Well… Recording THIS Chad’s World episode was cool. We wanted to do a mega sneak peek at the next-generation hardware platforms the teams have been working on… We checked with Pat Gelsinger about whether he’d be willing to shine some light on some of the next-gen hardware work – and he said GO FOR IT – just make sure it’s xtreme :-)
The EMC Hardware Engineering team are the unsung heroes as EMC has been transforming to a model of being a software company, and using industry-standard (read x86) hardware.
Bill DePatie heads up this team – and he’s to EMC as “Q” is to James Bond – he’s the man with all the toys :-)
In this episode, we pull the covers off EMC’s next generation hardware. This is the stuff that ultimately MAY (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) show up in future EMC platforms. I can’t believe they let us do this (even with some of it blurred out by EMC legal).
A big THANK YOU to Alex McCullum from Air Worldwide for joining us… He got the ultra-secret tour after we finished doing this, so Alex – remember, ssssshhh :-)
Check it out (and at the end, wait for the “EMC World Bail Fund” process)!
It’s worth restating something I said in this video: these are all engineering prototypes – if/when they show up in shipping products – there’s absolutely no statement on that in here... But, if I were a customer/partner – I would want to see what the engineering teams are up to. And hey, it’s COOL :-)
For some more “behind the scenes” details, read on!
- A little more “color” on the Storage Processor Enclosure(SPE)/Disk Processor Enclosures (DPE):
- The next gen platforms are Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge based (the current gen is all Westmere). We all are consumers so read things like Anandtech so most are aware that Ivy Bridge consumer motherboards and CPUs have just been released. We partner with lots of folks, but Intel like crazy. The server Sandy Bridge chipsets are still new – so this highlights just how close we are to Intel as Bill noted – these are Ivy Bridge ready.. There are lots of patents, lots of innovations around getting the most from industry-standard hardware we leverage.
- These all have a TON more bandwidth – PCIe 3.0 is a big deal in the storage business (as we tend to be a huge driver of the core chipset PCIe bandwidth and also memory bus models)
- They range from “Medium”, “Large” and “Kick-ass”. The “Medium” one (codenamed “Starscream”) could be for next-generation midrange platforms. The “large” (codenamed “Megatron”) and “kick-ass” (codenamed “Devastator”) ones could be used for next-gen midrange/enterprise platforms. These all can smoke the current batch of stuff that is out there (which is already fast).
- What did we blur out in the “Devastator” bit? Well – it’s really, really cool, and the patent ink still isn’t dry :-) Suffice it to say – Devastator will set new records when it comes to density of all the things you need in the brains of any system.
- You may ask: “Didn’t I see the “Megatron” enclosure before?” For Chad’s World followers – YES, YOU DID. When we did Chad’s World Episode 11 (which you can see here), we exposed the actual prototype EMC Project Thunder hardware. As a reminder, the short version of “What is EMC Project Thunder” = Thunder is “JBOP” – “Just a bunch of PCIe” in a shared enclosure – which enables Infiniband or RDMA over Ethernet to make for “shared server-based Flash cache”. In Chad’s World Episode 11, you can see that the working prototypes are running in Megatron enclosures. This is a cool example of how Bill’s team is used for simplification and reuse across all EMC’s coolness. This is also an example of the leverage we get out of the 22 SLIC module capacity in the Megatron and Devastator enclosures.
- For those of you who AREN’T children of the 80’s those are all code-named after Decepticons – the bad-guy Transformers. Why the bad-guys? Well – the hardware was really bad-ass, and “Bumblebee” just doesn’t sound as cool :-) I still want an “Optimus Prime”, though :-)
- A little more “color” on the super-dense low COGS Disk Processor Enclosure:
- You can imagine this being used in future SMB/entry storage systems. They are also based on next-gen CPUs.
- To give you an idea of what Bill is talking about when he talks about how robustly they are designed – from a hardware standpoint (whether this is supported is about the software part of the equation and EMC support) – he’s being modest when he says “operate with no fans to destage”…. you can literally yank the brains out of the array entirely (just like Wade does in the youtube video) and it will run in your hands, completely unplugged, until it destages to local flash. How cool is that?
- A little more “color” on the SLICs (the modular, hot-pluggable interface cards)
- These SLICs (the EMC engineering name for them – they are called UltraFlex IO modules in VNX arrays, as an example) are all next-generation versions that can fully exploit the PCIe 3.0 bandwidth in the next-gen DPEs and SPEs. That translates to 4x the amount of bandwidth in total.
- Yup – the “hot-swappable” PCIe innovations we’ve driven with our partners are something we do that is really special, and of high value to our customers. Alex (the customer) mentioned the nice “EMC Click” of the turkey-baster lock mechanism. Yup, carefully designed and patented.
- The cards I pick up are codenamed “Chimera” which is also a cool code-name. A “Chimera” is a greek mythical three headed (lion, goat, snake) beast. And indeed – these Chimera SLICs are beasts. With many elements of the cards being shared, the team has been able to accelerate what will be available potentially in the future for next-gen connectivity – 40GbE and 56Gb FDR Infiniband connectivity. You can imagine that these could be used not only potentially for host-connecivity, but potentially to simplify our “internode” designs and share more across the EMC portfolio.
- What did Wade pick up? Hmmm – two SLICs with no external interfaces :-) I’ll leave it at that, and you can try guessing….
- That SLIC at the end – is that really a computer? Yup. It’s a fully-self-contained Atom-based computer that fits in a SLIC slot. What could this be used for? I’ll let your imagination run wild.
- A little more “color” on the table we left covered…
- Do you REALLY think I’m going to spill the beans on that? LOL! Pat Gelsinger would have my head :-)
- Suffice it to say – a full 1 quarter of the coolness in that room we didn’t talk about. Any that is perhaps the coolest stuff :-)
For what it’s worth – every day here at EMC, I’m delighted to find someone doing something cool I had no idea about. This stuff fell into that category, and I wanted to shine a light on the innovation we’re doing together with technology partners (Intel and many others)
Bill’s crew is awesome, and every customer/partner out there – whether you know it or not – they are watching out for you! My hat’s off to them – and they have my thanks!!!