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This Guy Gets It

Dan Shipley is a guy who knows how to get the most out of an IT department. As a data center architect at Supplies Network, a half-billion-dollar wholesale supplier of computer supplies based in St. Louis, he is overseeing a data center refresh that is heavy on virtualization and cloud computing. He is also going to productize and sell the process knowledge he develops during this refresh toward the goal of turning his 20-person (and growing) IT department into a revenue-earning business that treats internal and external customers as if they were dealing with a dedicated consulting firm.

Before joining Supplies Network a year ago, Dan had worked for three previous companies who hired him to build out their virtual infrastructures working predominantly in VMware environments. At those firms, he started virtualizing servers and moved on to applications and desktops.

"I treat our IT department as though it is a consulting business," he says, adding "Even though we are a wholly owned inhouse IT department, we provide the kinds of best practices you would expect from an external provider. We measure the consumption of services and charge back to both internal and external customers."

Dan is a big InfiniBand fan because of its performance, security and Quality of Service (QOS) features, which he feels sets it apart from other fabrics such as Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Specifically, he says that InfinBand's reliance on the RDMA protocol enables servers to exchange large amounts of data without CPU intervention. [Editor's note: This sentence was corrected.]

He looked at FCoE during a nine-month evaluation period, but had doubts about its performance, long-term costs and immature standards. He says Xsigo virtual I/O offers up to four times the performance of FCoE at a lower cost and in a fully-open environment that eliminates vendor lock-in. He goes on to note that Xsigo's InfiniBand fabric can scale beyond 2,000 nodes and provides performance of up to 40Gb/s per link.

Moving from internal to external considerations, Dan says that developing a cloud platform for Supplies Network required a flexible interconnect strategy that enabled data center resources to be linked when there was a need to meet application demands, but isolated as needed to support data security demands. His cloud platform includes ESX server clusters based on HP rack mount Nehalem servers with 48 gigs of RAM each. He says he will run out of server power before he runs out of bandwidth.

One thing he won't run out of is good management ideas that make his IT department look good.

Question: Would InfiniBand make your virtualization infrastructure better?

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 07/28/2010 at 12:48 PM


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