Intel Brings Dual Quad-Core To Storage And Server Builders

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The company's new Intel Storage Server SSR212MC2, code-named "Makay Creek," is a 2U rack-mount enclosure powered by one or two quad-core Intel Xeon 5300 processors, with room for up to 12 SAS or SATA hard drives and up to 32 Gbytes of memory. It includes four 1-Gbps Ethernet ports, and can be configured for 10-Gbit Ethernet, Fibre Channel or InfiniBand via add-on cards.

As such, it is the first time Intel has introduced a quad-core processor-based storage server, said Seth Babroff, director of storage marketing for the company. It offers up to 2.5 times the performance of the company's Compass Creek storage enclosure, which it introduced about a year ago.

The enclosure can be used with a variety of operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows Storage Server and Unified Data Storage Server. Three ISVs have also developed software for the SSR212MC2: virtual tape library (VTL) software from Melville, N.Y.-based FalconStor, and Linux-based storage operating systems from Munich-based Open-E and Norfolk, Va.-based Wasabi Systems.

The Open-E and Wasabi storage operating systems are automatically installed in the SSR212MC2 when it is booted up via a disk-on-module (DOM) device.

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Krzysztof Franek, CEO and president of Open-E, said his company's software turns the SSR212MC2 into a direct-attach, NAS or iSCSI SAN appliance -- or any combination -- and is expected to be available with Fibre Channel SAN capabilities in the near future. The software was modified to support Intel's I/O Acceleration Technology, the SSR212MC2's enclosure management features, Intel's multicore architecture and iSCSI Boot.

Intel put a great deal of thought behind the SSR212MC2, said Dennis Levenson, product marketing manager for Intel products at San Jose, Calif.-based Bell Microproducts, which builds custom servers for other solution providers.

In addition to the 12 hard drives that can be used for storage, Intel also provides a separate cage for two additional hard drives that can be used for a boot drive and its mirror, freeing up the other drives for data, Levenson said.

In addition, thanks to software from Wasabi, which Bell uses in some of its custom storage systems, the SSR212MC2 allows tiered storage between a mixture of SATA drives for low-cost and SAS drives for reliability and performance all within the same box, Levenson said.

The dual quad-core architecture allows the SSR212MC2 to operate as both a server and storage device at the same time, a task most storage appliances would not be able to handle, Levenson said.

"The typical NAS box has low-end CPUs," he said. "You can't make it into a server or part of a high-performance cluster. This one, you can. You put in a couple of quad-cores, and you get a really high-end solution."

James Huang, product marketing specialist at Amax Information Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, said the SSR212MC2 looks to be a promising offering to the custom server and storage community, in part because of the service for which Intel is known.

"A lot of companies are buying 2U, 12-bay to 16-bay products," Huang said. "The storage market is booming. The fact that Intel is releasing this will generate a lot of interest."

Scott Peiffer, director of storage marketing at Intel, said he expects the SSR212MC2 to be used as a server with a large internal storage capacity as much as a storage device. "It will be good for applications like Oracle or Exchange, or any application with a need for a lot of direct-attach storage," he said.

The SSR212MC2 is available in two versions, one with a hardware RAID card and one with software RAID. One system builder close to Intel expressed surprise that the vendor would even consider selling software RAID with such a device. "Who would want software RAID on up to 12 Tbytes of data?" the solution provider asked.

The SSR212MC2 is expected to start shipping to Intel's system builder and distribution partners by the end of this month, with systems in customers' hands by May, Peiffer said. List price with no RAID controller and no hard drives is $2,800, or $3,600 with a RAID controller.