Story image

Intel finds cost savings in modular servers

09 Mar 18

Intel Fellow and IT chief technical officer Shesha Krishnapura found a way to save money and reduce waste by creating a modular server design that allows critical components to be upgraded easily.

How he’d describe his job to a 10-year-old

“My job at Intel is to build massive labs called data centers, which hold more than 200,000 interconnected computers, to aid more than 50,000 engineers to design and develop not only the world’s most powerful computer chips, but also software tools that help build smart and connected devices.”

The light-bulb moment

Staying on top of Intel’s insatiable, growing (up to 40% a year) demand for data center power and high-performance tools while carefully minding costs is the challenge Shesha and his team face.

They’ve responded by building one of the most energy-efficient data centers on the planet in the shell of an old Santa Clara microprocessor factory.

It is cooled only by fans, passive radiators and recirculating grey water — with space for future growth.

But frequent server upgrades had an unfortunate side effect, as Shesha saw it: “All these perfectly good power supplies, fans, cables, chassis and drives are sent to recycling. It’s really painful.”

Though hardware design is not a typical service offered by an IT shop, Shesha had an idea: make upgrading a server more like replacing a light bulb.

Cutting the blade

The industry-common “blade” server design helps reduce some of that upgrade waste, allowing the processor, memory and storage to be replaced independently from longer-life components.

Shesha wanted to take that modularity another big step: split the motherboard in two and separate the processor and memory from the much slower-evolving input-output parts.

He whiteboarded the design, earned support among Intel technical leaders and connected with a manufacturer.

From the first meeting to actually installing the first machines in the data center took a mere 5 weeks — and the reorganised motherboard added only $8 to the cost.

Trading 8 bucks for big-time savings

As a result of all this, Shesha estimates that a $10 million server upgrade would now cost only $5.6 million — 44% less — and save 77% in technician time versus a full “rip and replace” upgrade.

In Santa Clara, some 70,000 of these new machines now fill an entire towering row.

The “disaggregated server,” as he calls it, allows data center managers like himself “to invest in emerging technology without wasting money on replacing technology that is not evolving.”

‘I’m extremely frugal’

Shesha isn’t coy about what inspired him to take this path.

“I’m extremely frugal,” he confirms with a laugh.

“In my personal life, I have always used things for their full useful life, and extend, where possible, with minimal maintenance, whether it is household appliances or automobiles.

“Then the question came to my mind: how to extend selectively what we invest in data center IT equipment in a way that is both financially rewarding and environmentally responsible?

“That was the motivation for disaggregated server design.”

Frugality pays off in many ways — Shesha’s project team earned the Intel Achievement Award, the company’s highest honor, for bringing the disaggregated server to life.

QNAP introduces new 10GbE and Thunderbolt 3 NAS series
The new series is supposedly an all-in-one NAS solution for file storage, backup, sharing, synchronisation and centralised management. 
Tensions on the rise after Huawei CFO arrest
“Recently our corporate CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was provisionally detained by the Canadian authorities on behalf of the United States of America."
CyrusOne investing in new Amsterdam data centre
CyrusOne is continuing its rapid and relentless investment into Europe, with news emerging of a new facility in the Netherlands.
HPE to supply tech to Formula E racing team
“At HPE, we believe the future belongs to the fast, and we’re focused on accelerating what’s next for enterprises, including in the world of auto racing."
Why the future of IT infrastructure is always on and always available
As more organisations embrace digital business, infrastructure and operations leaders will need to evolve their strategies and skills to keep up.
Digital transformation in Europe a €333b business
IDC has shared its forecast for digital transformation spending in Europe, which looks to be a very profitable industry.
Is the on-premises data centre really going to ‘die’?
Gartner certainly thinks so, as it expects the sheer majority of enterprises to have binned their on-premises facility by 2025.
HPE announces financial results for the fourth quarter of 2018
“As we close my first fiscal year as CEO, I am incredibly proud of where we stand in the marketplace."