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…


DCS systems, solutions and MDC steal show at Dell sales kick-off

February 1, 2011

Every year at the end of January Dell holds a giant kick-off meeting for our enterprise and public sales forces.  The event, which has been held in Las Vegas the last two years, is a four-day happening consisting of keynotes, sessions and a full-scale expo where the sales team can touch and learn first-hand about the latest and greatest in Dell solutions and offerings.

Setting up the DCS Modular Data Center on the expo floor

At last year’s sales kick-off, the Data Center Solutions (DCS) group had our big coming out party, letting the sales force know that we would be expanding beyond our elite custom system business, with a specialized PowerEdge C line and a set of cloud solutions.

This year the systems and solutions have been out in the market for a little while and we were able to share actual case studies with the attendees showing how our systems and solutions have been able to solve real customer problems.  The big new addition to the DCS line up was our Modular Data Center (MDC) which, until just a few months ago, was reserved only for a very small group of select customers.

Gearing up for day two of both duty at the DCS booth.

As you can tell from the picture above, the MDC took up a big part of our booth.  It served to house our PowerEdgeC servers and host a selection of our cloud solutions:

Additionally, to provide a peak at what PowerEdge C systems we have up our sleeve, we had several units in an uber secret whisper suite.

Our overall message at the booth was that although these components can be used individually, if you want to run “the world’s most efficient hyperscale data center” you’ll want to combine these optimized solutions and systems with the MDC into one hyper-efficient, integrated system.

Well received

Now as a member of the DCS team I may be a little biased but I really think we had the coolest booth there :)  It was great to hear comments from the sales force such as “this is awesome!” and “why didn’t I know about this?!”

We’ll have to start now to figure how we will top this next year.

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Mark Shuttleworth on UEC and OpenStack

January 11, 2011

Mark Shuttleworth, the ever gracious founder of Ubuntu, stopped by Dell this morning to talk to various folks about various subjects.   I was able to grab some time with him between meetings and get his thoughts on a few topics.

I was particularly interested in getting his thoughts on Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) which will be available this week from Dell as the Dell | Canonical UEC Solution (along with the UEC software, the solution is based on our PowerEdge C2100 and C6100 and comes with a reference architecture and deployment guide).   The other topic I wanted to get his insight into was OpenStack.

Here’s what Mark had to say:

What Mark talked about

  • How Mark has settled into his role as non-CEO (he is still chairman).
  • What he is focusing on these days: the cloud and product design e.g. Unity.
  • [1:45] The thinking behind UEC and the combined Dell Canonical offering.
  • [3:45] OpenStack and Canonical’s participation
  • Working with both OpenStack and Eucalyptus and how both of these are central to the process of standardization that we are starting to see at the infrastructure layer of cloud computing.

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…


Dell + Aster data analytics solution: Live and in use

November 19, 2010

Today at a press conference in San Francisco we announced the general availability of our Dell cloud solutions.  One of the solutions we debuted was the Dell Cloud Solution for Data Analytics, a combination of our PowerEdge C servers with Aster Data’s nCluster, a massively parallel processing database with an integrated analytics engine.

Earlier this week I stopped by Aster Data‘s headquarters in San Carlos, CA and met up with their EVP of marketing, Sharmila Mulligan.   I recorded  the video above where Sharmila discusses the Dell and Aster solution and the fantastic results a customer is seeing with it.

Some of the ground Sharmila covers:

  • What customer pain points and problems does this solution address  (hint: organizations trying to manage huge amounts of both structured and unstructured data)
  • How Aster’s nCluster software is optimized for Dell PowerEdge C2100 and how it provides very high performance analytics as well as a cost effective way to store very large data.
  • (2:21) InsightExpress, a leading provider of digital marketing research solutions, has deployed the Dell and Aster analytics solution and has seen great results:
    • Up and running w/in 6 weeks
    • Queries that took 7-9 minutes now run in 3 seconds

Pau for now…

Extra-credit reading


Dell Cloud Solutions up and running!

