Feeds

Brit outfit rolls own virtual server appliances

Rack and roll

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

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.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

Next page: Waste of bent metal

More from The Register

next story
THUD! WD plonks down SIX TERABYTE 'consumer NAS' fatboy
Now that's a LOT of porn or pirated movies. Or, you know, other consumer stuff
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
FLAPE – the next BIG THING in storage
Find cold data with flash, transmit it from tape
Seagate chances ARM with NAS boxes for the SOHO crowd
There's an Atom-powered offering, too
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.