Dell has unveiled a new line of PowerEdge servers that aim to deliver on the promise of converged infrastructure by enabling customers to mix and match compute, storage and network modules to meet the exact demands of workloads.
Due to ship in December, the PowerEdge FX architecture is described as "next-generation convergence" and a game changer in the IT industry, offering the flexibility to build configurations to meet requirements while simplifying management.
"There are other vendors who talk about convergence purely by doing an architecture rack," Dell's server marketing vice president Ravi Pendekanti told V3.
For example, HP's Moonshot platform "just puts a bunch of blades together", while Oracle's Exadata platform "does one thing, and one thing really well, which is run Oracle's enterprise applications", he said.
In contrast, PowerEdge FX (which stands for ‘flexible infrastructure'), comprises a specially designed 2U rack-mount FX2 enclosure that can be filled with a choice of sled modules offering differing capabilities, enabling customers to adopt a building block approach to their infrastructure.
"It looks like a rack [chassis] but it's got the modularity, so we've got the best of blades and the best of a rack setup," Pendekanti said.
At launch, the sleds comprise a handful of full-width, half-width and quarter-width compute modules that allow customers to pick the performance and density required for applications such as web hosting, virtualisation or running databases, plus a half-width storage sled that can provide direct attached storage for the compute nodes.
To the rear of the enclosure, up to two PowerEdge FN I/O aggregator modules provide a choice of network connectivity options, while inside, the PowerEdge FX2 enclosure has a passive mid-plane that enables up to eight PCI Express adapters to be fitted, while also linking the compute nodes with any storage sleds fitted.
The compute modules are made up of two-socket and four-socket Xeon servers plus one - the PowerEdge FM120 - which comprises four separate Atom-based microservers in a single module for super-dense configurations. The PowerEdge FD332 storage sled, meanwhile, can hold up to 16 drives per module.
This form factor enables greater server densities at no greater cost, according to Dell. For example, Pendekanti said that for big data analytics using Hadoop, a customer could combine four FC430 quarter-width nodes, each of which is a two-socket Xeon server, with a pair of FD332 storage sleds.
This configuration will allow for 80 server nodes per rack, while using PowerEdge R710 nodes that are comparable in specification would deliver only 20 nodes per rack at the same price point per node, he claimed.
For administrators, the good news is that PowerEdge FX can be managed using existing Dell management tools. Each node has an integrated Dell Remote Access Controller, the same as for conventional PowerEdge hardware, while up to 20 FX2 enclosures can be managed with the Dell Chassis Management Controller, according to Pendekanti.
"At the highest level we have the Dell Active System Manager, our orchestration layer, to ensure that all the systems in the data centre are being used effectively," he said.
"Customers told us that they wanted to ensure management was not going to be an afterthought, and it would not be something the guys would have to go back and relearn."
As a further point, Dell expects the modular and flexible nature of PowerEdge FX to provide a measure of future-proofing for customers.
"Why should we be specific to a single workload? The goal behind this is that you can and mix and match modular building blocks as the workload needs change," Pendekanti said.
"This way, you won't have to do a forklift upgrade when you choose to change from running one specific workload to another."
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