This week I had an opportunity to sit down with Thomas Garvens, Executive Director of Server System Engineering, who had just returned from accepting CRN’s Tech Innovators Award for the Server Category at the NexTI event in Las Vegas.
SV: Last week you accepted CRN’s Tech Innovator Award for the R720xd server. What was your role in getting the R720xd to market?
TG: A few years back I led the Advanced Engineering team that drove the architecture for the product. Shortly after definition I was granted the responsibility to get it out the door. Additionally, my group is responsible for the Sustaining aspects of the R720xd. I guess you could say I’ve owned it from the cradle to – eventually – the grave.
SV: Tell me more about the R720xd.
TG: The R720xd is a new entrant into the PowerEdge portfolio — a mainstream class server that is highly optimized for internal direct attached storage.
Historically our PowerEdge portfolio had been designed to be general purpose. For the R720xd, we studied different workloads to determine what it would need to be optimized for all these different scenarios. We found a sweet spot where we could get that all in one product, so now it can be optimized for multiple use cases.
SV: Does that make it unique in the industry? Is that why we won the innovator award?
TG: We designed in more storage, I/O and memory capability. We see a movement in the industry away from SAN. Customers that are wanting to get performance and lower cost are moving toward direct attached and tiered flash storage. This product hits that sweet spot in terms of what customers are wanting. It’s incredibly flexible.
SV: Is there an ultimate end user case scenario for this? Or is that flexibility part of what makes it innovative – the fact that it can be used in so many different kinds of environments, for so many different purposes?
TG: Server virtualization drives a lot of RAM usage and I/O. We maximized Intel’s technology to support 24 DIMM slots and additionally providing up to 7 PCIe slots, so a lot of flexibility there. We also spent a lot of time understanding the client virtualization space. Similar needs to server virtualization, but they also need significantly more hard drive storage and the capability to support internal graphics co-processing units (GPGPU’s), which is also a first in the R720xd. We also focused on the HPC space. GPGPU’s are very important in this space as well, and we designed in significant thermal and power capability so those could be supported. We also focused on databases – probably the one place where storage tiering is finding a lot of value. Traditional database
– configurations purchased as much RAM as could be afforded, then used SAN for the bulk storage. Now what’s becoming very popular is direct attach HDD’s, flash and RAM tiered in the server as a performance optimized database platform. Additionally, Microsoft Exchange and Hadoop utilize a framework optimized for direct attached storage that scales out by adding additional servers. So a lot of extra hard drive spindles, a lot of RAM, and a lot of I/O slots provide optimization across multiple uses. The R720xd really pushes the limits of physics in terms of supporting all of these capabilities.
SV: Thanks for that wrap-up on the R720xd. Any takeaways from the conference itself that you would like to share?
TG: I thought the conference was great. It was the first time I’ve ever been immersed amongst the channel resellers. It was interesting seeing what’s on these guys’ minds and the value add they bring around the hardware, software, security, service and support. The awards were granted to large enterprise players. I was really glad to see that in the server space, CRN saw Dell as the overall winner. It wasn’t Hewlett-Packard, it wasn’t IBM, it wasn’t Cisco. To me, that’s a validation of what the R720xd team sought out to accomplish, and it’s a sign that Dell is moving forward as a solutions provider that’s focused on our customer’s needs.
SV: Excellent. Well, thanks for going to represent us, Tom, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
TG: You bet. Glad to have received the award for Dell. There were a lot of individuals involved in the R720xd’s success across Dell. I was proud to be a part of the team.