App Think Tank: Cloud vs. hyperscale

May 7, 2014

This is the final video clip from the Dell Services Application think tank held earlier this year.  Today’s clip features the always enlightening and entertaining Jimmy Pike.  Jimmy, who is a Senior Fellow at Dell and was once called the Willy Wonka of servers, was one of the 10 panelists at the Think Tank where we discussed the challenges of the new app-centric world.

In this clip, Jimmy talks about the fundamental differences between “purpose-built hyperscale” and the cloud environments that most organizations use.

As Jimmy points out, when moving to the cloud it is important to first understand your business requirements and what your SLAs need to be.

If you’re interested in hearing what else Jimmy has to say, check out this other clip from the think tank,  The persistently, ubiquitously connected to the network era.

The Think Tank, Sessions one and two

  • Think Tank Session 1– Welcome to the application-centric world – best practices in the ‘greenfield’
  • Think tank Session 2– Nexus of forces – CIOs under pressure and the rise of the enterprise developer

Extra-credit reading (previous videos)

Pau for now…

App Think Tank: The persistently, ubiquitously connected to the network era

February 5, 2014

The third short video from the Dell Services Think Tank features the always enlightening and entertaining Jimmy Pike.  Jimmy, who is a Senior Fellow at Dell and was once called the Willy Wonka of servers, was one of the 10 panelists at the Think Tank where we discussed the challenges of the new app-centric world.

In this clip Jimmy talks about what he terms the “persistently, ubiquitously connected to the network era” and what this means for applications going forward.

One more video still to come

  •  The web of C level relationships

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Intel and ARM systems in same chassis and managed remotely

January 21, 2013

Last week I was out in the Bay Area attending the Open Compute (OCP) Summit.  The event was packed and full of energy.  My employer Dell was a platinum sponsor and we were showing off  some pretty cool stuff:

At today’s Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, Dell showed off a new generation of X-Gene 64-bit ARM-based servers that the company is developing for data center customers. It also demonstrated new management software based on Open Compute Project standards allowing remote control of both Intel and ARM-based servers. The software and server designs Dell demonstrated would allow Intel and ARM-based systems to run in the same chassis. – Ars Technica

Here is the schematic of the management system (check out the client running the ipmitool 🙂


As part of the first day plenary sessions, Dell VP and Senior Fellow Jimmy Pike gave a brief historical overview of computing and management, leading up to the above solution.

The next Open Compute Summit will be in Vegas in the fall.  Look for us there.

Extra credit reading

Pau for now…

All the best ideas begin on a cocktail napkin — DCS turns 5

April 11, 2012

A little over a week ago, Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) group marked its fifth birthday.  As Timothy Prickett Morgan explains in his article subtitled, “Five years old, and growing like a weed”:

DCS was founded originally to chase the world’s top 20 hyperscale data center operators, and creates stripped-down, super-dense, and energy-efficient machines that can mean the different between a profit and a loss for those data center operators.

This team, which now represents a greater than $1 billion dollar business and has expanded beyond just custom systems to include standard systems built for the “next 1000,”  all started on a simple napkin.

The origin of DCS -- Ty’s Sonic sketch - November 2, 2006

From napkin to “Frankenserver,” to today

Ty Schmitt who was one of the original team and now is the executive director of Dell’s modular infrastructure team within DCS, explains:

This was sketch I made over drinks with Jimmy Pike late one night after visiting a big customer on the west coast.  We we were working on a concept for a 1U system for them based on their requested requirements.   As you can see by the date (Nov 2006) it was actually before DCS became official … we were a skunk works team called “Sonic” consisting of a hand full of people.   We wanted to take an existing chassis and overhaul it to fit 4 HD’s, a specific MB, and SATA controller.  When we got back to Austin, I modified the chassis in the RR5 machine shop (took parts from several different systems and attached them together) and Jimmy outfitted it with electronics, tested it, and it was sent to the customer as a sample unit.

This first proto was described by the customer as “Frankenserver” and was the beginning of the relationship we have with one of our biggest customers.

A little over five years later, Dell’s DCS team has gone from Frankenserver to commanding 45.2 percent revenue share in a market that IDC estimates at $458 million in sales last quarter.  Pretty cool.

