Feeds

Brit outfit rolls own virtual server appliances

Rack and roll

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Waste of bent metal

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.