For Disks There Are No Good Vibrations

By Michael Feldman

January 3, 2012

Silicon Valley startup Green Platform Corporation has been promoting its vibration dampening solution for rack-based disk storage for a couple of years now. But with the increasing importance of “big data” applications, which places particular emphasis on performant I/O, the company is looking to tap into a $22 billion storage market that is still primarily based on vibration-prone spinning disks. In the process, the company has tweaked its strategy to offer what it calls a “Vibration Management System.”

From Green Platform’s perspective, its opportunity aperture is growing not only because enterprise storage capacity is increasing by leaps and bounds, but also because the disk vibration problem is getting more acute with each subsequent generation of hard drive. The drives themselves are not getting any faster, but as disk capacity grows, the increased density of the media means the head positioning on the tracks becomes more sensitive to vibration — from the disk itself as well as neighboring disks, fans, power supplies, and ambient datacenter vibration. When the head can’t position itself properly on the track due to all this shaking, it has to reposition itself until it can properly execute the read or write, thereby degrading I/O performance.

Green Platform has run tests that indicate there is a significant drop in I/O throughput and latency in high-vibration environments. To mitigate that unfortunate behavior, the company developed a standard 42U, 19-inch rack enclosure based on a carbon-fiber composite designed to dissipate vibration. The rack shelves contain anti-vibration modules, although not every shelf will require one (i.e. the power-supply shelf). When the hard drives are slid into the modules, the composite material acts as a dampener, and is able to reduce vibration up to 1000-fold compared to traditional metal racks.

Larry Gordon, Green Platform’s VP of market development, says you should be able to get at least a 15 percent performance boost if you use their vibration dampening racks. And according to him, that’s on the conservative side. Gordon says they’ve demonstrated more than a 50 percent IOPS increase in a SAN environment with their anti-vibration racks and standard Hitachi storage gear.

The ROI story is that you can avoid over provisioning disks to compensate for the lost performance due to vibration. That saves not only the upfront costs of buying the extra storage, but operational costs associated with power, cooling, maintenance and system administration, not to mention optimizing datacenter real estate. Although Green Platform doesn’t yet have the data to back it up, they also believe their anti-vibration solution will improve system reliability, especially for cheaper drives.

According to the company, an initially outlay of $21,600 for their vibration dampening gear (accommodating 10 3U shelves) can save nearly $150,000 over three years. Those numbers are based on a 1/3 SAS and 2/3 SATA hardware mix and storage needs that are growing at a 30 percent annual clip. That 7X payback is based on the aforementioned 50 percent IOPS, but even much more conservative performance numbers should yield a respectable ROI.

Even with those numbers in hand, the company had trouble convincing customers they had enough of a vibration problem in their own datacenter to warrant a solution. So Green Platform repositioned itself as a service company, offering a Vibration Management System (VMS), which they sell as a subscription.

In doing so, Green Platform has cast itself as a datacenter infrastructure management company. Over the last couple of decades, datacenters have become so large and inefficient that a whole industry of datacenter analyst firms have come into being. “We’re part of that category,” says Gordon. Green Platform is selling the idea that vibration, just like temperature, needs to be continuously monitored to run a datacenter efficiently.

In a nutshell, the company’s VMS service measures a datacenter’s vibration problem by outfitting the existing hardware with sensors, mediating the vibration with the Green Platform dampening racks, and then monitoring the vibration on a continuous basis as conditions in the datacenter evolve. The vibration sensors are attached to the storage chassis at various points, and with the help of a performance tool, the system will determine how much performance is being lost to vibration and how much can be recovered. The results are collected in Green Platform’s own cloud-based system where users can access it remotely via a dashboard.

The initial monitoring is done over months to exercise various workloads and situations. For example, cooling fans that need to continuously run because of temperature or workload stress can have a huge impact on the vibration. The idea is to pinpoint the source of problem so the anti-vibration racks can be deployed judiciously. As the datacenter infrastructure grows, monitoring will make sure vibration is dampened at the right place. Also, system administrators can use the knowledge to implement operational changes that minimizes vibration across the facility.

