Cost-effective Strategies for Building the Next-generation Data Center

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1 White Paper Cost-effective Strategies for Building the Next-generation Data Center Custom-made servers bearing energy-efficient processors are key to today s cloud computing-inspired architectures. Tom Farre Contents 1 Executive summary 2 The rise of the next-generation data center 3 Getting there from here 3 Hardware needs for next-generation data centers 4 Partners for the next-generation data center: ZT Systems and AMD 6 Conclusion Brought to you compliments of >> Executive Summary The IT world is currently undergoing a major evolutionary transition from traditional three-tier data center architectures to newer architectures that draw on many of the technologies and design principles underlying cloud computing. At the same time, economic pressures have businesses looking to reduce hardware acquisition costs and operating expenses. The upshot is that organizations today require cost-effective, energy-efficient hardware solutions custom-suited to their unique infrastructure requirements. This white paper will discuss the forces behind the rise of flexible, cloud-like data center architectures; describe the hardware needs created by those new architectures; and show why custom servers from ZT Systems powered by AMD Opteron processors are an exceptional fit for these demanding new data center environments. Tweet this! Digg this! Post to del.icio.us

2 >> In time, economic The Rise of the Next-generation Data Center considerations and the significant advantages of flexible, highly-available, on-demand computing can be expected to lead many other organizations down [the] cloud-inspired path. A perfect storm of technology advances coupled with economic pressures are driving enterprises toward new data center architectures inspired by the Internet and cloud computing. Although public cloud offerings such as Amazon s EC2, the Microsoft Windows Azure platform, and the Force.com platform from Salesforce.com Inc. garner most of the publicity, organizations are beginning to leverage technologies such as multi-core x86 servers, virtualization, server clustering, and grid computing to create internal or private cloud environments that deliver the promise of public clouds while minimizing the risk and uncertainty. While definitions vary, analyst firm IDC describes cloud computing as the delivery of an aspect of IT such as processing, storage, or applications via Internet standards and infrastructure. 1 Originally inspired by the massive server farms run by Internet service providers such as Akamai Technologies Inc., Amazon, and Google, today s cloud computing services provide highly available, scalable, ondemand computing through large numbers of interchangeable, commodity-priced x86 servers pooled as a common resource. Benefits that can accrue from this approach include the following: Elasticity: Resources are available on demand and can scale up or down as workloads change. Consumption-based billing: Costs can be metered based upon usage of processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Anywhere, anytime access: Support for Internet standards makes applications available to users virtually anywhere, anytime, and on their client of choice. Automation: Users can provision and manage services quickly and easily on their own. Serviceability: Bundling servers into resource pools of interchangeable devices enables hardware to fail in place and be replaced or repaired on a regular schedule. That s typically a more efficient model than providing continuous support to servers that are dedicated to specific applications. Reduced expenses: The advantages noted above typically enable cloud computing to deliver lower ownership costs compared to traditional client-server architectures that rely on over-provisioned and hardened servers supporting individual applications. 1. From Silicon to Cloud: Building Up to Cloud Computing, IDC, April 2009, sponsored by AMD.

