Pivot3 combines server, storage virtualization

By Kevin Komiega

-- Pivot3 is hoping to break out of its niche role as a storage provider for the digital video surveillance market with the debut of a new platform for the masses that runs both server virtualization and storage virtualization on one massive IP storage cluster.

The new system, offered under the umbrella term Pivot3 Serverless Computing, combines the company's x86-based RAIGE (RAID Across Independent Gigabit Ethernet) Storage Cluster and the open-source version of the Xen hypervisor.

Pivot3's clustered architecture is based on independent nodes, or "Cloudbanks," which are built using standard x86 servers and disk drives and are connected via Gigabit Ethernet. Each node adds processing power, cache, and network ports, contributing to the overall performance. In their current form, the nodes contain 12 SATA drives for a raw capacity of up to 12TB per node.

The Xen hypervisor provides server virtualization for x86, x86_64, IA64, PowerPC, and other CPU architectures and supports a range of guest operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Solaris, and various versions of BSD. The Xen hypervisor is inserted between the server's hardware and the operating system, providing an abstraction layer that allows each physical server to run one or more virtual servers.

Pivot3's Serverless Computing concept is simply this: Take servers out of the equation by consolidating everything onto the storage platform.

"The approach that we have applies server consolidation to areas that have not been a good fit for server virtualization," says Lee Caswell, Pivot3's chief marketing officer. "Applications that consume a lot of x86 resources and a lot of bandwidth would not typically be candidates for consolidation, but we can take CPU-intensive servers with I/O-intensive applications because our array has so much headroom. It makes sense to encapsulate and virtualize those servers on our array."

Some industry experts believe so-called Serverless Computing represents a new class of emerging technologies designed for server I/O-intensive workloads.

Jeff Boles, senior analyst and director of validation services with the Taneja Group research and consulting firm, says layering server virtualization on top of high-performance, highly available, x86-based storage controllers allows organizations to harness huge quantities of I/O without complex fabrics or complex management.

"The Pivot3 infrastructure delivers a new level of consolidation that will reduce power, cooling, and space requirements when compared to traditional infrastructures," says Boles. "For the right applications needing highly available access to high-bandwidth storage, Pivot3's Serverless Computing may be a game-changing innovation."

Pivot3's Serverless Computing platform is expected to ship in September. Cloudbanks are priced from approximately $18,000 per node.

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This article was originally published on August 07, 2008