Supercomputing infrastructure to support GoPC Rainmaker cloud

My team has just completed an 18 month project to upgrade the infrastructure hosting GoPC. The proof of the pudding was this weekend when we executed a major upgrade to the Zimbra email system. We had been expecting an outage of 2-3 days potentially to process the many millions of files in the system. Physical hardware is always the limitation.

The team has built a customised infrastructure based on several new cutting edge technologies. I was introducted to Infiniband through the iVEC supercomputing facility and wondered whether this might work for us. It runs at 40 Gigabit and has much more efficient switching than Ethernet. To put this in perspective each server cable is now equivalent to 40 Ethernet cables in the old system and we have installed two cables into each storage array.

We then starting experimenting with Ceph, a new cutting edge technology which is a distributed object store and file system designed to provide excellent performance, reliability and scalability. It supports petabyte and even exabyte scale. The team introduced banks of ultra-fast Solid State Disks to the storage arrays and put large RAM disks in front of these. There were initially a lot of issues with stability but some weeks later the system was tuned. The new SSD’s are 10x faster than the previous generation we implemented last upgrade.

The system now really flys. On one benchmarket test, not intended to be representative of a real world situation, we clocked 270,000 input/output operations per second sustained over 8 hours. It is ideally tuned for database transaction processing.

The Zimbra upgrade process was the acid test. The first process which took over 12 hours last weekend on the old infrastructure took just 15 minutes, (45x faster). We then processed the remainder of the upgrade across all mailstores and instead of taking 2-3 days it was completed in under 3 hours.

I’m hugely relieved, impressed and energised. My team, led by Chris, is absolutely first class and I rate him as a genius.

So the constraints which have been holding us back are now gone. We are running at full speed and readying to release the new GoPC Rainmaker project in the next few weeks. Rainmaker is a total new innovation in the way cloud computing can be done. We will be the first to market with this new approach to cloud computing. More to be said about that next time.

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