Hosting firm saves with Sun's server/storage hybrid

October 28, 2006

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Could hybrid devices spell the death knell for traditional storage servers? After slashing its storage costs by replacing EMC Clariions with Sun's X4500 "Thumper" devices, hosting specialist Joyent thinks so.

Earlier this year, Sun unveiled the X4500, code-named 'Thumper,' which it claims is the first in a series of hybrid server/storage devices. (See Sun Thumps Storage-Server Hybrid.) The vendor bills the X4500 as a "data server" or "data analysis server," aimed at customers looking to save on equipment costs for data warehousing or high-performance computing solutions.

The Tokyo Institute of Technology (Titech), for example, has deployed 42 X4500s linked by 10-Gbit/s InfiniBand as part of its TSUBAME supercomputer installation.

Last month, Marin County, Calif.-based Joyent deployed five X4500s running the Solaris operating system to support its hosted storage services. Four of the devices, totaling around 80 Tbytes, were rolled out to support Bingodisk, a new offering aimed at enterprise users. Another X4500, with 20 Tbytes of storage, was allocated to Strongspace, an existing service targeted at individual end-users.

Previously, Strongspace was run on two EMC Clariions supported by Dell servers, although David Young, Joyent's CEO, told Byte and Switch that the cost savings offered by the X4500 were too compelling to ignore. "With the introduction of Thumper, the cost per Gbyte has dropped so dramatically that there is no reason for us to run [Strongspace] on EMC storage," he says.With the X4500, he adds, Joyent's cost per Gbyte has dropped to $2, compared to $12 on the Clariions, which have been redeployed elsewhere within the firm. "It's just an Opteron server with a bunch of SATA drives," says Young, explaining that this works out cheaper than buying specialist storage kit.

Joyent, according to Young, also increased the capacity available on Stongspace from 14 Tbytes to 20 Tbytes when it deployed the X4500. "The Clariions were almost full," he explains.

The CEO, however, was unable to say exactly how much he expects to save overall by deploying the server/storage hybrids, nor did he reveal whether Joyent evaluated products from any other vendors. He did confirm, however, that Joyent got a decent discount from Sun. Instead of the $70,000 list price for each device, Joyent spent in the "low 50s," with a total outlay somewhere in the region of $250,000.

The exec says that the server aspect of the X4500s was also appealing. "We have customers that are in the film business that would like to use Thumper to do the transcoding and conversion from one video format to another," he says. "That would run on the dual-core Opteron processors."

There are downsides. For one thing, Joyent has to buy the X4500's Hitachi drives directly from Sun. "I wish that they would come out with a version of Thumper that would let me pick my own drives," he says. "It's significant savings if you go out and source your own Hitachi drives," he adds, explaining that this could save him thousands of dollars per device.The exec also admitted that, at 170 pounds, the weight of the X4500s also posed some challenges in the data center, although he added, "Most of my geek friends could do with a little bit of exercise."

Also, given firm's reliance on Solaris, Young is holding off on the next rollout until the operating system is enhanced. "The iSCSI target on Solaris is a little bit slow today, but they are working on it," he explains.

The CEO, nonetheless, is now looking to deploy more X4500s to support additional Joyent services in areas such as application and email hosting. He expects to have another 100 Tbytes worth of Thumper-based storage within his infrastructure by the first quarter of next year.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • VeriSign Inc.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights