Monthly Archives: January 2012

Disruptive Technology from the Desktop to the Data Center

According to Wikipedia, a disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.  Virtualization and software design have been the main drivers in the development of disruptive innovations in hardware.

From the Desktop…

One of the main concerns at the desktop level is the need for powerful, yet efficient endpoints, but desktop virtualization rapidly changed the landscape.  The endpoints can be anything you want these days; including, desktop pc, tablet, smartphone, or thin client.  The dream of desktop virtualization has not been fully realized until now with V3 Systems.  In the past, customers were punished for attempting to use thin clients and desktop virtualization (VDI), due to limitations in network, storage and computing capabilities.  Most VDI performance made you feel like you were using dial-up.  V3 Systems offers an innovative server appliance that hosts 50-400 high-performance virtual desktops in a 1U or 2U form factor. The simplicity of their high-density solution, combined with V3’s optimized technologies and management tools, allows you to easily and affordably scale into the thousands.

Imagine having to architect a VDI solution with the traditional and complex server and SAN based architecture.  That project will need at least four separate specializations in network, server, virtualization, and storage.  In addition, you would need copious amounts of time to implement. Then here comes V3 Systems with an all-in-one simple appliance you can plug and play into an existing environment, or create a new one from scratch.  You can have 400 people up and running in a matter of a couple hours verses a couple weeks. V3 boasts that its solution is 2x to 8x faster than existing desktops. What about VMware, Citrix, Redhat, and Microsoft?  It doesn’t really matter, because V3 Systems rocks them all.

The CEO, Peter Bookman and his team of merry snowboarders up in Salt Lake City, UT got a good thing going.  They work hard and they play hard.



…To the Data Center

What high density, low powered servers uses ¼ the power and 1/6 the space of today’s best in class volume server without requiring any modifications to existing software.  In the data center we have seen some awesome things happening at the server level, but nothing as extreme as SeaMicro.  Imagine squeezing 768 processors in a 10 RU Rack. How is that even possible?  Well, they’ve done it.  I heard through the grapevine from one of my buddies at EMC that SeaMicro is being installed at some secretive government agencies, which will not be named.  If DOD and the Intel community like them, they must be hot stuff. So hot I had to look them up myself.

Volume servers consume more than 1% of the total electricity used in the United States—More than $3 Billion dollars each year. Over the last six years, the power consumed by volume servers more than doubled. For companies in the data center, power consumption is the largest Operating Expense for often accounting for more than 30% of Op EX.  In fact, research has shown that over a volume server’s lifetime the cost of power exceeds its purchase price.

SeaMicro has identified the primary drivers underlying the power inefficiencies in volume servers and has systematically rectified these shortcomings. The result is a small form factor server that uses one-quarter of the power and requires only one-quarter of the space used for traditional servers. SeaMicro servers are plug and play—they require no changes to software operating systems, applications, or management infrastructure.

Over the past 10 years, the data center has undergone a sea change in size and scope, including dramatic changes in the demand for compute, the type of compute required, and  the economics of operation. Scale out replaced scale up, and the Cloud became the home of many business services and a source of on-demand compute. Despite these changes, the server has remained architecturally unchanged. Server manufacturers made no accommodation for the new and different workloads and traffic patterns despite the highly specialized workloads that rose to dominance in the data center. This mismatch between specialized workloads and generalist servers is an underlying cause of the power consumption issue in the data center.

SeaMicro is a small company led by CEO, Andrew Feldman, that may still take the typical start-up foozeball break, but it’s at the leading edge of a trend that’s bringing innovation back to the high-volume server market. To me that is very exciting, since I haven’t seen a foozeball table in the office in a decade.