All the best ideas begin on a cocktail napkin — DCS turns 5

April 11, 2012

A little over a week ago, Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) group marked its fifth birthday.  As Timothy Prickett Morgan explains in his article subtitled, “Five years old, and growing like a weed”:

DCS was founded originally to chase the world’s top 20 hyperscale data center operators, and creates stripped-down, super-dense, and energy-efficient machines that can mean the different between a profit and a loss for those data center operators.

This team, which now represents a greater than $1 billion dollar business and has expanded beyond just custom systems to include standard systems built for the “next 1000,”  all started on a simple napkin.

The origin of DCS -- Ty’s Sonic sketch - November 2, 2006

From napkin to “Frankenserver,” to today

Ty Schmitt who was one of the original team and now is the executive director of Dell’s modular infrastructure team within DCS, explains:

This was sketch I made over drinks with Jimmy Pike late one night after visiting a big customer on the west coast.  We we were working on a concept for a 1U system for them based on their requested requirements.   As you can see by the date (Nov 2006) it was actually before DCS became official … we were a skunk works team called “Sonic” consisting of a hand full of people.   We wanted to take an existing chassis and overhaul it to fit 4 HD’s, a specific MB, and SATA controller.  When we got back to Austin, I modified the chassis in the RR5 machine shop (took parts from several different systems and attached them together) and Jimmy outfitted it with electronics, tested it, and it was sent to the customer as a sample unit.

This first proto was described by the customer as “Frankenserver” and was the beginning of the relationship we have with one of our biggest customers.

A little over five years later, Dell’s DCS team has gone from Frankenserver to commanding 45.2 percent revenue share in a market that IDC estimates at $458 million in sales last quarter.  Pretty cool.

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…


A Walk-through of Dell’s Modular Data Center

September 13, 2011

In my last entry I featured a video with the Bing Maps imagery team.  In it they talked about why they went with Dell’s Modular Data Center (MDC) to help power and process all the image data they crunch.  For a deeper dive and a look at one of these babies from the inside join Ty Schmitt and Mark Bailey in the following video as they walk you through the MDC and how it works.

Some of the ground Ty and Mark cover

  • The various modules that make up the MDC
  • The topology of the system
  • How the outside temperature dictates which of the three cooling methods is used
  • The racks inside the MDC and how they were able to pull the fans out of the individual servers
  • A closure look at the power module

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Dell’s Modular Data Center — Hello World

September 9, 2010

Last week at VMworld, Dell held a Super session where we debuted a video walking through our Modular Data Center (MDC).  The group that I belong to, Data Center Solutions (DCS), created the MDC as a custom solution addressing the specific needs of a few of our big strategic customers.

(As background, the DCS group has been acting as a custom tailor to the “internet superstars” for over three years and we address customers’ needs by focusing on innovation from the individual node all the way through the data center itself.)

Don’t box me in

In the video you’ll notice that gone is the forced shipping container form factor and in its place, as the name implies, is a more efficient modular design that lets you mix and match components like Legos.

Take a look below as Ty Schmitt, the lead architect for modular infrastructure, literally walks you through the concept and gives you his insight behind the design:

[Spoiler Alert!] Some of  the points Ty touches on:

  • A Module takes up half the space of a traditional data center
  • Clip on modules let you add capacity as you grow
  • There are 6-12 racks per module or 2500 servers which you can access through a central hallway
  • The modules come pre-integrated, pre-configured and pre-tested
  • With a modular data center you get a single point for power, a single point for IT, and a single point for cooling as opposed to the 1000s of points you’d normally get

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


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