Until now, the method most people used to minimize the amount of data on internalstorage was to use disk-less servers with Boot-Over-SAN, however, not all operating systems, and not all disk systems, supported this.
In April, the BladeCenter HS21 XM blade server introduced the option to have oneIBM 4GB Flash Memory Device that used the USB2.0 protocol. The 4GB drive can be usedto boot 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)), but not Windows. Linux is incredibly small operating system. You can bootversions from a USB key/thumbdrive (64MB) or CD (700MB) image, so it makes sense that a 4GB flash drive based on USB protocol was a good fit for Linux.
Windows, however, is not supported, because of the small 4GB size and USB protocol limitations. For Windows, you would add a SAS drive, you boot from this hard drive, and use the 4GB Flash drive for data only.
So what's new this time? Here's a quick recap of July 17 announcement. For the IBM BladeCenter HS21 XM blade servers, new models of internal "disk" storage:
- Single drive model
A single 15.8GB solid-state disk drive, based on SATA protocol. In addition to theLinux operating systems mentioned above, the capacity and SATA protocols allowsyou to boot 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 2003 Server R2, with plans in placeto other platforms in the future, such as VMware. I am able to run my laptop Windows with only 15GB of C: drive, separating my data to a separate D: partition, so this appears to be a reasonable size.
- Dual drive model
The dual drive fits in the space of a single 2.5-inch HDD drive bay.You can combine these in either RAID 0 or RAID 1 mode.
- RAID 0 gives you a total of 31.6GB, but is riskier. If you lose either drive,you lose all your data. Michael Horowitz of Cnet covers the risks of RAID zerohere andhere.However, if you are just storing your operating system and application, easily re-loadable from CD or DVD in the case of loss, then perhaps that is a reasonable risk/benefit trade-off.
- RAID 1 keeps the capacity at 15.8GB, but provides added protection. If you loseeither drive, the server keeps running on the surviving drive, allowing you to schedule repair actions when convenient and appropriate. This would be the configuration I would recommend for most applications.
Until recently, solid state storage was available at a price premium only. Flash prices have dropped 50% annually while capacities have doubled. This trend is expected to continue through 2009.
According to recent studies from Google and Carnegie Mellon, hard drives fail more oftenthan expected. By one account, conventional hard disk drives internal to the server account for as much as 20-50% of component replacements.IBM analysis indicates that the replacement rate of a solid state drive on a typical blade server configuration is only about 1% per year, vs. 3% or more mentionedin the these studies for traditional disk drives.
Flash drives use non-volatile memory instead of moving parts, so less likely to break down during high external environmental stress conditions, like vibration and shock, or extreme temperature ranges (-0C° to +70°C) that would make traditional hard disks prone to failure.This is especially important for our telecommunications clients, who are always looking for solutions that are NEBS Level 3 compliant.
Last year, I mentioned that flash drives could provide only a limited number of write and erase cycles, but today's new advances in wear-leveling algorithms have nearly eliminated this limitation.
As with any SATA drive, performance depends on workload.Solid state drives perform best as OS boot devices, taking only a few secondslonger to boot an OS than from a traditional 73GB SAS drive. Flash drives also excel in applications featuring random read workloads, such as web servers. For random and sequential write workloads, use SAS drives instead for higher levels of performance.
Part of IBM's Project Big Green, these flash drives are very energy efficient. Thanks to sophisticated power management software, the power requirement of the solid state drive can be 95 percent better than that of a traditional 73GB hard disk drive. These 15.8GB drives use only 2W per drive versus as much as 10W per 2.5” hard drive and 16W per 3.5” hard drive. The resulting power savings can be up to 1,512 watts per server rack, with 50% heat reduction.
So, even though this is not part of the System Storage product line, I am very excitedfor IBM. To find out if this will work in your environment, go to the IBM Server Provenwebsite that lists compatability with hardware, applications and middleware, or review the latest Configuration and Options Guide (COG).
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