Time Lapse: Building Dell’s Big Data/OpenStack MDC — allowing customers to test at hyper scale

April 1, 2013

Back in September I posted an entry about the Modular Data Center that we set up in the Dell parking lot.  Here is a time lapse video showing the MDC and the location being built out.

The MDC allows customers to test solutions at scale.  It is running OpenStack and various Big Data goodies such as Hadoop, Hbase, Cassandra, MongoDB, Gluster etc…

Customers can tap into the MDC from Dell’s solution centers around the world and do proof of concepts as well competitive bake-offs between various big data technologies so they can determine which might best suit their environment and use case.

Extra-credit reading

Addressing eBay’s Project Mercury needs with Dell’s Modular Data Center

April 17, 2012

Back on December12, eBay held their grand opening for their Project Mercury data center in Scottsdale, Arizona.  In attendance were all the partners that contributed along with members of the Data Center Pulse group.  Although the event itself wasn’t secret, the details were held in check until a couple of weeks ago when Derrick Harris posted his article in GigaOm

Some of the details published were the actual PUE numbers around Dell’s Modular Data Center:

Project Mercury gets free cooling year round, even in the heat of summer. On Aug. 23, 2011 — a 119-degree day — one of eBay’s Dell units had a partial-PUE score 0f 1.044 while drawing 520 kilowatts of power. On January 17, 2012, while drawing 1 megawatt, the same unit had consistent partial PUE of 1.018 while the rest of the data center was doing between 1.26 and 1.35.

And the winner is

Today the Uptime Institute announced that this Modular Data Center Product Deployment by eBay and Dell were named recipients of the 2012 Green Enterprise IT Award.

Here is a video I did at the opening back in December with Dell’s GM for our Data Center Solutions group, Roy Guillen.  Roy talks about what eBay was looking for and how we answered the challenge.

Some of the ground Roy covers:

  • The challenge that eBay issued
  • How Dell got involved
  • The evolution of Dell’s Modular Data Center and what eBay proved about the ability to group a whole bunch of workloads that don’t require tier 4 resiliency

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Cote and I discuss Dell World and our new Web|Tech Vertical

October 19, 2011

Last week we held Dell’s first Dell World event here in Austin, Texas.  The two-day event was targeted at CxOs and IT professionals and featured an expo, panels and speakers such as CEOs Mark Benioff, Paul Otellini, Steve Ballmer and Paul Maritz as well as former CIO of the United States, Vivek Kundra.  And of course, being Austin, it also featured a lot of great music and barbeque.

At the end of the first day Michael Cote grabbed sometime with me and we talked about the event.

Some of the ground I cover:

  • Dell World overview and our Modular Data Center
  • (3:35) Talking to press/analysts about our new Web|Tech vertical and our focus on developers
  • (6:00) The event’s attempt to up-level the conversation rather than diving into speeds, feeds and geeky demos.

The Dell Modular Data Center on the expo floor (photo: Yasushi Osonoi:@osonoi)

(double click to see full sized)

Extra Credit reading

Pau for now…

A Walk-through of Dell’s Modular Data Center

September 13, 2011

In my last entry I featured a video with the Bing Maps imagery team.  In it they talked about why they went with Dell’s Modular Data Center (MDC) to help power and process all the image data they crunch.  For a deeper dive and a look at one of these babies from the inside join Ty Schmitt and Mark Bailey in the following video as they walk you through the MDC and how it works.

Some of the ground Ty and Mark cover

  • The various modules that make up the MDC
  • The topology of the system
  • How the outside temperature dictates which of the three cooling methods is used
  • The racks inside the MDC and how they were able to pull the fans out of the individual servers
  • A closure look at the power module

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Bing Maps team on why they went with Dell

September 13, 2011

A little while ago I posted an entry talking about how Bing Maps was using Dell’s Modular Data Centers to power their new uber-efficient, uber-compact data center (or as Microsoft calls it  “microsite”), located in Longmont, Colorado.  But don’t take my word for it…

Below is a recent video of members of the Bing Maps’ imagery team, Tom Barclay, Brad Clark and Ryan Tracy, talking about what their needs were and why they chose Dell.  (BTW, the written case study is also available now).

Some of the ground the team covers

  • Bing Maps leading the way and  trying things out at Microsoft before the rest of the company.
  • Producing the imagery for Bing Maps including photographing all of the US and Western Europe and then stitching it all together with the help of tremendous processing power.
  • Their goal was to bring on additional capacity to support current and future site goals at the lowest cost, in the fastest amount of time with the least amount of down time.
  • Why they went with Dell and what they gained.

