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Cisco blends server with a twist of flash, tastes benchmark glory

2-socket win with Violin memory for the extra kick

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A server's job is to run applications as fast as it can, and it looks like flash memory is becoming an essential ingredient in the race for speed. Server-maker Cisco has just bagged a VMmark benchmark for doing just that – in its case using networked Violin Memory flash storage – paving the way to all performance-focused servers getting a flash kick.

Cisco is working on an OEM basis with both Fusion-io and LSI to integrate their PCIe flash card products with its UCS B-Series blade servers. That gives its servers their own flash memory stores which could be used as caches or as storage memory, an adjunct to the server's main memory. Violin Memory's 6000 array is a networked shared flash array that connects to multiple servers and delivers data to them far quicker than a networked disk drive array.

VMmark is a multi-server-based benchmark for servers running VMware. It includes "as part of the benchmark a variety of common platform-level workloads such as live migration of virtual machines, cloning and deploying of virtual machines, and automatic virtual machine load balancing across the datacenter."

Cisco's UCS B200 M3 blade server scored 11.3@10 tiles on the VMware VMmark 2.1 benchmark, way higher than other 2-socket servers from Dell, Fujitsu, HP and IBM.Cisco's senior marketing manager for UCS, Girish Kulkarni, blogged "The VMmark 2.1 benchmark uses a tiled design that incorporates six real-world workloads to determine a virtualization score. Then it factors VMware vMotion, Storage vMotion, and virtual machine provisioning times to determine an infrastructure score. The combination of these scores is the total benchmark score." He says it's a world-record score.

In the Cisco benchmark set-up the boot images and virtual machine storage for two 2-socket UCS servers were placed on a Violin 6000 Series Flash Memory Array with 16TB of raw flash and 8TB of formatted capacity. There were Fibre Channel links between this box and the two servers. The Cisco world-record VMmark claim is for 2-socket servers only. Other servers such as a pair of 4-socket HP ProLiants scored higher, 18.27@18 tiles.

Flash arrays get data to and from servers faster than disk drive arrays. Apps in those servers then run faster. That's the message; flash beats disk. ®

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