November 19, 2010

Back in March we announced Dell’s cloud solutions.  Today at a press conference in San Francisco we announced their general availability along with some examples of customers who are employing them. (Woohoo!)

What’s the big idea

The idea behind these offerings has been to leverage the experience we in the DCS group have gained over the last several years providing custom systems to some of the world’s largest cloud providers.  These new solutions are targeted at organizations the next tier down (the “next 1,000″) from the hyperscale customers we have been working with.

Who’s using these solutions, a couple of examples

  • Uniserve, a Canadian Internet services provider, has adopted the Dell Cloud Solution for Web Applications to offer on-demand access to a high-performance Internet application and consumer delivery platform, for customers to develop iPhone apps to commercial storefronts, to hosting and delivering Software-as-a-Service.
  • InsightExpress, a leading provider of digital marketing research solutions, has deployed the Dell Solution for Data Analytics. The solution combines analytic platform software from Aster Data with Dell PowerEdge C servers with joint service and support, enabling InsightExpress to measure the effectiveness of advertising and brand communications for clients to drive high performing marketing campaigns.

How we got here

We started our expansion by creating a line of specialized PowerEdge C servers patterned after the custom systems we have been designing for the “biggest of the big.”  What we realized though is that, unlike the biggest players who write their own software, the next 1000 don’t just want servers, they want solutions that also include software and services as well.

The three integrated solutions that are available today are:

  • 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 Cloud Solution for Data Warehousing: PowerEdge C servers and Greenplum Database 4.0 for building enterprise data warehouses and consolidating data marts in massively parallel processing environments.

Stay tuned for more news and more solutions!

Pau for now…

Extra-credit reading:


PowerEdge C powers OpenStack Install Fest

November 10, 2010

Yesterday morning I made the drive down to San Antonio for OpenStack’s second design summit (and first open to the public).  If you’re not familiar with OpenStack, its an open source cloud platform founded on contributed code from Rackspace and NASA’s Nebula cloud.   The project was kicked off back in July at an inaugural design summit held in Austin.

The project has picked up quite a bit of momentum in its first four months.  Attending this week’s 4-day conference are close to 300 people, representing 90 companies, from 12 countries.  The event is broken into a business track and design track (where actual design decisions are being made and code is being written).

Powering the Install Fest

For the project Dell has sent down a bunch of PowerEdge C servers which have been set-up upstairs on the 5th floor.  OpenStack compute has been installed on the two racks of servers and are up and running.   Tomorrow, coders will get access to these systems during the install fest.   During the fest attendees will each be given a virtual machine on the cloud to test and learn about installing and deploying OpenStack to the cloud.

I got Bret Piatt, who handles Technical Alliances for OpenStack, to take me on a quick tour of the set-up.  Check it out:

Featuring: Brett Piatt, PowerEdge C1100, C2100, C6100 and C6105

Extra-Credit reading:

Pau for now…


Customer reviews our 4-servers-in-one, the C6100

August 1, 2010

Outbrain is a company that provides content recommendation solutions for blogs and publishers.  Among their customers are such venerable names as USA today, Chicago Tribune, Slate and VentureBeat.

Data Center number three

The company recently decided to set-up a third data center and went out looking for what type of kit they wanted to outfit it with.  Much to our joy they decided on the Dell PowerEdge C6100.  Although they are currently waiting on delivery of the systems, Outbrain operations engineer Nathan Milford, has been playing with a demo unit for several weeks.

Earlier this week Nathan posted his initial thoughts, along with pictures and diagrams, on the C6100.  The post is appropriately entitled: Some Notes on Dell’s C6100 Multi-Node Server Chassis

In his post Nathan talks about:

  • Who else they looked at and why they went with Dell
  • The basic layout of the C6100
  • The “unscientific” testing, research and math he did on power draw on an individual node.
  • How intends to deal with some of quirks and infrastructure changes the C6100s will cause.

My favorite quote from the post is:

SuperMicro, SGI, HP all have similar devices, but the thing they don’t have is DCS, which is more or less independent of Dell and can be agile like a smaller vendor, but with Dell’s backing and resources.

