Bottom Line Doesn’t Have to Mean Decreased Computing Power

By Rob Shiveley

March 2, 2007

In business, many times the bottom line dictates direction for company-wide programs and departments, such as IT. With so many choices on the table, IT departments can often see price cutting affect their ability to perform at the maximum levels needed to assure quality in their computing. However, new advantages of next-generation processor-based computing can change the way that IT departments look at Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and how that affects the bottom line. Next generation processors are offering incredible “bang-for-the-buck” computing today, and there are a number of ways these architectures are creating flexibility and reliability that turns into hard-numbers — news that is welcomed on any corporate accountant's spreadsheet.

Operating system flexibility increases TCO reduction opportunities, whether a company runs many OS's or standardizes on a single OS. OS flexibility can simplify HPC system support infrastructure, ease application consolidation and increase application migration options.

Software transitions, which help reduce TCO and enable organizational growth, are best accommodated by hardware platforms supporting a wide range of operating systems. The Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor not only runs more OS's than any other 64-bit architecture on the market(1), but also delivers performance headroom, cost effective scalability, power efficiency and enhanced reliability. These all contribute to reducing TCO over the lifetime of HPC systems.

Large organizations deploy a wide array of enterprise applications, many with their own specific operating system requirements. IT infrastructure complexity can be reduced when all these software requirements are met by a single hardware platform. With fewer server configurations, TCO reduction strategies are easier to oversee across system acquisition, deployment, support and decommissioning.

For example, when the number of server configurations is minimized, there are fewer installation procedures to follow so software can be distributed and upgraded more quickly. And when minimizing server configurations, OS flexibility may ease the task of bringing diverse application software online.

One of the most common ways to reduce TCO is consolidating OS's and applications onto a single server(2). This improves server utilization, allowing a reduction in the number of servers and providing several benefits. Server consolidation can simplify high availability (HA) and disaster recovery configurations and their associated business processes.

Consolidation can also lower operating cost by reducing the number of people, space, power and supporting infrastructure required to maintain the systems. In addition, consolidation can lead to installing fewer software copies, which lowers software license cost(3).

How can IT maximize their consolidation options? By selecting an HPC platform that supports a large number of OS's, IT has more flexibility to combine different applications onto a single server using virtualization. With virtualization, applications run as though they had their own hardware platform, when in fact they share the platform with other OS's and applications.

Today's OS may not be tomorrow's OS, so migration options shouldn't be limited by the hardware platform. IT organizations moving away from expensive, proprietary operating systems can benefit from a wide choice of standards-based OS's.

More than ten operating systems run on the Dual-Core Itanium 2 processor, as well as(4) over 10,000 applications(5). This flexibility in application options provides for increased computing all on one physical server, rather than running different programs on a number of servers.

Whether consolidating multiple applications onto a single server or executing compute intensive simulations, there is always a need for performance headroom. With double the performance of yesterday's Intel Itanium 2 processors, the Dual-Core Itanium 2 processor(6) provides more opportunities to increase organizational output and quality.

At Toyota Motorsport, the design center uses computational fluid dynamics simulation to reduce drag and improve cornering. Traditionally, aerodynamic analysis has relied on expensive wind tunnels. Mr. Huehner, vice president of engineering, explains, “The volume of calculations we currently run with the virtual wind tunnel typically take almost a day. We have an internal goal to increase calculation speed by 33 percent, reducing run time by 33 percent. By upgrading just 25 percent of our cluster to Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processors, we should achieve this.”(7)

Systems are available today that support Intel Itanium 2 and Intel Xeon processor-based blades in the same enclosure, providing a dense and manageable way to run the full range of enterprise applications on a preferred mix of Windows, Linux and UNIX operating systems(8). By integrating legacy blades with new Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor blades into a single system, IT saves money through hardware reuse.

BladeSymphony with Virtage is a blade server from Hitachi with the capability to combine, scale and virtualize a mix of hot-swappable blades using interconnect technology, which allows them to work together in a single system(9).

Virtualization technology is being deployed in a time critical application for predicting hurricane activity. The inclusion of built-in virtualization support enables mission-critical computing centers to increase the density and flexibility of their data centers. These abilities have made high performance computing systems based on the Intel Itanium 2 processor ideal for operations like tsunami model forecasting and hurricane model prediction.

The power consumption of a hardware platform has a large impact on TCO. First is the issue of utility bills. Second is the question of hardware reuse and whether a server can be redeployed into environments with more stringent power consumption requirements. Although the Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processor is twice as fast as its predecessors, it actually consumes up to 20 percent less power(10) which results in a 2.5 times performance per watt improvement(11).

An area where dense computing environments are common is in security exchanges. Companies like kabu.com Securities Co. LTD are taking advantage of the decreased power consumption of Dual-Core Intel Itanium 2 processors and seeing the impact with increased performance per watt.

It's not uncommon for people to speak of HPC system availability in terms of 5-nines, however Dual-Core Itanium 2-based systems with many new reliability features support 7-nines availability — 99.99999 percent uptime(12). This means an average system will run 20 years without scheduled or unscheduled downtime(13). Intel Cache Safe Technology is a new feature that minimizes cache errors and helps ensure mainframe-caliber availability(14). Another feature is Enhanced Machine Check Architecture, which provides ECC protection for internal address and data paths to help maintain maximum system uptime(15).

As industries continue to grow and mission critical computing becomes increasingly more complex due to growing data fields and increasingly imperative execution, processors enabling scalable and cost-efficient strategy to IT departments around the globe will continue to provide realistic results for those who worry about the bottom line when it comes to mission-critical computing.

—–

(1) Intel Dual-Core Itanium 2 processor web page http://www.intel.com/business/itanium/index.htm
(2) Lowering Datacenter TCO through Virtualization” by Egenera June 2006 http://whitepaper.unixreview.com/shared/write/collateral/WTP/50601_39455_79566_wp_lower_tco.pdf?ksi=1379601&ksc=1264683671
(3) “Mobitel Gears For Growth” Intel Case Study http://www.intel.com/business/casestudies/mobiltel.pdf
(4) “Mainframe Reliability at Mainframe Price”, Intel White Paper page 2
(5) “Dual-Core Itanium 2 Processor 900 Series Product Brief”, page 2 Dual-core Itanium 2-base systems run popular 64-bit operating systems such as Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Linux from Novell, Red Hat, Red Flag and other distributors; HP NonStop, OpenVMS, HP-UX, Bull GCOS 8, and NEC ACOS-4.
(6) “Dual-Core Itanium 2 Processor 900 Series Product Brief”, page 1
(7) “Customers See Record Performance” Intel website http://www.intel.com/business/bss/products/server/itanium2/quotes.htm
(8) “Mainframe Reliability at Mainframe Price”, Intel White Paper page 5
(9) “Hitachi Unveils Blasé Server with Hardware Virtualization” article http://www.hpcwire.com/hpc/1129418.html
(10) “Dual-Core Itanium 2 Processor 900 Series Product Brief”, page 1
(11) “New Dual Core Intel Itanium 2 Processor Doubles Performance, Reduces Power” Intel press release July 18, 2006
(12) “Mainframe Reliability at Mainframe Price”, Intel White Paper page 2
(13) “Mainframe Reliability at Mainframe Price”, Intel White Paper page 4
(14) “Dual-Core Itanium 2 Processor 900 Series Product Brief”, page 3
(15) “Dual-Core Itanium 2 Processor 900 Series Product Brief”, page 6

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