Dell announces availability of OpenStack solution; Open sources “Crowbar” software framework

July 26, 2011

Today at OSCON we are announcing the availability of the Dell OpenStack Cloud Solution along with the open sourcing of the code behind our Crowbar software framework.

The Solution

Dell has been a part of the OpenStack community since day one a little over a year ago and today’s news represents the first available cloud solution based on the OpenStack platform.  This Infrastructure-as-a-service solution includes a reference architecture based on Dell PowerEdge C servers, OpenStack open source software, the Dell-developed Crowbar software and services from Dell and Rackspace Cloud Builders.

Crowbar, keeping things short and sweet

Bringing up a cloud can be no mean feat, as a result a couple of our guys began working on a software framework that could be used to quickly (typically before coffee break!) bring up a multi-node OpenStack cloud on bare metal.   That framework became Crowbar.  What Crowbar does is manage the OpenStack deployment from the initial server boot to the configuration of the primary OpenStack components, allowing users to complete bare metal deployment of multi-node OpenStack clouds in a matter of hours (or even minutes) instead of days.

Once the initial deployment is complete, Crowbar can be used to maintain, expand, and architect the complete solution, including BIOS configuration, network discovery, status monitoring, performance data gathering, and alerting.

Code to the Community

As mentioned above, today Dell has released Crowbar to the community as open source code (you can get access to it the project’s GitHub site).  The idea is allow  users to build functionality to address their specific system needs.  Additionally we are working with the community to submit Crowbar as a core project in the OpenStack initiative.

Included in the Crowbar code contribution is the barclamp list, UI and remote API’s, automated testing scripts, build scripts, switch discovery, open source Chef server.  We are currently working with our legal team to determine how to release the BIOS and RAID which leverage third party components.  In the meantime since it is free (as in beer) software, although Dell cannot distribute it, users can directly go the vendors and download the components for free to get that functionality.

More Crowbar detail

For those who want some more detail, here are some bullets I’ve grabbed from Rob “Mr. Crowbar” Hirschfeld’s blog:

Important notes:

  • Crowbar uses Chef as it’s database and relies on cookbooks for node deployments
  • Crowbar has a modular architecture so individual components can be removed, extended, and added. These components are known individually as “barclamps.”
  • Each barclamp has it’s own Chef configuration, UI subcomponent, deployment configuration, and documentation.

On the roadmap:

  • Hadoop support
  • Additional operating system support
  • Barclamp version repository
  • Network configuration
  • We’d like suggestions!  Please comment on Rob’s blog!

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Dell, Equinix and Rackspace launch Free OpenStack Demo environment

March 30, 2011

OpenStack, the open source cloud platform based on code donated by NASA and Rackspace, has gained considerable traction since it was launched eight months ago.  The community has rapidly grown and there have been several releases.  Now its time to get potential customers trying it out and kicking the tires.

With the idea of removing friction to adoption and make the testing out of the platform as easy as possible, Dell, Equinix and Rackspace are announcing today the availability of a free OpenStack cloud demonstration and test environment.

The idea of the demo environment is to allow organizations to easily evaluate OpenStack and assess application performance on the platform in a low risk environment for free.  The next step after a successful demo would be a proof of concept.

Movin workloads around the country

This demo environment is initially available in three U.S. data centers and in Q2 of this year this offering will also be available in Equinix data centers in Europe and Asia.  The initial data centers are:

  • Equinix Silicon Valley
  • Equinix Asburn, VA
  • Rackspace Chicago

By having geographically dispersed facilities customers are able to test out the moving of applications and workloads between them.

The various parts

The OpenStack demo environment is made up of the following components

Widening the circle

The name of the game here is making the trying out of OpenStack as easy as possible.  There are a lot of community members and open source aficionados who are already testing out OpenStack.  The idea with OpenStack cloud demonstration environment is to provide a set up where a greater number of organizations feel comfortable evaluating the platform for themselves.

Try it, you just might like it :)

Extra-credit reading

Updated reading

Pau for now…


Dells Data Center Solutions group turns Four!

