Today’s data center beats yesterday’s by 64x


Aging data center servers and storage can put the brakes on IT performance for many businesses. That’s especially true in light of today’s big advances in server CPU speeds, densities and virtualization. Outdated servers and storage can also send TCO soaring. At the same time, it can cripple future-readiness. That’s because old hardware usually lacks the horsepower and scalability to keep pace with growth demands.

For example, a recent study showed that four advanced server nodes with just 2U of rack space and Virtual SAN software could do 16 times the work of older hardware operating from an 8U rack space. That’s a performance-density gain of 64x.

Hidden (and growing) costs of aging hardware

Let’s step back and look at what growing businesses face.  When they need to add more users and applications, their existing servers and storage may have limited capacity to scale. Not too long ago — and even today — IT staff might add bare-metal hardware to the mix, expanding the data center’s footprint. Of course, that requires more space, cooling and energy, all adding up to higher costs.

While some may call those costs the price of growth, other costs should be considered. Older gear that slower CPUs, disks, and interconnections can add latency to performance. It also can need more maintenance and raise the risk of downtime. The latter can cause costly disruptions to production or customer service. Either one can undermine customer satisfaction and employee morale.

Point is, an outdated data center can become an increasing liability, often without its owner being fully aware of that fact. Yesterday’s approach of simply adding hardware to keep capacity ahead of the growth curve can lead to using more rack space than necessary, underutilizing existing hardware assets and limiting IT’s ability to respond to business needs in more precise ways.

Data center tech matchup: Yesterday vs. today

In late June, Dell commissioned a study by Principled Technologies, Inc., to compare the performance of five-year-old, bare-metal servers and storage to a future-ready configuration supporting software-defined storage. The latter consisted of Dell PowerEdge FC430 and FD332 nodes, with Intel solid-state drives (SSDs), residing in a Dell PowerEdge FX2s chassis. This modular server and storage architecture ran VMware Virtual SAN software.

The goal of the comparison was to quantify the benefits, especially the ROI, of upgrading an older data center to today’s latest technologies. Both the old and up-to-date server/storage setups ran the same set of simulated email, database and file server workloads.  The Dell Performance Analysis Collection Kit (DPACK) was used to test each configuration’s performance.

While the newer configuration was expected to outperform the older one, the core question was: by how much? Researchers found that three server nodes in a 2U rack space could handle 10 times the workload of the legacy configuration, which operated in 8U of rack space — a 40x gain in performance-density.

But that’s not all. Adding another Dell PowerEdge FC430 server node to the new setup — without increasing rack space — boosted its workload capacity 16 times over the older configuration. This means the performance-density is 64 times better.

Big implications for gaining — and keeping — a performance edge

Clearly, the implications of a 64x boost in data center performance on a company’s operations and competitive edge could be significant, although a specific ROI would depend on an individual data center’s setup and existing costs.

But the bottom llne is simple: For growing businesses, a fully updated data center strategy — using virtualized servers and software-defined storage — can provide much more performance for much less cost. It also can improve scalability, flexibility and agility for even greater growth yet ensure optimum asset utilization at all times.

For all businesses, such a big boost in data center performance can sharpen their competitive edge in several ways. Employees can be more productive. Processes can be more efficient. And digital services provided to customers or in support of customers can be delivered faster and with little if any downtime.

Customers interested in conducting a performance analysis on their own data center configurations can get started with DPACK at no charge. Anyone interested in learning more about the comparison study is invited to download the 33-page report, “Free up rack space by replacing old servers and storage,” published by Principled Technologies.

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