Extra-Credit reading

Pau for now…

Dell’s Modular Data Center powers Bing Maps

August 1, 2011

Late last week we announced that Dell’s Data Center Solutions group had outfitted Bing Maps’ uber-efficient, uber-compact data center (or as Microsoft calls it  “microsite”), located in Longmont, Colorado.  The facility is a dedicated imagery processing site to support Streetside, Bird’s Eye, aerial and satellite image types provided by Bing Maps.  The site’s key components are Dell’s Modular Data Centers and Melanox Infiniband networking.

Brad Clark, Group Program Manager, Bing Maps Imagery Technologies described their goal for the project, “Our goal was to push technological boundaries, to build a cost effective and efficient microsite.  We ended-up with a no-frills high-performance microsite to deliver complicated geospatial applications that can in effect ‘quilt’ different pieces of imagery into a cohesive mosaic that everyone can access.”

Keeping things cool

The challenge when building out the Longmont site was to design a modular outdoor solution that was optimized for power, space, network connectivity and workload performance.

The modules that Dell delivered use a unique blend of  free-air with evaporative cooling technology, helping to deliver world-class efficiency and a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) as low as 1.03.

To watch the whole site being built in time-lapse check this out:

Extra-credit reading

Construction complete on Microsoft’s “Cloud Farm”

January 10, 2011

In Data Center Knowledge last week there was a short article, accompanied by a set of photos, that gave view into Microsoft’s very cool new “Cloud Farm” data center.  The design of the data center, which is located in Quincy Washington, was driven by Microsoft’s use of some ultra-cool modular data centers 🙂 .  It was the modular nature of these units that helped Microsoft finish their initial deployment at their new facility in only eight months.

One of the modular data centers at Microsoft's Cloud Farm. Dang, those are good looking units. (Photo source: Data Center Knowledge)

Extra-credit reading:

Pau for now…

Gartner on Extreme Data Centers

December 14, 2010

One of the best sessions I went to at the Gartner Data Center conference last week, was entitled Extreme Data Centers – Attaining Massive scalability – in the minimum space at the lowest cost.

The talk was given by David Cappuccio who is a managing vice president and chief of research for the Infrastructure teams with Gartner, responsible for research in data center futures, servers, power/cooling, green IT, enterprise management and IT operations.

Dell's Modular Data center, mentioned in David's talk, a few days before it went live at Tier 5 in Australia.

Here are my notes from the talk:

The Extreme Data Center definition

  • Designed for efficiency first
  • Designed for optimal performance per kilowatt and or per square foot
  • They leverage new design principles to attain the biggest benefit

An example he then gave was supporting 2,107 servers, 18,300 images and 19 petabytes of storage in 2,600 sq. feet of IT space

New data centers are designed around efficiency

  • In power utilization
  • In space allocation
  • In capital expenditures

Three ways to solve your problem

  • Build your own datacenter from the ground up — greatest control but most expensive
  • Retrofit what you have to extend its life – greatest potential risk but least expensive
  • Use modular ideas to build and expand later
    • Reduce capital upfront costs
    • Simple growth when needed
    • Can use existing land or building

Emerging Design trends

  • Build small, build often
  • Build for density
  • Scale vertically and then horizontally
  • Build and rebuild pods (or sections of your data center)
  • Build density zones (group your systems by how dense they are – high, medium or low– and then match the power and cooling at the zone level.  Density is usually based on the workload mix)
  • Consider multi tiered designs (all apps aren’t created equal)
  • Use free air and reuse heat
  • Design for the unknown

Modular Designs for sustained growth/The evolution of pre-built solutions

  • David felt this approach was a really good idea and made sense
  • He felt the drawback was that there weren’t any reference accounts: he mentioned HP at Purdue and “some company down in Australia” (which dear readers is the Dell MDC down at Tier5, pictured above).
  • He cited Azure as the poster child for containers
  • Besides citing Sun’s “Black Box” as the granddaddy of all these, the pre-built solutions he mentioned were:
    • HP Flexible data center
    • IBM scalable modular datacenter
    • I/O anywhere
    • Dell Modular Data center

Energy consumption and efficiency

  • PUE, DCiE are defacto standards – use them
  • But PUE is not the goal – it’s the beginning
  • PPE: performance and capacity per kilowatt are key

Three examples of some cool new designs

  • Yahoo Computing coop: outside air cooled, minimal fans no chillers and a PUE of 1.08
  • Microsoft containers:  8×40 feet versions, 8-12 weeks for delivery, 2K servers per container
  • Net App: Slab-based w/overhead air design: first energy star rated data center, 25 megawatts

Stay tuned for more

The extreme data center space is an “extremely” hot one.  Watch this space to learn more about how Dell plays here going forward. 🙂

Pau for now…

Extra-credit reading:

Welcome to the Wild and Wacky World of Data Centers

December 8, 2010

I got back last night from the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas which runs through the end of this week.  Although one of the biggest topics of conversation was cloud computing, I was most interested in learning about what’s happening more generally in the world of data centers.  I’m pretty up to speed on the cloud yet the intricacies of the data center are still new to me.