March 28, 2011

Dell’s Data Center Solutions group (DCS) is no longer a toddler.  Over the weekend we turned four!

Four years ago on March 27, 2007 Dell announced the formation of the Data Center Solutions group, a special crack team designed to service the needs of hyperscale customers.  On that day eWeek announced the event in their article Dell Takes On Data Centers with New Services Unit and within the first week Forrest Norrod, founding DCS GM and currently the GM of Dell’s server platform division, spelled out to the world our goals and mission (in re-watching the video its amazing to see how true to that mission we have been):

The DCS Story

If you’re not familiar with the DCS story, here is how it all began.  Four years ago Dell’s Data Center Solutions team was formed to directly address a new segment that begin developing in the marketplace, the “hyperscale” segment.  This segment was characterized by customers who were deploying 1,000s if not 10,000s of servers at a time.

These customers saw their data center as their factory and technology as a competitive weapon.  Along with the huge scale they were deploying at, they had a unique architecture and approach specifically, resiliency and availability were built into the software rather than the hardware.  As a result they were looking for system designs that focused less on redundancy and availability and more on TCO, density and energy efficiency.  DCS was formed to address these needs.

Working directly with a small group of customers

From the very beginning DCS took the Dell direct customer model and drove it even closer to the customer.  DCS architects and engineers sit down with the customer and before talking about system specs they learn about the customer’s environment, what problem they are looking to solve and what type of application(s) they will be running.  From there the DCS team designs and creates a system to match the customer’s needs.

In addition to major internet players, DCS’s customers include financial services organizations, national government agencies, institutional universities, laboratory environments and energy producers.  Given the extreme high-touch nature of this segment, the DCS group handles only 20-30 customers worldwide but these customers such as Facebook, Lawrence Livermore National Labs and Microsoft Azure are buying at such volumes that the system numbers are ginormous.

Expanding to the “next 1000”

Ironically because it was so high-touch, Dell’s scale out business didn’t scale beyond our group of 20-30 custom customers.   This meant considerable pent up demand from organizations one tier below.   After thinking about it for a while we came up with a different model to address their needs.  Leveraging the knowledge and experience we had gained working with the largest hyperscale players, a year ago we launched a portfolio of specialized products and solutions to address “the next 1000.”

The foundation for this portfolio is a line of specialized PowerEdge C systems derived from the custom systems we have been designing for the “biggest of the big.”  Along with these systems we have launched a set of complete solutions that we have put together with the help of a set of key partners:

  • Dell Cloud Solution for Web Applications: A turnkey platform-as-a-service offering targeted at IT service providers, hosting companies and telcos.  This private cloud offering combines Dell’s specialized cloud servers with fully integrated software from Joyent.
  • Dell Cloud Solution for Data Analytics: A combination of Dell’s PowerEdge C servers with Aster Data’s nCluster, a massively parallel processing database with an integrated analytics engine.
  • Dell | Canonical Enterprise Cloud, Standard Edition: A “cloud-in-a-box” that allows the setting up of an affordable Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas)-style private clouds in computer labs or data centers.
  • OpenStack: We are working with Rackspace to deliver an OpenStack solution later this year.  OpenStack is the open source cloud platform built on top of code donated by Rackspace and NASA and is now being further developed by the community.

These first four years have been a wild ride.  Here’s hoping the next four will be just as crazy!

Extra-credit reading

Articles

DCS Whitepapers

Case studies


Intel’s Jason Waxman on Sandy Bridge, Atom and our new Intel-based Microserver

March 24, 2011

World Hosting Days is going on right now outside of Frankfurt and our group is using this event to debut our new PowerEdge C microservers.  These new microservers, which come in both Intel and AMD flavors, are right-sized for dedicated hosting applications and provide extreme density and efficiency.

Yesterday, we got a shout out during AMD’s session and today Jason Waxman of Intel had kind words for our PowerEdge C5220 microserver during his talk.  Jason is Intel’s General Manager, High Density Computing, Data Center Group and this morning he delivered the session, “Driving efficiency, security and simplicity across next generation cloud data centers.”

