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!

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

UCSD Web-based Tool Tracking CA Wildfires Generates 1.5M Views

October 16, 2017

Tracking the wildfires raging in northern CA is an unpleasant but necessary part of guiding efforts to fight the fires and safely evacuate affected residents. One such tool – Firemap – is a web-based tool developed b Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Exascale Imperative: New Movie from HPE Makes a Compelling Case

October 13, 2017

Why is pursuing exascale computing so important? In a new video – Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Eighteen Zeros – four HPE executives, a prominent national lab HPC researcher, and HPCwire managing editor Tiffany Trader Read more…

By John Russell

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

OLCF’s 200 Petaflops Summit Machine Still Slated for 2018 Start-up

October 3, 2017

The Department of Energy’s planned 200 petaflops Summit computer, which is currently being installed at Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, is on track t Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Program – Some Additional Clarity

September 28, 2017

The last time we left the Department of Energy’s exascale computing program in July, things were looking very positive. Both the U.S. House and Senate had pas Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This