Posts Tagged 'RAM'

January 26, 2012

Up Close and Personal: Intel Xeon E7-4850

Last year, we announced that we would be the first provider to offer the Intel E7-4800 series server. This bad boy has record-breaking compute power, tons of room for RAM and some pretty amazing performance numbers, and as of right now, it's one of the most powerful servers on the market.

Reading about the server and seeing it at the bottom of the "Quad Processor Multi-core Servers" list on our dedicated servers page is pretty interesting, but the real geeks want to see the nuts and bolts that make up such an amazing machine. I took a stroll down to the inventory room in our DAL05 data center in hopes that they had one of our E7-4850s available for a quick photo shoot to share with customers, and I was in luck.

The only way to truly admire a server is to put it through its paces in production, but getting to see a few pictures of the server might be a distance second.

Intel Xeon E7-4850

When you see the 2U face of the server in a rack, it's a little unassuming. You can load it up with six of our 3TB SATA hard drives for a total of 18TB of storage if you're looking for a ton of space, and if you're focused on phenomenal disk IO to go along with your unbelievable compute power, you can opt for SSDs. If you still need more space,can order a 4U version fill ten drive bays!

Intel Xeon E7-4850

The real stars of the show when it comes to the E7-4850 server are nestled right underneath these heatsinks. Each of the four processors has TEN cores @ 2.00GHz, so in this single box, you have a total of forty cores! I'm not sure how Moore's Law is going to keep up if this is the next step to jump from.

Intel Xeon E7-4850

With the abundance of CPU power, you'll probably want an abundance of RAM. Not coincidentally, we can install up to 512GB of RAM in this baby. It's pretty unbelievable to read the specs available in the decked-out version of this server, and it's even crazier to think that our servers going to get more and more powerful.

Intel Xeon E7-4850

With all of the processing power and RAM in this box, the case fans had to get a bit of an upgrade as well. To keep enough air circulating through the server, these three case fans pull air from the cold aisle in our data center, cool the running components and exhaust the air into the data center's "hot aisle."

Intel Xeon E7-4850

Because this machine could be used to find the last digit of pi or crunch numbers to find the cure for cancer, it's important to have redundancy ... In the picture above, you see the redundant power supplies that safeguard against a single point of failure when it comes to server power. In each of our data centers, we have N+1 power redundancy, so adding N+1 power redundancy into the server isn't very redundant at all ... It's almost expected!

If your next project requires a ton of processing power, a lot of room for RAM, and redundant power, this server is up for the challenge! Configure your own quad-proc ten-core beast of a machine in our shopping cart or contact our SLales team for a customized quote on one:

When you get done benchmarking it against your old infrastructure, let us know what you think!


July 25, 2011

Under the Hood of 'The Cloud'

When we designed the CloudLayer Computing platform, our goal was to create an offering where customers would be able to customize and build cloud computing instances that specifically meet their needs: If you go to our site, you're even presented with an opportunity to "Build Your Own Cloud." The idea was to let users choose where they wanted their instance to reside as well as their own perfect mix of processor power, RAM and storage. Today, we're taking the BYOC mantra one step farther by unveiling the local disk storage option for CloudLayer computing instances!

Local Disk

For those of you familiar with the CloudLayer platform, you might already understand the value of a local disk storage option, but for the uninitiated, this news presents a perfect opportunity to talk about the dynamics of the cloud and how we approach the cloud around here.

As the resident "tech guy" in my social circle, I often find myself helping friends and family understand everything from why their printer isn't working to what value they can get from the latest and greatest buzzed-about technology. As you'd probably guess, the majority of the questions I've been getting recently revolve around 'the cloud' (thanks especially to huge marketing campaigns out of Redmond and Cupertino). That abstract term effectively conveys the intentional sentiment that users shouldn't have to worry about the mechanics of how the cloud works ... just that it works. The problem is that as the world of technology has pursued that sentiment, the generalization of the cloud has abstracted it to the point where this is how large companies are depicting the cloud:


As it turns out, that image doesn't exactly illicit the, "Aha! Now I get it!" epiphany of users actually understanding how clouds (in the technology sense) work. See how I pluralized "clouds" in that last sentence? 'The Cloud' at SoftLayer isn't the same as 'The Cloud' in Redmond or 'The Cloud' in Cupertino. They may all be similar in the sense that each cloud technology incorporates hardware abstraction, on-demand scalability and utility billing, but they're not created in the same way.