A couple of great presentations

There was a great presentation yesterday morning from Ebay’s VP of technical operations, Mazen  Rawashdeh, talking about their “Northstar” project and how they have completely  redesigned their data center strategy to support the business (I hope to do a short post on that soon).   The other presentation that I found very educational was “Extreme Data Centers – Attaining Massive scalability” by Gartner’s David Cappuccio (something else I hope to do a post about).

Learning from those in the know

The other way I got up to speed about the wild world of data centers is by talking with a couple of the folks who cover the field.  The first person I met with was Rich Miller, founder of Data Center Knowledge.  Here is what Rich had to say:

Some of the ground Rich covers:

  • How the interest in data centers seems to grow every year
  • What are the current hot topics that he see’s
    • Energy and efficiency
    • Data center design and thinking outside the box
    • Some of the funkier designs people are coming up with

If you’re interested in data centers, stay tuned for a few more entries based on the Gartner Data Center conference.

Pau for now…

Extra-credit reading

Tier5 first to fire up Dell’s 3rd-gen Modular Data Center

November 14, 2010

Last week, Tier5 who has taken over an old Mitsubishi facility in Adelaide was the first company globally to deploy Dell’s third generation Modular Data Center.  Tier5 is an eight-person start up that is turning the former auto plant into a state-of-the-art data center park to be leased by wholesale tenants including managed service providers, resellers and large users.

Instead of building out a traditional data center Tier5 went with Dell’s Modular Data Center (MDC) which snaps together like ginormous Legos allowing systems to be up and running in as little as a week.  The MDC’s modular nature also allows capacity to be added incrementally as needed.

For a great overview, check out the short video that ITNews did at the opening press conference on Tuesday.


To get Tier5 exactly what they wanted Dell’s DCS team worked collaboratively with the Tier5 engineers over a period of nine to 10 months to nail down the exact specs.  As Tier5 founder Marty Gauvin said, “Our engagement with Dell DCS was enormously collaborative.  We were able to achieve our objectives in a very collaborative way, and then go beyond them.”

So what is this thing?

The shell of Dell’s MDC solution is formed by a steel frame, rather than a standard rigid shipping container. As a result of this design, Dell can deploy modules with different configurations to meet the needs of different customers.  Each module houses up to 12 standard server racks and up to 2,500 servers. The design gives Tier5 the flexibility to mix and match hardware components within a module to better serve the specific needs of its customers.

The MDC solution contains two rows of custom-built racks with a center hot aisle, a design that allows  easy access to components for servicing and maintenance. The module offers an easily accessible connection point for power and cooling as well as IT management. It also offers multiple cooling options, including chilled water, evaporative cooling and outside air. This enables users to choose the cooling option that works best for the site and the climate.

Keepin’ it green

Besides allowing Tier5 to be agile and not having to tie up capital until right before its needed, the MDC also saves on a tremendous amount of power.  Tier5 estimates a best in class power usage efficiency (PUE) of 1.18 for the Adelaide modular data center.   This in turn will result in their customers saving approximately AUD $8 million in power costs per year.

Where to next?

So the first third-generation Dell MDC has surfaced down under.  Stay tuned to see where in the world the next one will pop up. 🙂

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

Dell’s Modular Data Center — Hello World

September 9, 2010

Last week at VMworld, Dell held a Super session where we debuted a video walking through our Modular Data Center (MDC).  The group that I belong to, Data Center Solutions (DCS), created the MDC as a custom solution addressing the specific needs of a few of our big strategic customers.

(As background, the DCS group has been acting as a custom tailor to the “internet superstars” for over three years and we address customers’ needs by focusing on innovation from the individual node all the way through the data center itself.)

Don’t box me in

In the video you’ll notice that gone is the forced shipping container form factor and in its place, as the name implies, is a more efficient modular design that lets you mix and match components like Legos.

Take a look below as Ty Schmitt, the lead architect for modular infrastructure, literally walks you through the concept and gives you his insight behind the design:

[Spoiler Alert!] Some of  the points Ty touches on:

  • A Module takes up half the space of a traditional data center
  • Clip on modules let you add capacity as you grow
  • There are 6-12 racks per module or 2500 servers which you can access through a central hallway
  • The modules come pre-integrated, pre-configured and pre-tested
  • With a modular data center you get a single point for power, a single point for IT, and a single point for cooling as opposed to the 1000s of points you’d normally get

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…

%d bloggers like this: