Three settings for tweaking your virtualization performance: Open, Capable, Affordable

Many times when I talk to customers about data center consolidation, virtualization and blade server technologies are top of mind. It is at this point that the common benchmark for virtualized workload performance, VMware® VMmark™, takes center stage. Recently Dell posted a two-socket Blade leadership VMmark Score of 37.11 @ 26 tiles with the PowerEdge M910, topping competitive results from Cisco, HP, and IBM. While a 1st place VMmark score is something to be excited about, how that score was achieved sheds even more light into the performance-enhancing benefits of Dell’s Open, Capable, and Affordable strategic approach to technology.

Open Systems
To get this score, Dell deployed a real-world equipment configuration that utilized several of its partners: Qlogic® HBAs, Broadcom® NICs, Brocade® switches, and EMC® storage. By weaving these companies and their specializations into a non-proprietary solution, Dell was able to deploy best-in-class technologies throughout the solution-stack of equipment…and it paid off with increased performance.

System Dell PowerEdge M910 Cisco® UCS B250 M2
Score 37.11 @ 26 tiles 35.83 @ 26 tiles
Processors 2 x Intel® Xeon® processor X7560 (2.27GHz) 2 x Intel® Xeon® processor X5680 (3.33GHz)
Memory 256GB (32x8GB DDR3-1066) 192GB (48x4GB DDR3-1333)
HBAs QLogic QME2472 dual-port Cisco UCS VIC M81KR
NICs Onboard + dual-port Broadcom 5709 Cisco UCS VIC M81KR
Disk controller SAS 6/iR Modular LSI Logic embedded
Network switches 2 x Dell™ PowerConnect™ 6248 2 x UCS-2104XP, 2 x UCS-6120XP, 1 x Cisco 3750
Network Infrastructure 1Gbps Ethernet 10Gbps Ethernet
Storage arrays 3 x EMC CX3-40f 1 x EMC CX4-240
Storage switch Brocade® SilkWorm® 4100 Cisco MDS 9134
Drives 180 x 73GB/15K FC drives 50 drives: 25 x 73GB STEC SSD, 20 x 450GB 15K, 5 x 300GB 15K

Using an open approach, the Dell path to performance also reduced both network and storage complexity by deploying fewer switches, and by utilizing existing disk-array infrastructure. Even though a specific combination of Dell and partner solutions were used for this test, open systems enable customers to choose adapter and switch solutions that are best for them. Our closest competitors’ 2-socket posted scores and methods were based on a more proprietary design.

Enterprise Capability
When evaluating a server platform based off VMmark scores, I try to keep one thing in the front of my mind: true virtualization performance should stand on its own. It doesn’t need help from arrays of Solid State drives or unnecessary banks of power-hungry DIMMs. By taking into account a realistic customer data center landscape (and budget), the PowerEdge M910 deploys technologies that can help you right now by integrating with what is already in your rack. The M910 also allows you choice and flexibility with 4, 6 and 8 core Intel® Xeon® 7500 and 6500 series processors, the ability to deploy 4 or 2 sockets without impacting DIMM configurations (FlexMem Bridge), and higher memory capacity (512GB growing to 1TB in the future versus 384GB fixed). As a company’s approach to virtualization matures, customers start to consolidate on a much larger scale and virtualize mission-critical applications. This is why the PowerEdge M910 is built on solid Nehalem-EX (versus EP) Technology with RAS features that make more sense when you need tremendous processor performance, memory scalability, and system stability. In addition, it is the only blade server on the market today with the ability to support redundant embedded hypervisors, eliminating a potential single point of failure.

Affordable Solutions
With most technologies, performance is measured against price, forcing a choice of budget or capability. The PowerEdge M910 alleviates this pressure by delivering expansive DIMM configurations and industry-leading 2-socket VMmark performance at compelling price points. In the Dell and Cisco configurations detailed earlier, the comparative server list pricing alone reveals an immense difference: $26K (M910) to $43K (B250). This isn’t even taking into account 15k FC HDDs versus SSD storage savings, or the use of industry standard GbE infrastructure versus a 10GbE infrastructure. By innovating with technologies such as FlexMem Bridge that are based on direct end-user feedback, Dell and its customers can collaboratively meet the growing memory needs of virtualization deployments without the price premiums or vendor-proprietary ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) that provide memory scalability at a high cost.

As I mentioned earlier, knowing how a benchmark result is achieved is just as important as knowing the score. Are you pinning your data center’s success and performance on a single vendor’s world view? Speak to a Dell representative today to find out how you can put the Open, Capable, and Affordable PowerEdge M910 to work in your data center right now.

VMware® VMmark™ is a product of VMware, Inc. VMmark utilizes SPECjbb®2005and SPECweb®2005, which are available from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC). Results as of 8/4/10.

About the Author: Chris Christian