If only there were a cloud-specific Declaration of Independence ...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all clouds are not equal, that they are endowed by their creators with certain distinct characteristics, that among these are storage, processing power and the ability to serve content. That to secure these characteristics, information should be given to users, expressed clearly to meet the the cloud's users;

The Ability to Serve Content
Let's unpack that Jeffersonian statement a little by looking at the distinct characteristics of every cloud, starting with the third ("the ability to serve content") and working backwards. Every cloud lives on hardware. The extent to which a given cloud relies on that hardware can vary, but at the end of the day, you &nash; as a user – are not simply connecting to water droplets in the ether. I'll use SoftLayer's CloudLayer platform as a specific example of that a cloud actually looks like: We have racks of uniform servers – designated as part of our cloud infrastructure – installed in rows in our data centers. All of those servers are networked together, and we worked with our friends at Citrix to use the XenServer platform to tie all of those servers together and virtualize the resources (or more simply: to make each piece of hardware accessible independently of the rest of the physical server it might be built into). With that infrastructure as a foundation, ordering a cloud server on the CloudLayer platform simply involves reserving a small piece of that cloud where you can install your own operating system and manage it like an independent server or instance to serve your content.

Processing Power
Understanding the hardware architecture upon which a cloud is built, the second distinct characteristic of every cloud ("processing power") is fairly logical: The more powerful the hardware used for a given cloud, the better processing performance you'll get in an instance using a piece of that hardware.

You can argue about what software uses the least resources in the process of virtualizing, but apples-to-apples, processing power is going to be determined by the power of the underlying hardware. Some providers try to obfuscate the types of servers/processors available to their cloud users (sometimes because they are using legacy hardware that they wouldn't be able to sell/rent otherwise), but because we know how important consistent power is to users, we guarantee that CloudLayer instances are based on 2.0GHz (or faster) processors.

We walked backward through the distinct characteristics included in my cloud-specific Declaration of Independence because of today's CloudLayer Computing storage announcement, but before I get into the details of that new option, let's talk about storage in general.

If the primary goal of a cloud platform is to give users the ability to scale instantly from 1 CPU of power to 16 CPUs of power, the underlying architecture has to be as flexible as possible. Let's say your cloud computing instance resides on a server with only 10 CPUs available, so when you upgrade to a 16-CPU instance, your instance will be moved to a server with enough available resources to meet your need. To make that kind of quick change possible, most cloud platforms are connected to a SAN (storage area network) or other storage device via a back-end network to the cloud servers. The biggest pro of having this setup is that upgrading and downgrading CPU and RAM for a given cloud instance is relatively easy, but it introduces a challenge: The data lives on another device that is connected via switches and cables and is being used by other customers as well. Because your data has to be moved to your server to be processed when you call it, it's a little slower than if a hard disk was sitting in the same server as the instance's processor and RAM. For that reason, many users don't feel comfortable moving to the cloud.

In response to the call for better-performing storage, there has been a push toward incorporating local disk storage for cloud computing instances. Because local disk storage is physically available to the CPU and RAM, the transfer of data is almost immediate and I/O (input/output) rates are generally much higher. The obvious benefit of this setup is that the storage will perform much better for I/O-intensive applications, while the tradeoff is that the setup loses the inherent redundancy of having the data replicated across multiple drives in a SAN (which, is almost like its own cloud ... but I won't confuse you with that right now).

The CloudLayer Computing platform has always been built to take advantage of the immediate scalability enabled by storing files in a network storage device. We heard from users who want to use the cloud for other applications that they wanted us to incorporate another option, so today we're happy to announce the availability of local disk storage for CloudLayer Computing! We're looking forward to seeing how our customers are going to incorporate cloud computing instances with local disk storage into their existing environments with dedicated servers and cloud computing instances using SAN storage.