3 In light of these and other considerable benefits, it s no surprise that increasing numbers of businesses are adopting Internet-inspired architectures inside the data center. Although many internal cloud initiatives remain confidential for competitive reasons, examples of this trend are rapidly coming to light. For example, a major multinational aims to manage thousands of servers running virtual applications as a pooled resource, 2 while the U.S. government is creating internal clouds to service the military and other federal agencies, with the hope of offloading peak workloads to public clouds. 3 In time, economic considerations and the significant advantages of flexible, highlyavailable, on-demand computing can be expected to lead many other organizations down this same cloud-inspired path, whether for new projects, existing applications, or to improve the efficiency of a virtualized environment. Getting There from Here Several building blocks are essential for organizations transitioning to today s emerging data center architectures: Virtualization: Originally employed as a means to consolidate underutilized physical servers, virtualization has become a primary tool for enhancing energy efficiency, disaster recovery capabilities, availability, and the efficient delivery of business applications to end users. As IDC reports, internal clouds are anticipated to be the major delivery model for [the] next generation, fully virtualized data center. 4 Affordable and manageable storage: As applications move into shared processing pools, shared storage must be pervasive as well as dynamically provisioned. Lower cost storage as well as storage virtualization and new management techniques will likely speed adoption of cloud-like architectures. New management tools and processes: Dynamically managing application performance, automating virtual machine management, scaling compute power for peak usage, and metering resource consumption all require specialized management tools. New processes will also be needed for data center administration. Hardware Needs for Next-generation Data Centers Internet-inspired architectures replace over-provisioned, hardened servers dedicated to specific applications with grids of interchangeable x64 servers. These servers must be capable of scaling to meet application workloads while minimizing capital and operating expenses in the data center, suggesting the following base requirements: 2. Information Week, April 1, Information Week, September 11, From Silicon to Cloud: Building Up to Cloud Computing, IDC, April 2009, sponsored by AMD.

4 >> ZT offers direct engagement with customers to design energy-efficient x86 platforms optimized for their specific requirements and constraints. Major computer manufacturers, by contrast, usually offer generalpurpose servers on a one-size-fits-all basis. Performance: Though x86 servers powered by multi-core processors usually have adequate processing power for cloud-like workloads, they must also be equipped with the high-speed memory and I/O required by virtualization. Another must-have are processors equipped with hardware-assisted virtualization technology, such as AMD Virtualization (AMD-V ) technology. Energy efficiency: Due to escalating utility costs, today s data center managers demand more from a server than just raw performance. They also require energyefficient servers that maximize performance per watt of energy consumed. Low power processors with power management capabilities are particularly crucial in Internet-inspired architectures, where dense deployments of pooled servers can tax an organization s power and cooling infrastructure, and thus its operating budget. Cost-effectiveness: To reduce capital and operating expenses, cloud-like architectures need affordable hardware that balances performance, energy efficiency, and price. Since high availability is ensured by the architecture s inherent redundancy, rather than any individual server, costly measures to replicate individual servers can be overkill. Customization: As every workload is different and every data center is bound by specific constraints in terms of power delivery, cooling, and real estate, enterprises moving to new data center architectures are best served by hardware solutions customized for their unique requirements. That way they pay only for what their workloads demand and avoid the extraneous performance capabilities and features built into general-purpose servers. Custom servers matched to an existing data center infrastructure can also minimize operating costs by limiting power and floor space requirements only to what s necessary. Partners for the Next-generation Data Center: ZT Systems and AMD Servers from ZT Systems make an excellent fit for next-generation data centers. Drawing on its close and collaborative relationship with AMD, ZT offers direct engagement with customers to design energy-efficient x86 platforms optimized for their specific requirements and constraints. Major computer manufacturers, by contrast, usually offer general-purpose servers on a one-size-fits-all basis. ZT Systems has been able to customize servers more extensively than any other vendor we ve worked with, says Steven Hill, supply chain manager at Akamai Technologies, the leader in powering video, dynamic transactions and enterprise applications online. ZT s engineering and account teams are highly capable, and their responsiveness is unmatched. ZT Systems engineers work closely with customers like Akamai to build servers tailored

