Server Snapshots: Intel Storage Server SSR21MC2
April 30, 2007
Not content with processor domination, Intel has released a few servers in recent months. The most recent is the Intel Storage Server SSR212MC2. Rather than hard-wiring it for a specific purpose, the company opted for a more flexible architecture. Thus, this box can be used either as an application server with internal direct-attached storage (DAS) or as a dedicated NAS or SAN appliance.
"Rather than having multiple servers with each box running different software, the Intel Storage Server SSR212MC2's multicore design means that you can do a lot more with one system," says Dinesh Rao, product line marketing specialist for Intel's storage group.
This 2U machine is built to support one or two dual-core or quad-core CPUs, up to 12 Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) or Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives, and up to 32 GB of memory (fully buffered DIMMs). This PCI Express platform is also flexible on the network side, supporting a decent range of connectivity options. It supports quad-port Gb Ethernet, 10 Gb Ethernet, Fibre Channel or Infiniband.
Why Make Servers?
A quick glance at the Intel Web site reveals that the company now offers a range of server chassis, several blades, carrier grade servers and a variety of 1U to 4U tower and rack servers.
So why is Intel graduating into the wider system area rather than leaving it to the main server OEMs?
"Many companies want complete systems, and we are experienced at building them," says Rao. "They could be classed as multipurpose white boxes."
The not so poetically named SSR212MC2 is a good example of this principle; it functions as an application server, a storage server or a combination. Rao suggests smaller businesses partition the system to run multiple applications in a single small form factor along with enough internal storage to meet their needs in other words, use it as an all-in-one unit.
That's why Intel is targeting this server mainly at the small and midsize business (SMB) market. Rao believes that although the SSR212MC2 may also see plenty of usage in the enterprise space, the sweet spot is really SMBs.
"It is very easy to use, and it comes and is supported by plenty of software companies," says Rao. "Microsoft Unified Data Storage Server is one example of our supported software platforms."
Intel has already laid the groundwork by working with a variety of independent software vendors (ISVs) to ensure their products play well with the SSR212MC2. Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003, for example, is designed for an integrated NAS system using both file and block data management. In addition, Intel has validated its hardware for running software from companies that include FalconStor Software, Open-E GmbH, OpenSuSE.org, Red Hat, Emulex, Mellanox Technologies and Wasabi Systems.
Intel's storage server can hold up to 12 TB. This can be achieved by loading it with 12 x 750 GB SATA drives running at 7200 rpm. For those wanting higher performance, up to 12 SAS drives can be harnessed. These can run at up to twice the speed (15k rpm), but each disk is only 300 GB. This equates to a maximum SAS storage of 3.6 TB. In addition, up to two optional 2.5 inch SAS or SATA boot drives can be internally mounted.
Rao reports the server can be configured with Gb Ethernet, 10 Gb Ethernet, 4 Gb Fibre Channel or 20 Gb Infiniband. Some of these require additional cards.
On the processor side, the SSR212MC2 uses one or two Xeon chips. The 5100 series is a dual-core model with a 1066 MHz front-side bus and 4 MB of L2 cache. The quad-core 5300 series, on the other hand, has bus speed up to 1333 MHz and 8 MB of cache.
These processors are ably supported by the aptly named Intel RAID controller SRCSAS144E. In addition to support for SAS and SATA, the SSR212MC2 provides RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 and 50 capabilities.
"It has very high I/O as RAID is processed on the chip," says Rao.
The controller has an Intel IPS333 processor, which operates at 500 MHz. The many complex calculations RAID requires, therefore, don't run the risk of bottlenecking the server chip. Instead, they are processed by the IOP333 with accelerated RAID performance in more demanding RAID flavors, like RAID 6. This design offers a maximum of 3 GB/s throughput.
That's one reason Intel is positioning this machine as a multipurpose storage server. With the IOP348 corralling much of the storage I/O, the dual-core and quad-core Xeons are free to focus on application serving and other functions.
Note, however, that this product is not available off the shelf. Intel prefers to sell the system to integrators and resellers as a base building block with or without the RAID controller. The integrator then adds the processors, memory, hard drives, and operating systems and applications as required. They would also chose whether to deploy one or two dual- or quad-core processors. Pricing would vary depending on the contents of the box. Without the RAID controller, it costs $2,800 ($3,600 with it).
"Intel has made it easier and more cost-effective for storage solution providers to bring enterprise-class storage solutions to businesses of all sizes with this customizable system," said Mike Wall, general manager for the Intel Storage Group. "With more than twice the performance improvement over our previous product generation, the SSR212MC2 hardware platform provides resellers and integrators a high-performing building block upon which they can build effective solutions."
The Intel Storage Server SSR212MC2 Close Up