If you have questions about whether the SAN or local disk storage option would fit your application best, click the Live Chat icon on and consult with one of our sales reps about the benefits and trade-offs of each.

We want you to know exactly what you're getting from SoftLayer, so we try to be as transparent as we can when rolling out new products. If you have any questions about CloudLayer or any of our other offerings, please let us know!


November 13, 2008

Size Isn't Everything

A couple days ago, I took my daughter to her favorite store. We picked up a fair amount and on the way to the car she asked a simple question, or so I thought. “Why did they only fill these bags half way”. Confused I looked at the bags and realized she was holding a bag which had a large stuffed bear in it and was looking at a bag less than half full of canned food.

Being the person I am, rather than attempt to explain this to her I wanted to let her try and figure it out for herself so she would understand it better. When we got home, I filled the rest of the bag with cans and had her try and pick it up, as I expected the bag broke in her hands. I explained to her that the cans were much heavier then the bag. She still doesn’t quite understand the concept that the bag has 2 limits, size and weight but she is starting to understand this concept.

I thought about this story this morning when I started working on a project of determining how many containers a Virtuozzo server could handle based on its system requirements. Just like the bag, a Virtuozzo system has multiple limitations that need to be observed, the size of the containers as well as their “weight”. In this situation “weight” would be the drain on overall system resources. When attempting to determine how many containers a system can handle, you need to take into account not only how many will fit size wise, but also how much of the overall system resources each container will require.

It turns out this question is much easier to ask then to answer. You can take a small server such as a dual core with 4GB of RAM and put 20 or even 30 containers onto the server and have it run flawlessly when those containers are small and do not require much in the way of system recourses. At the same time however I can take a quad proc quad core with 64GB of RAM and grind it to a halt with 1 or 2 containers.

At the end of the day, I have found that you can make just about anything work, but before you attempt to determine what hardware you will need to run a Virtuozzo server, it’s a good idea to have an estimate of what you expect the containers to be doing. What could be worse than spending hours configuring a server and getting it online only to watch it grind to a halt because there are just too many containers completely saturating your system resources?


June 16, 2008

More RAM!

More RAM. DDR2 must be going out of style, because Microcenter is selling a gig for $12.99. This time I don't make it in time before they run out, and I settle for sour grapes: my home pc can't use all the addressable memory, anyway. 4 Gigabytes. The maximum addressable memory for a 32-bit motherboard / OS. It used to be such a big deal to me- maxing out the 4 slots on my Dell, but not anymore. Why? Because now I work for SoftLayer. When you work with motherboards with up to 32 slots, 1 or 2 gig each; 4 measly slots just seems sad. I start nosing around for a video card that will fit the last expansion slot on my pc. No luck. I end up going home empty handed from Microcenter (outrageous!) and ordering the pci-e x1 video card from Newegg.

So, the hardware that customers can order at SoftLayer is impressive enough to jade the geek tech-lust of any home technician. And everything fits so nice and clean. Working on SoftLayer servers has really spoiled me for home pc's. Open up the case on your home pc and what do you see? Fabulous shiny bits? No. Cables. Cables in the computer. Cables behind the computer. Cables everywhere! You get the nifty zips and loops from Radio Shack, spend 2 hours zipping and looping, and as you proudly call your wife over to take a look she says, "Can't it all be wireless?"

The truth is neat cables take time, and SoftLayer engineers spend every spare minute making neat, organized, color-coordinated cables running to the servers. Cat 5e. Fiber. Special cables. Cables we can't talk about. All very neat and aesthetic. If Mr. Crosby ever takes you for a walk through the dc (datacenter), it looks effortless and lovely. But it took hours. Hundreds of hours. Just on cabling (I think SoftLayer might have stock in zip ties). You can be sure your SoftLayer server is not lost in a sea of Cat5 and power cables. It has been gracefully bound to its slot, the formidable innards pumping away at your command, your data streaming straight and true from switch to switch into the Internet beyond...


Subscribe to ram