Flash Storage Options for Appliance Platforms

Using flash storage in computer-based appliances is nothing new. I remember the days of installing PCMCIA flash drives into routers (essentially computers) to update the firmware/OS. That was a great solution back then, but today the cost and complexity of designing a unique single purpose appliance like those old routers is often a significant deterrent.

PowerEdge R710Dell’s OEM Group has been working with hundreds of customers who have moved their appliance hardware development to Dell and are using commodity based servers for their core products. Until recently they were left with very few options when it came to flash-based storage for those appliances, but with the new appliance server platforms Dell has expanded and improved the flash storage options available to a developer.

Dell’s two main OEM-friendly appliance platforms, the PowerEdge R610 and R710, both offer multiple flash based storage options. They have an internal USB port, an optional internal SD-Card slot, and an optional external SD-Card slot for user removable or replaceable storage solutions.

All three of these options are managed via Dell’s lifecycle management controller (via changes to BIOS setting) to be disabled, enabled, or made bootable – that way an application could activate or deactivate a device on the fly. There are myriad ways these devices could be used in an appliance. For example, the operating system and application could reside on a USB key and no spinning hard drives would be required. One could place diagnostics, store backup configuration settings, hardware licensing keys, factory hard drive images, or whatever fits your solution, on flash devices that are internal to the system. Utilizing these flash storage options reduces support incidents and improves customer experiences while providing a more robust, secure, and reliable platform to the end user.

I have to ask you: if you're using white box servers to power your solution, are you getting this kind of appliance-inspired" design? We'll continue to talk about some of the advantages of our PowerEdge servers and some of the customers that are benefiting from our designs and our close relationship with them.

About the Author: Franklin Flint