I'm excited about our server room blogs as a way for us to get feedback from you quickly. Would love to get your comments on a technology concept demo we did over the last 6 months.

 

I have been looking at the Internet video phenomenon over the last year. One interesting usage model is making most of what we see on TV today into video on-demand (wiki has a good description http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_on_demand) either as over the web (e.g. Google YouTube) or provided by a service provider via IPTV (e.g. AT&T Uverse). As Intel, we of course want to understand how we can optimize the on-demand video workload on Intel server technology.

 

 

On-demand video deployments today are engineered largely around three resources:

Server: typically a 2 socket, dual core processors per socket, 8G DRAM, rack mount server (workload is writing new videos to disk, reading requested videos from disk, formatting the video packets, transmitting video to client)

WAN: using GE ports, some configurations pushing to exceed 10GE

Storage: as a JBOD, in the past SCSI, moving to SAS and SATA Hard Disk Drives (HDDs)

Understanding this, we challenged ourselves to create a next generation configuration using our leading technology.

 

 

Here's what we ended up with:

Server: Fit into a 2U form factor with an integrated JBOD (http://www.intel.com/design/servers/storage/ssr212mc2/)

WAN: Replace GE with the Intel Dual 10GE NIC, target to achieve 20Gbps throughput (http://www.intel.com/network/connectivity/products/10GbE_XF_SR_server_adapter.htm)

Storage: Replace HDDs in the JBOD with prototypes of the Intel enterprise solid state disk drives (SSD)

 

We worked with Kasenna (http://www.kasenna.com/) to pull the technology together into a prototype demonstration. Actually, they did most of the work as experts in doing high throughput on demand video streaming. Kasenna in the test achieved about 16Gb/s streaming throughput. In IPTV terms, approximately 4000 simultaneous standard definition (3.75Mb/s MPEG2) streams. The demonstration largely focused on the HDD versus SSD engineering.

 

If you're not familiar with SSD technology, wiki has a good overview (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_state_drive). Intel also discussed our NAND based solid state drive technology at fall IDF (http://www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/events/idffall_2007/webcasts.htm). Pat Gelsinger introduces the technology about 40 minutes into his Tick-Tock - Powerful, Efficient, and Predictable presentation. Knut Grimsrud gives a good overview of the NAND technology in his Challenges and Opportunities for Non-Volatile Memory in Platforms presentation.

 

 

I won't post the gory details of the configurations today. If you're interested, send me email. Simple net, it took approximately 60 15K RPM HDDs to achieve the same throughput as 12 Intel prototype SSDs. Two major takeaways:

1. Intel solid state drives look to be ideal for high throughput workloads like on-demand video that require random access from disk. Kasenna achieved about 5 times the throughput on each solid state disk drive over the hard disk drives.

2. In this case, the Intel SSD configuration lowered the peak power for the configurations (disks, server, NICs, memory) to about 1/3 of the HDD configuration.

 

 

The demo also raised a number of other thoughts on whether the higher performance of the SSDs could reduce the amount of memory required in the server. No conclusions on this yet.

 

 

This was my first step in understanding the advantage of solid state drive technology for a server application. My conclusion, Intel NAND based solid state drive technology looks to be a promising technology for achieving higher throughput and lower power when compared to a hard disk. I'll be posting more examples in the future on where SSDs looked to be a good fit for applications. I would be interested in hearing your feedback on this concept demo and about server applications where you see SSDs as having high value.