Feeds

Brit outfit rolls own virtual server appliances

Rack and roll

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A British consulting company that specializes in server virtualization was so frustrated by the mismatch between general purpose x64-based servers and what the popular hypervisors from VMware and Citrix Systems required that it has rejigged itself into a hardware vendor pushing what it calls virtual machine appliances.

Virtual Machine Company, based in Cambridge, was founded two years ago by Steve Barnett and Nick Hudson to do virtual machine installations at the financial giants in the City of London.

Barnett, Hudson, and a number of the early employees at the company had worked in the high performance computing and telecom fields, so they had experience with systems and modifying them to run very specific workloads. They had no intention of getting into the hardware business.

"In our consulting engagements, we discovered that we could never quite get the right mix of cores, memory slots, RAM speeds, and other features that would let the hypervisors run optimally," Barnett tells El Reg.

One big issue was that on many general purpose server designs, as you add more memory sticks or fatter memory sticks, the speed of the memory has to be geared down to keep the system from choking. So VMC built a few prototype machines and proved that you could tune up a box specifically for a given hypervisor and deliver more performance than you could with a generic box from Hewlett-Packard or Dell.

Since the initial Virtual Server Appliances were launched a little more than a year ago, VMC has gone to motherboard and system maker Super Micro to create its own custom motherboards that offer fat memory capacities using dual-ranked 8GB DDR3 memory sticks but also allow for the memory to run at 1.33GHz even in large banks and even running at the lower 1.35 volts (which saves on heat). The memory is ECC and has chipkill scrubbing as well.

VMC 1200 Series Virty Server

The VMC 1200 Series virty server appliance

The VMC appliances are based on the Opteron 6100 processors from Advanced Micro Devices, and use its SR5690/SP5100 chipset to glue processors to the peripherals in the system.

The company has standardized on the twelve-core Opteron 6164HE processor, which has an ACP rating of 65 watts and which spins at 1.7GHz. To VMC's way of thinking, the extra heat created by the faster 80 and 105 watt parts are not justified by the performance those extra clocks bring, not when the real issue in a server running virtual machines is memory, disk I/O, and network contention.

That is why the VMC machines don't use disk drives, but rather come with a single 100GB flash-based SSD from Intel, which stores the virtual machine hypervisor and other systems-level software needed in the appliance.

The SSD has a very high I/O bandwidth – more than what a slew of disks could deliver, if you could jam them into a 1U or 2U rack-mounted server, which you can't. The SSDs also generate a lot less heat than disk drives, and disks are not necessary in the appliances because for most customers installing private clouds, machines are installed in parts or even in threes for n+1 redundancy.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Next page: Waste of bent metal

More from The Register

next story
The cloud that goes puff: Seagate Central home NAS woes
4TB of home storage is great, until you wake up to a dead device
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
Intel offers ingenious piece of 10TB 3D NAND chippery
The race for next generation flash capacity now on
Want to STUFF Facebook with blatant ADVERTISING? Fine! But you must PAY
Pony up or push off, Zuck tells social marketeers
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
SAVE ME, NASA system builder, from my DEAD WORKSTATION
Anal-retentive hardware nerd in paws-on workstation crisis
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.