Preparing Organizations for an SDx World with Open Technology

By Phil Pokorny, Chief Technology Officer, Penguin Computing, High-Performance Computing (HPC) Representative to the Open Compute Project (OCP) Incubation Committee

November 26, 2018

Software defined everything (SDx) is changing information technology (IT), but organizations looking to gain the most value from SDx are only seeing half the equation. The idea behind SDx is that you can replace some costly, locked-in hardware-based functionality by pairing the hardware with reprogrammable software, increasing functionality while lowering cost and development times even as you increase the opportunities for innovation.

The trouble is, proprietary systems inherently prevent realization of the full SDx value proposition. Vendor lock-in restricts you to that particular vendor’s ecosystem rather than allowing you to choose from a wider, less expensive and often more innovative set of options. Open source technology, especially Open Compute Project (OCP) solutions, can help organizations remove this obstacle and increase their return on investment (ROI) today and prepare you for the inevitable shift to SDx.

OCP vendors share design specifications so that each can build efficient, interoperable infrastructure components or even full system, as is the case with vendors like Penguin Computing. This approach drives down costs while providing robust performance, as demonstrated by the recent SC18 Top500 rankings showing nine supercomputers from Penguin Computing built with components that are OCP Open Rack compatible (the Tundra® Extreme Scale platform) and that are running critical projects for the Department of Energy labs.

In fact, sales for OCP-based infrastructure exceeded $1.2 billion in 2017, excluding spending by OCP board members Facebook, Intel, Rackspace, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs, according to industry research firm IHS Markit.

There are some differences between OCP and traditional designs. Usable width is larger (21 inches vs 17 inches in a “19 inch” EIA rack) so you can put more high-value technology into each rack unit. Complex rails are replaced with simple shelves. Power is provided by a common power source dramatically reducing the number of power supplies, eliminating power distribution units (PDUs) and power cords as opportunities for failure. As a result, node costs are 15-20% less and reliability is improved compared to 19-inch servers. Service is from the front, enabling field replaceable systems, making maintenance simpler and less costly.

There are also thousands of supported and tested open operating systems, software stacks, networking stacks and other software to choose from, which all cost less than proprietary software. The design specifications give you the flexibility of using different hardware technologies, such as X86, ARM, storage, and, of course SDx.

OCP includes the entire ecosystem of infrastructure technologies, including data center, high-performance computing (HPC), and artificial intelligence (AI) components. Combined with standardization and modularity, you can configure systems for whatever you need. You can even integrate graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerators in the servers, paving the way for future, heterogeneous environments.

This also means you no longer have to replace the whole system based on the lifecycle of the shortest-lived component. Instead, you replace or upgrade the modular components and keep your investment in the overall system.

Some people have concerns about security, but OCP-based systems are no more or less vulnerable to attack than other computing systems. Your security needs are no different than in a 19-inch environment, like using specific encryption on data, and properly restricting networking and access to your systems. And you have the benefit of more security experts examining and improving the solutions you deploy.

In short, there are many reasons to choose open technologies, especially OCP. Next time your organization is considering an infrastructure change, take a moment to see how OCP can help you gain greater ROI and maybe even leapfrog your competition.

Learn more about the value of OCP-based technology at www.penguincomputing.com/tundra

 

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