In the short segment above from Jason’s talk, he spends the first couple of minutes on Intel’s power efficient processors such as the Sandy Bridge Xeon and Atom chips.  At the 2:20 mark he switches gears and talks about our new PowerEdge C5220 and how it has been designed with hosters in mind.

Jason stops by our booth

After he got through speaking, Jason stopped by the Dell booth and did a quick video talking specifically about the PowerEdge C5220 and what he really likes about it.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


A Walk-thru of our new Hyper-scale inspired Microserver

March 22, 2011

Earlier this morning at WorldHostingDays outside of Frankfurt, we announced our new line of PowerEdge C microservers.  While this is our third generation of microservers, its the first that are available beyond the custom designed systems we’ve been building for a small group of hyperscale web hosters.

If you’re not familiar with microservers, their big appeal is that they are right-sized for many dedicated hosting applications and provide extreme density and efficiency, all of which drive up a data center’s revenue per square foot.  As an example, our first generation allowed one of France’s largest hosters, Online.net to efficiently enter a new market and gain double digit market share.

To see exactly what these systems are all about, check out this short walk thru by Product Manager Deania Davidson.  The system that Deania is showing off is the AMD-based PowerEdge C5125 which will be available next month.  Also announced today is the Intel-based PowerEdge C5220 which will be out in May.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


DCS brings its experience to a wider Web Hosting audience — announcing PowerEdge C microservers

March 22, 2011

Over the past three years Dell’s Data Center Solutions group has been designing custom microservers for a select group of web hosters.  The first generation allowed one of France’s largest hosters, Online.net to enter a new market and gain double digit market share.  The second generation brought additional capabilities to the original design along with greater performance.

Today we are announcing that we are taking our microserver designs beyond our custom clients and are making these systems available to a wider audience through our PowerEdge C line of systems.  The PowerEdge C5125 and C5220 are ultra-dense 3U systems that pack up to twelve individual servers into one enclosure.  The C5125, which is AMD based, will be available next month and the Intel-based C5220 will be available in May.

The PowerEdge C5125 with one of the 12 server sleds pulled out.

So what the heck is a “microserver”

Microservers are a new class of systems specifically designed for those use cases where multi-core CPU architecture and extensive virtualization are overkill.  What they provide instead are multiple low-cost dedicated servers, each featuring a single-socket CPU, where one CPU is perfect for running single applications.

The general idea behind these lighter weight systems is that they are right-sized for a particular set of applications such as serving up Web pages, streaming video and certain online gaming services.

DCS’s third generation of microservers

One of the most important attributes of the PowerEdge C5125 and C5220 is their density.  By packing 12 one-socket servers in a 3U form factor these systems deliver four times the density of more conventional 1U servers.  This translates to four times less floor space, cabling and racks all of which means greater revenue per square foot for web hosters and data center operators.

These systems further save on power and cooling by leveraging shared infrastructure.  The server nodes in the chassis share mechanicals, high-efficiency fans and redundant power supplies all of which helps it save up to 75% in cooling costs compared to typical 1U servers.

One of the server sleds from the C5125. This is a four 2.5-inch HDD version, there is also a two 3.5-inch HDD version.

So if power, cooling and revenue per square foot are somethings you are concerned with or you are looking to provide dedicated hosting to your customers of lighter weight applications you just might find the PowerEdge C microserver systems something you want to take a closer look at :).

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Intel, Dell and Microservers

March 17, 2011

Microservers are a class of scaled-out systems that Dell’s Data Center Solutions group has been designing for customers for the last several years.  These ultra-dense systems are made up of up to twelve discrete servers within one enclosure and are perfect for dedicated web hosting and telco customers.

With a little help from our friends

Take a listen to Intel’s director of cloud marketing, Raejeanne Skillern as she talks about how Intel’s been involved in this space and how the two companies have worked together in the microserver space in the past and what we may have up our sleeves.

Some of the ground Raejeanne covers

  • How, over the last few years, Intel has been investigating customer requirements in this space and investing in technology.
  • Working on delivering standards
  • How Dell and Intel have worked together
  • Keep your eyes peeled for something coming in the PowerEdge C space

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…


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