5 >> ZT Systems has been able to customize servers more extensively than any other vendor we ve worked with. Steven Hill, Supply Chain Manager, Akamai to their exact needs. From energy-efficient power supplies and fans to the component layout itself, ZT designs every server to consume the minimum amount of energy while meeting or exceeding performance requirements. Concerns about performance relative to energy efficiency hit home at Akamai, which fields 50,000 servers co-located in data centers that charge by traffic volume as well as energy consumption. Recently, Akamai worked with ZT Systems to design a new 1U server powered by AMD Opteron processors. The device cost a bit more than the previous models but delivered better energy efficiency, resulting in lower total cost of ownership. The AMD-powered servers we have acquired from ZT are a significant part of our strategy to ensure energy efficiency and to support the massive amounts of traffic we deliver, Hill says. ZT Systems provided similarly valuable customization to a technology company that needed energy-efficient servers for a Web 2.0 application. Working closely with AMD, ZT designed a 1U server that set a performance-per-watt record for a device based on AMD Opteron processors. 5 Powered by Quad-Core AMD Opteron EE processors, the server, since released as the 1224Ra Datacenter Server by ZT, is an ideal solution for dense datacenter environments where superior performance-per-watt per dollar is critical. Key to the new ZT server s impressive efficiency are the AMD Opteron EE processors it uses. Specially selected from AMD s production line to consume low power, the AMD Opteron EE processor operates within a 40-watt ACP power envelope. AMD estimates that in comparison to the 55-watt AMD Opteron HE processor, itself a model of efficiency, the EE processor is up to 13 percent more efficient at the platform level and that it reduces power draw up to 14 percent at idle. 6 This makes the processor well suited to cloud computing environments, where lowering energy usage even a few watts per server can quickly yield significant savings. In addition, the AMD Opteron EE s greater efficiency allowed ZT to scale down other aspects of the platform, such as fan capacity and power supply size. Yet the AMD Opteron EE still offers the same advanced features as other processors in the AMD Opteron family, such as the following: Maximum performance per watt: Six-Core AMD Opteron processors deliver 50 percent more processing cores than their Quad-Core predecessors, resulting in excellent performance for multi-threaded applications such as virtualization, databases, and Web serving. And since Six-Core AMD Opteron processors operate in the same thermal envelope as previous generations, they also deliver exceptional performance per watt. 5. ZT Systems press release: New ZT Systems 1224Ra Datacenter Server Smashes Performance per Watt Record for AMD Opteron Processor-Based Servers, May 26, From Silicon to Cloud: Building Up to Cloud Computing, IDC, April 2009, sponsored by AMD.

6 >> Companies considering a move to a cloud-based data center architecture, then, would be wise to include ZT Systems servers with AMD Opteron processors in their hardware evaluation process. Tweet this! Digg this! Post to del.icio.us Hardware-assisted virtualization: AMD Virtualization (AMD-V ) technology helps improve the efficiency and performance of the multiple virtual machines running on the physical server with enhanced memory management and Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI). What s more, consistency in AMD s roadmap enables live migration of virtual machines across multiple generations of AMD Opteron processors, a key benefit in leveraging existing servers in new data center architectures. Direct Connect Architecture: By directly connecting the processors, memory controller, and I/O directly to the CPU with high-bandwidth Hypertransport links, AMD s Direct Connect Architecture offers the high-bandwidth, low-latency communications so essential to virtualization. And the elegant architecture also reduces the chipset s power draw. Sophisticated power management: The AMD-P suite of power management features which include AMD PowerNow! Technology, Dual Dynamic Power Management, and AMD CoolCore Technology dynamically minimizes power usage of the overall processor, individual cores, and the logic within each core, based on application needs and server workloads. Linear energy consumption: Servers powered by AMD Opteron processors feature a linear power/performance profile, which increases predictability and manageability for cloud solutions that bill out compute services. Conclusion A combination of economic pressures and technological advances are fueling widespread adoption of next-generation data center architectures based on cloud computing. Made possible by innovations in virtualization and storage, among other developments, these new architectures deliver superior flexibility, manageability, and cost-effectiveness. However, they also challenge organizations to acquire affordablypriced, energy-efficient x86 hardware platforms optimized for their unique workloads. Thanks to their longstanding relationship, ZT Systems and AMD are ideally equipped to meet the needs of next generation data centers. ZT custom manufactures affordable servers that minimize power consumption. When equipped with AMD Opteron processors, those servers also offer maximum performance-per-watt, hardware-assisted virtualization, and state-of-the-art power management capabilities. Companies considering a move to a cloud-based data center architecture, then, would be wise to include ZT Systems servers with AMD Opteron processors in their hardware evaluation process. Tom Farre is a freelance journalist who has been covering the computer industry for more than 20 years.

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