The beauty of solutions such as vStart is that they are fully turnkey architectures. Simply place the shipped racks in the data center, connect the rack to power and to the network and power on and begin using the hardware. The mess and fuss of designing the environment is taken out of the equation.
Generally, these solutions are shipped in either ½ rack or full rack configurations and everything you need to operate is included, including battery backup units, networking hardware, storage networking hardware, storage, servers and a hypervisor, such as VMware or Hyper-V. All cabling is installed, connected and neatly tied and the vendors even ship staff along to help set up the equipment, although the staff will most likely arrive in separate packaging and you can’t usually keep them.
A middle ground emerges
But what happens if you want something in between a full blown build your own data center and one of these full rack data center solutions? Perhaps you want to have more control over some of the server specifications and the storage configuration. Perhaps you have staff that is adept at managing Hyper-V or VMware and you’re comfortable getting that layer operational, but you want to keep the hardware side of the solution as simple as possible.
Or, perhaps you want to keep the data center footprint even smaller than ½ a rack. Believe it or not, Dell has a solution for that, too. The components are described below.
When Dell released its M1000e chassis a few years ago, I don’t think anyone would have thought that it would still be available for sale in its original form. But, it’s still sold and it’s still able to support hardware that is, frankly, pretty incredible.
EqualLogic blade-based array
Back in June, I wrote about Dell’s introduction of their M1000e-based EqualLogic array. This blade-based chassis slides right into a pair of side-by-side M1000e slots and connects to the backplane with 10 Gb Ethernet. Up to two EqualLogic arrays can be installed in a single M1000e chassis. With capacity options ranging between 4.2 TB and 14 TB per array, administrators can fit up to 8.4 TB to 28 TB of storage in a single M1000e chassis. For an SMB or small midmarket, that might be plenty of storage. Further, depending on the array model you choose, you can include a combination of solid state disks and rotational storage, meaning that you can balance capacity and performance using just the storage inside the chassis.
Best of all, this blade-based array is a no-compromise storage solution. You still get full redundancy in the form of multiple controllers and plenty of disks. It really is a full array micro-sized to fit into a chassis.
Dell sells a wide array of blade servers, with each one serving a specific need. From one quarter height blades that support up to 192 GB of RAM each to half height blades that support up to 768 GB of RAM to full height blades that support up to 1.5 TB of RAM, four local disks and PCI cards, there is probably a solution to fit just about every need.
Further, Dell’s blades support a plethora of connectivity options, including 1 Gb Ethernet, 10 Gb Ethernet, Fiber Channel, and Infiniband. It all depends on the modules that you have installed in the back of the M1000e chassis.
Theoretically, an organization could outfit an M1000e blade chassis with two EqualLogic arrays and up to 24 M-series blade servers (quarter height). With appropriate switching modules in the back of the M1000e, said organization could connect the M1000e chassis to the main network with just one or two Ethernet cables and then simply call it a day, as long as the entire infrastructure was housed in the M1000e. Obviously, power cords need to be connected as well.
With this combination, administrators can carefully build their data center in a box, adding as much as 28 TB of capacity, plenty of network connectivity and, with up to 24 servers with 192 GB of RAM each, plenty of computing horsepower. For many organizations, this 10U data center would be more than sufficient to meet business needs. Perhaps the primary limitation is storage capacity. However, additional EqualLogic arrays—the full arrays, not the blade-based ones—can be deployed alongside this chassis and added to the same storage pool as the array-based blades. While this would extend the data center outside 10U, it would also provide a growth path easily supported on Ethernet.
With this solution, an organization can choose to run any way necessary: All physical or with either Hyper-V or vSphere added to the mix.
To me, a solution such as the one described here provides the best of both worlds. Organizations still get all of their hardware from a single vendor, but they get much more flexibility in putting together the pieces of the solution. From choosing the type and quantity of storage, they type and density of the blade servers, everything is configurable.
I’d love to hear about organizations that may have considered such a solution and understanding whether or not the solution met your needs.