Data center hardware throughout the years

Data center hardware throughout the years

Electronics continue to get smaller in size, have better performance and increased security. Cell phones, televisions, and personal computers ­our electronics we use on a daily basis­ are just a fraction of the size of even just 5 years ago. There is little difference with the datacenter. Daft punk coined it the best “Harder!, Better!, Faster!, Stronger!”.

Hardware has evolved

During my 12 years as a Data Center Operations Manager, I have seen many changes in the equipment we use. From the early Intel XEON Pentium 3 to our current Intel XEON E2600 series CPUs. The RAM which started in our lowest servers at 512 megabytes has grown to 512 Gigabytes or even 1 Terabyte for a single server! The disks have gone from 20 Gigabyte Parallel ATA(IDE) to 8 Terabyte Serial Attached Scsi(SAS). We have gone from 4U server cases with at most 4 hard disk drives to having that same size with 20 disks.

When I first started at Prominic we had 1 mostly full room. This room consisted of 15x 42 U racks. A “U”, or Rack UNIT, is equal to 1.75”. I mentioned the 4 U servers earlier, this would be equal to 7”. Most of these racks were full of 4 U or 3 U servers, network switches, KVMs (Keyboard, Video and Mouse switches), Serial connection servers and Firewall Appliances. There were about 100 servers in these racks and were mostly Intel XEON Pentium 3 with 512M or 1G SDRAM. We had just started building 1st generation Pentium 4 CPU servers but there were only a few.

Since those days that seem so long ago, we have increased to approximately 1000 servers! Our newest servers utilize 6th generation Core i7 equivalent XEON processors. Our mainboards now support 2 CPUS and 16 sticks of DDR4 RAM. Each CPU has what is the equivalent of 4 to 16 CPUs on each processor. When hyperthreading is added as well, you could have the processing of 8 to 32 CPUs on each processor. With 2 CPUs that jumps to 64! The maximum RAM supported is 1 Terabyte. Add to that 8 Terabyte hard disk drives, and the maximum specs are as follows:

2x Intel XEON E5­2699v4 CPU
1x Intel S2600CWTR
1 Terabyte of DDR4 fully buffered RAM
6x 3 way mirrored disk arrays ­ 18x 8 Terabyte disks with 48 Terabytes of usable space

Virtualization had a great impact

The hardware was not the only change, though. The OS (Operating System) and how we use the OS has changed as well. The OS used to be installed directly on a server and had access to all of the hardware. Now we use what are called VMs(Virtual Machines). What this entails is a base OS is installed on the server, containers are then created that allow smaller parts of the hardware to be sectioned off which allows a guest OS to be installed to it. You can run many server instances from the same hardware in this fashion. On our biggest server, we have over 100 standard server VMs running on one base OS!

Virtualization has directly reshaped the way we store and manage data, and what is possible in the data center setting.

What is to come…

As for the future of the datacenter, I only foresee that the technologies of today to get smaller and more powerful. I have seen mentions of CPUs that use light instead of electricity.

Drive sizes are getting larger and larger. The same with memory. Not only are the physical storage devices getting larger but they are also getting much faster. Moore’s law states that the number of transistors per square inch has doubled every year and will continue to expand in this fashion for the foreseeable future.

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