Green Platform’s VMS service runs $1,500 per rack/month, which includes the rack dampening hardware. To generate interest, the company will offer their monitoring system with existing metal racks at no charge. Their hope is that once the customer sees how much performance is being lost, the anti-vibration racks will seem like a no-brainer.

According to Gordon, they think there is a $1 billion opportunity in vibration management to be had. That’s based on the belief that there is a $5 billion “vibration penalty” that users are currently paying for unbeknownst to them. Basically, Green Platform is saying for every dollar you spend on their solution, you can save 5 dollars on storage hardware and operational costs.

Of course, one can solve the vibration problem completely by switching to solid state disks. But SSDs are not expected to replace hard disks anytime soon. According to iSuppli Research, SSD shipments hit just 7.2 million units in 2010 versus 662 million units of hard drives. Analysts there maintain SSDs will not threaten hard drive dominance within the next five years, mainly due to the greater expense of flash memory. “Customers still care about cost per bit,” says Gordon.

The next step for Green Platform is to collect some proof points to bolster its story, so the company is actively looking for beta customers to give their solution a whirl. In general, any application that relies on native hard drive performance (is not cache- or compression-friendly) should be a candidate. That includes essentially all Hadoop cluster applications, HPC simulations and analytics, any I/O bound application, video streaming, and most workloads that use server virtualization.  If you have such an application and think your storage is underperforming, the Green Platform solution might be worth a look.

Related Articles

Startup Takes Aim at Performance-Killing Vibration in Datacenter

GPC Announces Vibration Management System for Improving Storage Performance

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, perform Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of personalized treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup Read more…

By Warren Froelich

WCRP’s New Strategic Plan for Climate Research Highlights the Importance of HPC

July 19, 2018

As climate modeling increasingly leverages exascale computing and researchers warn of an impending computing gap in climate research, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) is developing its new Strategic Plan – and high-performance computing is slated to play a critical role. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Are Your Software Licenses Impeding Your Productivity?

In my previous article, Improving chip yield rates with cognitive manufacturing, I highlighted the costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing, and how cognitive methods can yield benefits in both design and manufacture.  Read more…

U.S. Exascale Computing Project Releases Software Technology Progress Report

July 19, 2018

As is often noted the race to exascale computing isn’t just about hardware. This week the U.S. Exascale Computing Project (ECP) released its latest Software Technology (ST) Capability Assessment Report detailing progress so far. Read more…

By John Russell

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of perso Read more…

By Warren Froelich

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

AI Thought Leaders on Capitol Hill

July 14, 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology heard from four academic and industry leaders – representatives from Berkeley Lab, Argonne Lab, GE Global Research and Carnegie Mellon University – on the opportunities springing from the intersection of machine learning and advanced-scale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the Information Age

July 12, 2018

In an age defined and transformed by its data, several large-scale scientific instruments around the globe might be viewed as a ‘mother lode’ of precious data. With names seemingly created for a ‘techno-speak’ glossary, these interferometers, cyclotrons, sequencers, solenoids, satellite altimeters, and cryo-electron microscopes are churning out data in previously unthinkable and seemingly incomprehensible quantities -- billions, trillions and quadrillions of bits and bytes of electro-magnetic code. Read more…

By Warren Froelich

Tsinghua Powers Through ISC18 Field

July 10, 2018

Tsinghua University topped all other competitors at the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition with an overall score of 88.43 out of 100. This gives Tsinghua their s Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE, EPFL Launch Blue Brain 5 Supercomputer

July 10, 2018

HPE and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausannne (EPFL) Blue Brain Project yesterday introduced Blue Brain 5, a new supercomputer built by HPE, which displ Read more…

By John Russell

Pumping New Life into HPC Clusters, the Case for Liquid Cooling

July 10, 2018

High Performance Computing (HPC) faces some daunting challenges in the coming years as traditional, industry-standard systems push the boundaries of data center Read more…

By Scott Tease

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This