Dell Unveils PowerEdge C8000 Shared Infrastructure Solution

The offering, aimed at hyperscale computing environments, leverages work Dell is doing in deploying a supercomputer in Texas.

Dell officials are leveraging a supercomputer being built at the University of Texas at Austin to offer organizations with hyperscale data centers highly flexible and configurable servers that offer a range of power and storage options.

Dell on Sept. 19 unveiled the PowerEdge C8000 series, a 4U (7-inch) share solution that will enable users to mix and match the Intel chips in the systems with a range of graphics coprocessors and storage options. In addition, the shared cooling, power, storage and compute resources will help businesses create more efficient solutions and drive down power, cooling and space costs.

The PowerEdge C8000 series is aimed at such environments as high-performance computing (HPC), big data processing and Web 2.0 hosting, where performance, power efficiency and density are key, according to Dell officials. The shared infrastructure offering will enables businesses to save on space, power and overall ownership costs, according to Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of Dell's Server Solutions unit.

"Today, based on those customer needs, we are introducing a shared infrastructure solution that provides unprecedented flexibility, performance and efficiency for hyperscale environments," Norrod said in a statement.

Dell's PowerEdge C8000 servers are at the core of a 10-petaflop supercomputer being installed at the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). The system, dubbed "Stampede," is being built in partnership with Dell and Intel, using several thousand Dell servers powered by Intel's eight-core Xeon E5-2600 chips and leveraging Intel's x86-based Xeon Phi "Knights Corner" coprocessors. It also will use graphics technology from Nvidia.

The Stampede supercomputer is expected to be fully operational early in 2013.

Dell is using the same design principles in its C8000 offerings. The shared infrastructure chassis can hold up to eight single-wide sleds or four double-wide sleds, with each compute sled offering compute, memory, network interface, baseboard management controller and local hard-drive storage, according to Dell. Users can mix and match these sleds in the C8000 chassis based on their needs.

The C8220 sled is designed to put a lot of compute power in a dense space, with up to eight C8220 nodes fitting into the chassis and offering up to 16 processors in the 4U space. The C8220X sled ups the performance and density for computing and memory, and also enables the use of GPUs or other accelerators. The sled is designed to enable organizations to run multiple workloads in a single chassis.

The C8000XD storage sled offers up to 1.4 times more local storage in a 4U space than competing solutions, and is aimed at such environments as HPC, Hadoop and hosting, Dell officials said.

The PowerEdge C8000 solution initially will offer Tesla M2090 GPUs, Geoff Ballew, senior manager of GPU computing for Nvidia, said in a Sept. 19 blog post. Later, it will also support the upcoming Tesla K20 GPUs based on the company's Kepler architecture.

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, said the C8000 only extends Dell's lead in the small but growing hyperscale computing space, noting the work of the company's Dell Solutions Group, which builds systems for such markets. King also pointed out that the system can leverage fresh-air cooling, which means they can be used without having to upgrade the facility's cooling systems and can be used in Dell's Modular Data Center infrastructures, which also could make them more attractive to midsize companies as well.

"So how big a deal is Dell's C8000 Series?" he asked in a research note Sept. 19. "Some will suggest that that the small size of the hyperscale market (at least compared to overall server opportunities) automatically makes any effort small potatoes. That may be true in today's dollars, but makes little sense looking ahead. Several of the use cases for the CS8000 Series-hosting, Web 2.0 and big data, in particular-are growing rapidly, and interest in commercial HPC and scientific computing applications is also robust."

Dell's decision in 2007 to jump into the hyperscale solutions business now "looks prescient to the extreme," King said.

The PowerEdge C8000 solution will be available this month.