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Brit outfit rolls own virtual server appliances

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High performance access to file storage

Waste of bent metal

Most customers hook their virty servers up to storage area networks anyway, so putting in slots for disk drives into a server is a waste of bent metal.

Because the machines are mirrored at the network level inside a cloud, you don't need to mirror data inside the machine, which cuts down on heat, weight, and cost. This flash drive is set up with a VMFS, LVM, or NFS file system, whatever the hypervisor requires.

Having dealt with the memory bandwidth and file I/O bandwidth issues with its appliances, VMC goosed the network bandwidth because this is another area where general purpose machines don't get it right.

Most 1U or 2U rack servers have two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and if you are lucky, maybe four (as in the well-designed Sun Fire machines from the former Sun Microsystems). The VMC appliances have eight Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The VMC 1200 appliance has two sockets loaded up with the Opteron 6164HE processors and has 24 main memory slots, offering up to 384GB of main memory using 16GB memory sticks. (That is the maximum supported by the integrated DDR3 controller on the Opteron 6100 processor for a two-socket machine.)

Memory capacity

These memory sticks are too expensive for most people, so 192GB is the practical top-end memory capacity using the 8GB sticks that VMC sells in the appliances in its standard configurations. The VMC 1200 dissipates about 119 watts when idling and about 307 watts peak under load, hosting VMs and doing lots of work.

"We could never quite get the right mix of cores, memory slots, RAM speeds, and other features that would let the hypervisors run optimally"

In an entry setup, this 1U rack-mounted machine comes with two processors, for a total of 24 cores, 64GB of memory, and one 100GB flash drive; this configuration costs $15,500. Pushing the memory up to 192GB raises the price to $24,000.

The VMC 2400 appliance is a 2U rack server that has four of the Opteron 6164HE processors, for a total of 48 cores, installed in the base box. The machine has 32 memory slots and supports a maximum of 256GB using 8GB sticks. It has a peak power load of 720 watts; idle power consumption figures were not available.

The initial configuration of the VMC 2400 has the 100GB SSD plus 128GB of main memory; it costs $27,000. Doubling up the memory pushes the price to $35,000. VMC is working on a configuration using 16GB memory sticks, which would allow 512GB of capacity for those 48 cores; pricing has not been announced for this fat memory support yet.

If you require "near bare-metal speeds," VMC has some tricks it calls the Infinitely Radical upgrade that allows it to kick the performance up another notch.

Details of this were not available at press time, but it stands to reason that it involves using faster and hotter Opteron 6100 processors and fatter memory sticks to boost the performance of the server appliance and therefore the number and size of the virtual machines that can run on it.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Pre-tuned hardware

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