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Converged architecture simplifies system management

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systemThe banner advertising business generates more than 50 terabytes of raw data per day, and AppNexus, an advertising technology company, was seeking a high-density, low-power infrastructure to process 1.5 million data requests per second.

AppNexus needed a way to manage more than 30 billion transactions per day. The banner-advertising company was also looking to gain scalability and flexibility for its computing infrastructure.

“I’ve been looking for high-density servers that do what I need for a long time,” said Tim Smith, senior vice president of technical operations at AppNexus.

By deploying the new Intel-powered Dell PowerEdge FX architecture, AppNexus is now able to fit 7,000 servers into its data centers compared with 600 servers in 2010 to handle these data challenges.

Shared cooling and power

Simplification and automation are key considerations for IT managers when looking to make system management more efficient. A converged infrastructure — which consists of servers, storage and networking — can simplify deployment and reduce operating costs.

The PowerEdge FX offers server, storage and networking within a single 2U, or 3.5-inch, enclosure. By sharing cooling and power, a converged infrastructure makes a company’s IT setup more efficient, according to Luke Mahon, marketing director for Dell’s Enterprise Solutions Group. Launched at Dell World 2014, the FX Architecture incorporates the 13th generation (13G) of PowerEdge servers, powered by Intel Xeon processors as well as server configurations containing the low-power Atom-based CPUs.

“We can put up to 16 servers in that 2U space as opposed to one server so you get huge benefits in terms of density plus the benefits of shared cooling and shared power so it’s a much more efficient system to put in place,” Mahon said.

In addition to AppNexus, other companies that have tested the PowerEdge FX Architecture include Carnival Cruise, IT consulting firm Flagship Networks and Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington.

“With the Dell PowerEdge FX converged architecture, we now have a platform that scales linearly and significantly reduces the impact of an outage,” said Kyle Stewart, technology manager for Overlake.

For Carnival Cruise, a blade chassis with a smaller footprint is a better fit for the company’s cruise ships.

“On our ships, a blade chassis is too large and power-intensive for us, but the Dell FX2 architecture offers us better power consumption, more core density and a smaller footprint,” said John Ashmore, manager of systems infrastructure for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Managing application performance

For AppNexus, the challenge was to meet the high-performance requirements needed to display banner ads on a Web page.

“Our high-performance Web architecture has 100 to 150 milliseconds to conduct real-time bids that help determine which company’s ad displays on a Web page,” said Andy Davidoff, system performance engineer for AppNexus. “With the Dell PowerEdge FX Architecture, our operations staff could easily swap processing and storage components as needed to manage our dynamic requirements.”

The 13G Dell PowerEdge servers are designed to accelerate application performance, optimize workloads and simplify management. By incorporating PCI Express (PCIe) slots, new servers are able to help companies reduce bottlenecks. “All of your PCI slots are mappable,” Smith said. “You’re not stuck trying to redesign at the last minute.”

Energy efficiency and optimization

Keeping their IT infrastructure energy efficient is a top consideration for companies when purchasing new servers.

“As a cloud provider, total cost of ownership and energy efficiency of our servers are top priorities,” said Martin Zidek, CTO of Master Internet, a server-hosting company in the Czech Republic.

By combining technologies such as Fresh Air 2.0 and integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) 8 with the Intel Xeon processors and OpenManage Power Center Manager, new servers such as the PowerEdge line can “bring energy efficiency to a new level,” Zidek said.

In addition, Intel Node Manager takes advantage of a processor’s lower-level data and controls to manage system, rack and row power. The server firmware lets IT managers control power, temperature and resources of servers. By using Intel Node Manager and the PowerEdge FX Architecture, companies can gain extra value out of their rack space.

“Due to a number of factors, including power constraints, end users often prefer to consume servers in smaller chunks rather than the half- or full-rack converged systems offered by other vendors,” said Dan Harrington, an analyst with 451 Research.

Simplifying performance management

Dell worked with Intel to allow companies to better manage applications using iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller. A component of the new 13G PowerEdge servers, iDRAC helps companies simplify deployment and provides servicing, user customization and patching.

To manage application workloads and simplify server management, it all comes down to automation, Ravi Pendekanti, Dell’s vice president of server solutions, said in a company video. The PowerEdge servers’ integrated controllers provide this capability.

“We do believe that by simplifying and providing a certain level of automation, our customers can go ahead and easily manage their server environment,” Pendekanti said.


Brian T. Horowitz

Brian T. Horowitz

Brian T. Horowitz has been a technology journalist since 1996 and has written for numerous publications, including Computer Shopper, CruxialCIO, eWEEK, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, Men’s Fitness, NYSE magazine, ScientificAmerican.com and USA Weekend. He holds a B.A. from Hofstra University and is based in New York.

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