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…

DCS’s Chief Geek takes us on a tour of his mini Home Lab

February 4, 2011

Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) group has some pretty colorful folks.  One of the more interesting members is Jimmy Pike, the man IDG New’s James Niccolai refered to as the “Willy Wonka of servers.”  Jimmy, the self-proclaimed “chief geek” of the DCS team is the consummate tinkerer whether that involves constructing a data center in a brief case or thinking of new ways of driving down data center power consumption by leveraging alternative forms energy.

Last Spring I visited Jimmy’s home to check out what he was working on in his “free time.”  Here’s what I saw (he keeps telling me he’s got much cooler stuff since I shot this so I may have to do a “geekquel”)

Some of the things Jimmy show us:

  • The low-power chips he’s playing with
  • His experimentation with user interfaces and superman glasses
  • His mini rack of servers
  • The various forms of desktop virtualization and OS’s he uses
  • Laying out and designing boards by mail
  • His micro recording studio

Extra-Credit reading

Pau for now…

Back to the Future with Light Weight Servers

September 10, 2010

Light weight servers have been gathering steam recently.  Targeted at focused markets like  hosting and Web 2.0 they feature the old school architecture of placing one CPU per server and running one OS/application on that server.  The new twist here is that they can pack up to 12 servers per one 3U enclosure.

Below, Dell Data Center Solutions chief architect Jimmy Pike takes us through a short whiteboard discussion on how Moore’s law has driven us to multi-core architectures and virtualization and how, in the case of very focused applications, that same law is bringing us back to the future.

Some of the points Jimmy makes:

  • Given Moore’s law its implausible to continue to drive higher and higher clock rates.  This has given rise to multi core architecture.
  • Native demand of  applications on servers hasn’t kept paced with Moore’s law.  This has resulted in virtualizaton, allowing you in effect to run multiple servers on a single system.
  • This same law is also driving us in the opposite direction, to light weight servers which feature a simple one server/one OS  architecture in a very energy efficient, cost effective manner targeted at focused applications.

Extra-credit reading (more Jimmy Pike):

Pau for now…

Chocolate covered servers?

June 22, 2010

Is that a heat sink under the Laffy Taffy?

There was a great article about Dell’s Data Center Solutions group that came out a couple of weeks ago.  The article, entitled “Willy Wonka and the Dell Factory,” starts out

If Dell’s cloud server lab is a candy shop for geeks, littered with components and exotic system designs, then Jimmy Pike is the Willy Wonka of servers.

The author then takes the reader on a tour of the top secret Dell Cloud lab explaining,

Like Willy Wonka in the book by Roald Dahl, Pike’s job is to combine ingredients in new and sometimes radical ways. Instead of chocolate and blueberries, his ingredients are chips, fans and motherboards. “Sometimes we bend metal and put boards together with duct tape,” he said…

Servers became “boring” for a while, Pike said, but the requirements of cloud computing have made his job interesting again. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had,” he said.

And if Jimmy’s having fun, that’s a good thing for everyone. 🙂

Read the whole article here

Want more Jimmy? Check out his data center in a suitcase.

Pau for now…

A Data Center that fits in the Overhead Bin

October 16, 2009

Jimmy Pike is the director of systems architecture for the Data Center Solutions group here at Dell and self-proclaimed “head geek.”   Using a tool case with its insides stripped out, part of an old inbox and a bunch of off the shelf components he has created the world’s first portable “data center.”   (All for the princely sum of ~$2,000)

This former toolkit now holds:

  • Two dual-socket servers featuring 2.5GHz Intel processors
  • One server running Windows ’03 acting as the DHCP and domain server and the other running Red Hat linux.
  • 2 x 1TB SATA drives for each of the servers
  • 32GB of memory
  • A single central power supply
  • A 5-port Gigabit Ethernet switch
  • 2 x 500GB scratch discs

and a whole bunch more…

Extra credit reading:

GigaOm – Exclusive: Dell Shows Off a Data Center — In a Briefcase!

The Register —  Dell chief stuffs data center into suitcase

Pau for now…

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