Dell shows off Intel’s Rack Scale Architecture with RSA-Ready ‘G5’ Rack at IDF

Ed. Note: This blog was authored by Stephen Rousset, Distinguished Engineer, Data Center Solutions

The industry shift towards software-defined-everything is well underway, and along with it hardware vendors are placing bets as to what the infrastructure of the future will look like. Will hyper-converged engineered appliances take over or will a fully disaggregated, rack-scale model reign supreme? Or might the answer be “both”? Whatever the future holds, Dell is developing systems to support the full spectrum of our customers’ needs.

At one far end of the spectrum hyperscale computing giants (Amazon, Goog…err…Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft) have recognized the TCO benefits of rack-scale solutions and have begun to implement them. Most visibly, Facebook has taken this concept and is attempting to open-source it via the Open Compute Project (OCP). OCP, in turn, has attracted the interests of telecommunications, cloud service providers and other forward-thinking enterprise accounts hoping to borrow from Facebook’s success. The only problem is <insert brakes slamming, tires screeching here> it doesn’t work for everyone. What works for Facebook or Microsoft might not be appropriate for the next guy. So what’s a budget-minded CTO at a rapidly growing business to do?

This week at Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2015, Dell is offering a glimpse into one potential future answer – Dell’s rack-scale DCS ‘G5’ hardware solution implementing Intel’s “Rack Scale Architecture” (Intel RSA) software and API solution. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, if implemented correctly RSA promises a future of fully disaggregated hardware – whereby a customer can independently upgrade their compute, storage or networking capabilities – coupled with an open-source software layer that will let companies of any size stand up, manage and orchestrate cloud infrastructure just like the big guys. For starters, Intel RSA adds management extensions to the Redfish 1.0 specification that will allow administrators to manage ALL of their compute, storage and networking through a single common “southbound” API – whether those systems come from Dell or another vendor. Next, RSA promises a single, common “northbound” API that will let customers manage ALL of their workloads, whether that’s done via Microsoft, VMware, OpenStack, or their own custom orchestration platform.

When all the pieces come together a customer will be able to purchase an RSA-ready rack of hardware, which the RSA software will catalog and make available as a “pool” of compute, storage and networking to the orchestration layer. The orchestration layer, in turn, will “compose” a system cores, memory, storage and network I/O that is optimized for the workload. When that workload finishes those resources can be returned to the “pool” and re-composed for the next workload. The centerpiece of all this management is something Intel calls a “Pod Manager”, which can manage resources across a large number of racks. Those racks will consist of “drawers” (what we would call “blocks” in ‘G5’) of resources – computing cores, high-speed memory, disk, etc. Have enough compute power but need more storage? Add a new storage block. Pod Manager will recognize it and add it to the pool. Need just a small amount of GPU acceleration? Add a block. The goal is to buy only what you need, optimally compose systems for your workload, and refresh only what needs upgrading – a true software defined data center.

If this all sounds a bit like the Holy Grail of computing, well, you’re right. And the technology doesn’t all exist today, but it’s coming. What does exist today is the Dell DCS ‘G5’ rack-scale solution which is organized to meet the rack->drawer hierarchy that RSA requires. And we’ll be demonstrating an early release of RSA on ‘G5’ in our booth (#372) in the Data Center & Software Defined Infrastructure Community pavilion at IDF. RSA version 1.0 is scheduled to be released sometime in early 2016 and we’re working to make it available on ‘G5’ then as well. So if you’re attending IDF and want to come see a glimpse of the future, please stop by and say hello.

Sarah Vela

About the Author: Sarah Vela

Sarah is the Chief Blog Strategist for Dell Technologies. Born in New York and raised in New England, she has been living and working in the Austin area for over 20 years, but she knows that doesn't make her a true Texan. She joined Dell in the spring of 2011, left briefly for another company, but realized her mistake and returned in November of 2019. Sarah has five kids, two dogs, two cats, and no free time.