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Which came first, the hardware or the software?

Guest Post - May 17, 2016

Supermicro OpenStack Optimized Hardware Designs

With the emergence of every new software architecture, there typically emerges a corresponding new hardware architecture. There is a chicken and egg element to this emergence: did new hardware designs enable a new software model or vice versa? Does the web happen without open source Linux and Apache? Does open source Linux and Apache happen without general purpose X86 servers?

So the question becomes, does OpenStack and private cloud drive the emergence of new optimized hardware designs to support the value, scale, and efficiency that users are looking to achieve with their OpenStack Private Cloud deployments, or do those optimized designs make it possible for OpenStack and private cloud to emerge in the first place?

At the heart of the question is the concept of workload-optimized hardware, which enables you to squeeze that last bit of performance out of your system by focusing only on what matters at the time.  Supermicro, which saw 36% revenue growth in 2015 saw strong demand from two specific segments that highly value optimized hardware design: Hyper-converged Appliances and Internet Cloud Service providers.

Why appliances?

If you go out and look under the skin of many server and storage appliances on the market, chances are you will find Supermicro Systems inside.  Why?  One reason is Supermicro’s building block architecture that enables an appliance designer to virtually customize the hardware design to meet the specific requirements of the service/workload.  Need more power, leading edge NVMe technologies, smaller form factor, or more I/O?  The  massive portfolio of systems and configurations available from Supermicro enables that optimization of the system design to the software and application.  So the Appliance vendor is able to break the Chicken and Egg cycle of which came first the software or hardware to deliver an optimized solution.

Why cloud service providers?

Another place this kind of model works is at the macro level, with Internet cloud service providers. In this case, the efficiencies achieved by an optimized hardware design get multiplied by the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands for a cloud service provider deploying at scale. So does the fact that these systems can be build provide an opportunity for OpenStack to run these large Internet cloud service providers (and make no mistake, it does) or does the fact that OpenStack helps make it possible for these providers to exist increase the need for specialized hardware?

Looking closely at the situation

It's fine to discuss all of this in the abstract, of course, but at the end of the day, what if I am not an appliance or a massive cloud data center and am looking to deploy Openstack? In this case, one opportunity for workload optimized hardware design is the Supermicro Mirantis Unlocke­­­­­d Appliance for Cloud Native Applications. Leveraging the building block architecture developed for appliances, cloud service providers and the enterprise, Supermicro worked in close partnership with Mirantis engineering the develop an OpenStack optimized design for the appliance, tuning the architecture from a performance, density, and power efficiency perspective to deliver maximum value for deploying OpenStack private cloud.

So which came first? The software or the hardware?

And at the end of the day, as long as you're getting the solution you need, does it really matter?

Find out more about the Supermicro Mirantis Unlocke­­­­­d Appliance for Cloud Native Applications and about Supermicro at
Michael McNerney, General Manager Solution Enablement and Marketing, Supermicro Inc.
Michael McNerney has served in a number of strategic roles in development, strategy and marketing.  He currently is the General Manager for Solution Enablement and Marketing at Supermicro.  He is responsible for developing Supermicro’s Solution Business and Hyperconverged product offerings.   In this role, Mr. McNerney leverages 20+ years of experience in enterprise computing, extensive customer relationships and a network of architects, engineers and other thought leaders to deliver market leading products.  He is responsible for bringing new products to market and driving the ongoing business through product launches, pricing, benchmarking, training, web, social media, analyst/public relations etc.

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