You’ll want to check back on Nathan’s blog as he plans to add to his notes after the servers are installed.

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…


NetworkWorld Review of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud

May 18, 2010

Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen of ExtremeLabs published a great walk-thru of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) last week in NetworkWorld.  Canonical, the commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu, is one the first members of our Cloud Partner Program and we will soon be offering UEC running on top of our PowerEdge C line accompanied by reference architectures.

If you’re not familiar with UEC, which leverages the open source Eucalyptus private cloud platform, here is a quick backgrounder:

Basically, Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud can be deployed on internal hardware to run job/batch applications. The idea is to initially allocate storage, then rapidly build multiple virtual machines to process data, collect the data, then tear down the infrastructure for re-use by a subsequent purpose.

Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud provides internal cloud control methods that closely mime what can be done on Amazon’s public cloud infrastructure. Its tools can be used to process recurring jobs or one-shot distributed applications, like DNA analysis, video rendering, or database table reformatting/reindexing.

Walk this way

The Review, which is a concise 3 and a half pages, steps you through:

  • Getting started
  • Installation*
  • Setup/configuration
  • Image Bundles
  • Usage/Monitoring

*My favorite line from this section is: “Installation was very simple; we inserted the Ubuntu Server CD, selected Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, and drank energy drinks.”

If you’re interested in learning about UEC this article is a great place to start.

Extra-credit reading

If the above whets your appetite, you may want to dig into the following:

(The last 3 items I grabbed from Dustin’s Blog)

Pau for now…


Dell’s New Cloud Server line – An Overview

March 30, 2010

At last week’s Dell Launch, “Solutions for the Virtual Era,” we unveiled the first three systems in our new PowerEdge C line.  These “hyper-scale inspired” systems are based on designs that we have built for our largest scaled-out customers such as Windows Azure, Facebook, Ask.com and Tencent.

The PowerEdge C line is targeted at both Public and Private cloud builders as well as HPC, Web 2.0, gaming and large scaled out web farms.  In the video below, Dell solutions architect Rafael Zamora walks us through the PowerEdge C6100, C1100 and C2100.

Upcoming posts

In the days to come I will be posting individual walk-thrus of each of the three systems.  I will also be posting interviews I did with executives from our cloud partners Joyent, Aster Data, Greenplum and Eucalyptus (who’s not a partner but provides a key component of our partner Canonical’s Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud).

Extra-Credit reading

Pau for now…


Dell Unveils Cloud Solutions (Yippee!)

March 24, 2010

Today is the big day.  The one we’ve been working towards for a long time.  As a part of Dell’s quarterly launch “Solutions for the Virtual Era,” we are announcing the introduction of:

  • Dell Cloud Solution for Web Applications, our first Revolutionary cloud solution.  Partnering with enterprise-class cloud pioneer Joyent, we are offering a turnkey private PaaS solution comprised of pre-tested, pre-assembled and fully-supported hardware, software and services — all sold and supported by Dell.  This integrated solution is targeted at enterprise app developers who are looking to develop “new world” applications in the cloud to be deployed in the cloud.
  • The Cloud Partner Program Working with cloud ISVs we will be offering easy-to-buy and deploy cloud solutions and blueprints optimized for and validated on Dell platforms.  The first three partners we are announcing are Aster Data (providing web analytics), Canonical (offering an open source Infrastructure-as-a-Service private cloud) and Greenplum (self-service data warehousing).   (On the Evolutionary cloud side we will continue to work with VMware and Microsoft  and stay tuned for news on what’s happening on the Windows Azure front :).
  • A new line of hyperscale-inspired PowerEdge C servers including the PowerEdge C1100, C2100 and C6100 targeting HPC, data analytics, gaming and cloud builders.  These are based on the designs we have created for the some of the worlds largest internet companies and cloud providers.
  • A suite of cloud professional services to help customers assess, deploy, design and manage dedicated solutions.

This is just a quick overview of what we are announcing today.  Stay tuned for more details and info in the coming days and weeks.

Extra credit reading: Our Cloud solutions press release

Pau for now…


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 83 other followers

%d bloggers like this: