Rack Scale Coming of Age in 2018?

Data Center Maintenance


Chris Adams February 27, 2018

The idea behind Rack Scale Design is to free data center administrators to scale and control their assets not as servers and storage components, but as full racks of resources and even pools of several racks, or pods.

Rack Scale Design (RSD), pushed by Intel, isn’t new. In fact, the first international workshop on the topic appeared back in 2014. And the Ericsson Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000, the first commercial implementation, dates back to 2016. But it seems 2018 may be the year RSD finally gains traction.

Why RSD? Why Now?

The idea behind RSD is to free data center administrators to scale and control their assets not as servers and storage components, but as full racks of resources and even pools of several racks, or pods. This promises to add substantial efficiency and automation, just in time for the 5G roll-out, Big Data advancements, and other demands coming at teleservices carriers, cloud services providers (CSPs), and business enterprises.

The folks over at Cloud Foundry are among the RSD believers. First of all, they cite the various OEM products now available. The Ericsson system was a start, a set of highly standardized x86 servers inside a specialized rack with shared Ethernet switching and power/cooling. Firmware layers allow administration of the rack for asset discovery and management of switches, server nodes, storage, and more, with open APIs providing control. But now there are a variety of options on the market, including the Dell EMC DSS 9000, the HPE Cloudline, and the FusionServerE9000 and X6800.

And there is evidence of adoption. CenturyLink, for example, is using the DSS 9000 to offer build-to-order public and private cloud infrastructure for customers.

To spur greater uptake, Intel has been opening resource centers for customers to test rack scale systems, and Dell EMC has the DSS 9000 up for evaluation in its Amsterdam Solution Center. Supermicro in San Jose also permits test drives, and more labs are expected to open soon.

New RSD Version and New Capabilities

Perhaps as important as the current product ecosystem are the signs of rapid progress in RSD. Intel’s next version is anticipated, and the company is also expected to release reference code for using NVMe (non-volatile memory express) over Fabrics. NVMeOF will enable fast, easy pooled storage across multiple racks, as Intel and Supermicro demonstrated at a conference in December.

In other news, Canonical, an Ubuntu provider, has integrated Intel RSD APIs into MaaS, Juju, and OpenStack distribution, while Red Hat will support Redfish APIs in OpenStack 12. And demonstrations at 2017 KubeCon showed how to use Intel RSD with container environments like the SUSE CaaS Platform.

With all these pieces coming together, even skeptics are starting to open their minds to RSD, meaning 2018 could be the time to look seriously at the hardware solutions coming off the line, as well as the new technologies just around the corner.

About the Author

Chris Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer
As President and CEO, he works side-by-side with other key leaders throughout the company managing day-to-day operations of Park Place. His key objectives include streamlining work processes and ensuring that all business initiatives and objectives are in sync. Chris focuses on key growth strategies and initiatives to improve profitability for Park Place, and is responsible for European and Asia-Pacific sales and service operations.