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ScaleMP: Hypervisor on Steroids

You think you know all of the hypervisors? How about this one: I recently took a tour of the ScaleMP Versatile SMP (vSMP) hypervisor, which is interesting in that it's targeted to very high-performance workloads. The basic idea here is that commodity server equipment is aggregated together via a high-speed InfiniBand connection, either a switch or via a series of point-to-point connections. The vSMP hypervisor is targeted as a replacement for high-end compute environments in favor of replacing them with less expensive yet very powerful commodity servers. ScaleMP touts 60 to 80 percent cost savings over the supercomputer model with their vSMP hypervisor solution.

The vSMP hypervisor presents each local resource of the core technologies of a number of servers as an aggregated logical server. An example configuration would be 16 PowerEdge R710 servers, each configured with the new Intel Xeon 5500 (Nehalem) processors with two processors, 128 GB of RAM, 500 GB of disk space and four network interfaces. The vSMP hypervisor would aggregate those resources to provide a compute environment of 32 sockets (not even counting cores!), 2 TB of RAM, 8 TB of local disk and 64 network interfaces. This configuration would use an InfiniBand interface card connected to a switch as the interconnect mechanism. InfiniBand is still the most mainstream, high-bandwidth connection that is used in other technologies, such as virtualized I/O.

The local storage can be used, but the vSMP logical server can also connect to existing storage resources via fibre channel, NFS or iSCSI. It is interesting to point out that only a few of the servers would need to be connected to the SAN.

In the 16-host example, it may be a little overkill to have 16 mulitpath links to a SAN. This is because the InfiniBand backbone is a virtualized I/O channel for the logical server that can allow the logical server's connectivity to be right sized in all areas. Smaller solutions can be point-to-point in nature (see Fig. 1).

ScaleMP Hypervisor can provide point-to-point connections in smaller scenarios
Figure 1. The ScaleMP hypervisor connects commodity equipment via InfiniBand, shown point to point. (Click image to view larger version.)

vSMP can scale to an incredible amount of aggregated capacity for one 'logical' server. What in the world would you run on this? High-performance systems such as enterprise data warehouse, business intelligence or modeling applications often require this type of performance.

Currently, ScaleMP supports a limited amount of hardware and software. Primarily, it's Linux 2.6.11 kernels and higher, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5 and Novell SuSE Enterprise Linux 10/11. ScaleMP is working to expand the operating systems that can be run on this platform by adding operating systems on top of the vSMP platform that do provide support for other operating systems via additional abstraction. The current compatibility matrix is also somewhat limited on hardware, but that too is an area for growth for ScaleMP.

The vSMP platform's three offerings are: vSMP Foundation for SMP, to create a basic, high-performance logical server; vSMP Foundation for Cluster, to add robust management to the high performance; and vSMP Foundation for Cloud, to work as a dynamic provisioning model for a private cloud infrastructure.

After a look at this aggregated logical server, short of calling it grid virtualization or Oracle RAC à la virtualization; it is very cool for the highest performing workloads.

What do you think of these very large logical severs? Share your comments here.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 04/15/2010 at 12:47 PM


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