Dell’s Steps To a Smarter, More Powerful 10 Gig Server Solution

Stu Miniman, Senior Analyst of Wikibon is the host for this episode of theCube where the topic for this segment at DellWorld is the evolution of Ethernet, and the latest generation of servers.  Joined by Brian Payne from Dell’s Sever Division, and Greg Scherer who is the VP of Server and Storage Strategy at Broadcom (full video below).

Setting the stage, Miniman starts by discussing 10 gig Ethernet which was ratified in 2002, and in 2011 it was reported that only 20% of all servers are dedicated to this.  Yet, there’s some more movement, with Dell releasing a 12 gig server earlier in 2012.  Adoption in 2012 of the 10 gig has somewhat picked up with moderate increases in segments such as the adoption of public clouds, and virtualization segments of the rack to be the fastest growing users of 10 gig Ethernet.

Payne, from Dell, is obviously very excited about the launch of the 12 gig Ethernet server, and in talking to customers they are finding that customers needed to get to 10 gigs quickly to get their data and roll their mainframes out faster.  “At the very top of the customer lists was 10 gig adoption, in terms of planning more spending… with virtualization driving it,” Payne says is a critical development for 10 gig.

The technology has been a limiting factor, power and cooling, the cost of that environment and maintaining it is difficult.  Sherer is excited to see 10gb with true growth in power, and how the field has evolved in the last decade.  Previously, people were fudging the power requirements and now 10gb no longer needs to support distance, but now looking at 28 nanometer and a maximum of 5 watts, with a short reach capability and now, when kept in short range when booting up, the amount of power used is even smaller than that.  Now, you also don’t need a 10gig controller and a 10 gig switch, they can be updated independently, making the cost much more efficient.

Dell has designed their servers to be modular, allowing the customers to protect their investment.  They can buy the server, and as needed, or as they desire, the company can update certain parts, as well as update as technology changes.  This creates a level of flexibility that really has not been seen yet in this area, but also creates a peace of mind for cash strapped IT departments who need to do more with less budget wise.  Dell even does one more, there is no loss of functionality with this flexibility; it’s also fully integrated into the embedded management, and accessible with Dell’s customer service which can tap directly into the service to help the customer do troubleshooting.

Miniman asks Payne what is Dell doing to help customers upgrade to 10 gig service, and what advice he gives them.  A lot of the feedback that Dell gets is about their workload and what 10 gigs will do to their workload.  They’ll create different solutions, test them out, and then when they choose a direction to go, the company provides the customer with a commentary about why they chose what they did, and why Dell believes the choices they made were the best.  They also are specializing and augmenting the systems for the particular customer so when the system arrives, it doesn’t require an extensive amount of work to have it up and running properly.

Miniman then moves forward beyond 10 gigs and asks about 40 gig which is now available, and if users are starting to inquire and adapt to a 40 gig system to which Sherer says that there’s been a strong integration of the 40 gig Ethernet by users in the switch side and in the aggregation layer which migrates into servers for certain innovations.  Sherer also points out that next year Broadcom will be experimenting with 100 gig with the hopes to have that ready for release in the next big cycle with the key technologies that need to be acquired can be done so and Dell has stepped up with NPart capability to make it happen.

They’re now looking at how can they still manage like they did with 1 gig where the set up was clean and simple, but doing it with 10 gig pipes logically divided up, no longer having dozens of cords coming out of a server in a confusing set up.  The lifecycle management is as important as the new technology, which is exciting.  If it isn’t able to be simply employed its a liability not an asset at this stage of the game.  Dell is now investing a lot of time and resources to make management of the servers simple and focusing the idea of simplicity in the management of the servers.

Payne says that Dell is in the “midst of a serious transition in the industry with the resurgance of data in a lot of cases with the most exciting thing they’ve been working on being what they can do with Flash and extending the fluid data architecture,” and getting the performance of getting Flash in the computer and the express Flash drives as being one of the most exciting aspects of the upcoming year.

Miniman, wrapping up his discussion with Payne and Scherer closes with a question on power, and the emergence of a green energy sector, but with big pushes being made by both Dell and Broadcom to use less energy but without losing power and functionality.  Dell is now looking at fresh air capability, the ability for servers to tolerate temperatures up to 110-114 degrees, allowing servers to run in a room without chillers, saving organizations from a $3 million capital investment.  Dell looked at a map of the world, and realized that most locations don’t see temperatures exceeding 114 for days on end and with fresh air capability if servers are in environments this hot it isn’t a void in the warranty, another asset for companies looking to cut costs and maintain a high level of service.  Broadcom, while more focused on the component side of power, has put a lot of effort into 10 gig and enabling it to shut down to a lower rate data, at night for instance, that can save a large amount of energy.

Both Dell and Broadcom have fantastic innovations in the pipeline, as well as already out there for users to enjoy, with a focus on the customer, what the customer needs and wants, and a commitment to the bottom line, both companies have put themselves in a position to continue leading the field.  Dell’s added commitment to fresh air capabilities, and their upcoming demonstration of the true capability to run a server without being forced to invest in the expensive cooling systems previously required to maintain the servers is a huge leap forward for those customers who require a cost-effective system.  Broadcom also is getting into the green game, by helping to create, on their end, components that can be reduced in use during slow times that can save a significant amount of electricity and cutting the bill.