real limits
This doesn't appear to me to be "all he could manage", but just what he happened to be able to throw together without having to do anything out-of-the-ordinary. (The most hacking that I saw here was his taking a Dremel to the briefcase to cut out the mount holes.)
I hope that he wasn't actively showing this unimpressive bit of kit off. I think he just got asked by Gavin Clarke to show him the contents. I could be wrong. (Maybe Gavin can tell us one way or the other?)
It's just 2 physical servers (not desktop PCs), each running a bunch of VM's. So the total number of virtual servers is probably enough to run a number of enterprise applications, and could therefore qualify as a tiny datacenter.
What's odd to me is that Dell's own server design team has created dual and quad servers on a single board (in designs even denser than the SuperMicro unit). They've sold them to OEM customers who are buying them in bulk for cloud datacentre buildouts (MSFT, etc). I don't know why this Pike fellow didn't use a couple or a few of those more unusual designs. Then he could have genuinely claimed something out of the ordinary. (Perhaps he doesn't know about those designs? Or perhaps that group doesn't give his group the time of day? Gavin, can you find out more?)
Dell's network switches aren't desktop switches. They're all rack-mount types. There's no way he could squeeze one in there like he could that little Netgear. (That being said, with just two physical ports connected, he could have just as well used a cross-over cable and forgot about the switch.)
I also think the one glaring omission is the KVM plus a built-in monitor, keyboard, mouse (MKM) unit. Pike, why don't you fix that the next time you're in the garage and upgrading your 'datacenter'?
One for XPS-Support?
Hope he is going to ship one to the XPS support team....