Enterprise Data Center: Picking Hardware Can Be Hard Work

Re-capping last week’s post…I knew we wanted to have a system which would contain all the building blocks of the data center in a single (easily expendable) rack. Internally for Mellanox, I felt we should review the full procurement process to understand and provide data-center managers with better understanding/knowledge of the hard, and proven to be sometimes painful, process.

Now with that high level of understanding in place, we were required to start taking ideology to reality and decide on components to be purchased. I wish it was as simple as it sounded…let’s buy it (Storage, CPU, and I/O), receive it, use it   — ya, right. When a data center manager attempts to buy hardware for specific or a set-of applications, there are many parameters to take into consideration (I bet each of us unconsciously does this when buying something for home use).

CPU – “can you feel the need? The need for speed.” Tom Cruise’s words from Top Gun applies here better then ever – and yes, we felt it too . We wanted to consider a system which would have 8 cores (we do want it to be valid next Monday, and I guess 8 cores can carry us at least that far). Since time was essential, we couldn’t wait for next generation CPUs which were promised to be just around the corner.

Storage – when considering this component we had to ensure a stable platform with all features (DeDup, high availability, hot-spares etc.), we wanted to have a variety of speeds (from SAS/FC 15k RPM to SATA). We narrowed down things to having a block-storage with a file-system overriding it externally (which would enable us to use both when required).

I/O – we wanted to pick a variety of interconnects: 1GigE, 10GigE and 40Gb/s (QDR) InfiniBand. Having a Virtual Protocol Interconnect (VPI) available made our decision easier, as it covered 2 out of 3 in single low-power adapter.

Bearing in mind all the above, we needed to pass our options via several filters to help us zero-down on the right selection.

We started with the big 3: Business Alignment, Cost and Time.

Cost – this is a tricky one… you have CAP-EX and OP-EX, which means we were required to consider each component for being low on power consumption and still be priced at a low, reasonable price.

Time – we were eager to start, so delivery time was a factor…Waiting 4 months for something was out of the question.

Business Alignment – I guess this is the most important but hardest to capture. For us, it needed to meet the following: have all I/O options, be off-the-shelf products, and we needed them to be able to be used with any application “you’ll throw at them”.

If anyone ever thought the above took us all the way home…well, I guess he is in for some surprises…In my next blog post I’ll list what differences we’ve found between 2 set-ups, both of which could address our business needs but were very much different in other major parameters.