Electronic Design

2008 Was A Year Of Plenty For Processing And Storage

The economy may not be growing, but processing power and storage continue to climb. For example, the lab got a little crowded with the arrival of Intel’s software development platform (see the figure). Inside this massive rack-mount system are four of Intel’s latest hex-core Xeon “Dunnington” processors. That’s 24 high-performance cores in one box. Its care and feeding includes a RAID array of eight 2.5-in. SAS drives.

To the server crowd, this is going to be the norm soon, as it highlights the move to massive core and disk counts. Also, it makes an ideal platform for running applications based on Intel’s Thread Building Block technology (see “Threads Make The Move To Open Source” at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 16538).


The move to 2.5-in. drives has had a significant impact on the design flexibility of servers, allowing RAID-5 systems on 1U platforms. Supermicro’s SC216-R900 packs 24 SAS/SATA 2.5-in. drives into a 2U chassis. The chassis is mostly airspace, though. The limiting factor is access to the drives since hotswapping is a requirement.

The rise in capacity is impacting even small platforms like D-Link’s DNS-321 Network Storage Enclosure. I only had to pop up the front panel and slide in a pair of 3.5-in., 1.5-Tbyte Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA-II drives. That’s 3 Tbytes in something smaller than a breadbox.

These devices make a great home for small-business file servers, but they can also be media servers. The DNS-321 shows up as a Digital Living Network Association (DLNA) media server suitable for streaming audio and video files.

These storage platforms are likely to get smaller now that Fujitsu’s MJA2 SATA II hard drive is online. It packs 500 Gbytes into a single 2.5-in. drive. While these smaller drives are destined for laptops, they also give Buffalo Technology’s LinkStation Mini its 1-TByte capacity.


There are several differences between the DNS-321 and the LinkStation Mini, but the biggest is that the latter is fanless. This may seem minor, but it will have an impact in home theater technology, where silence is golden—at least when it comes to the equipment.

This leads to another observation about the need to split content distribution, storage, and delivery. Outfits like Vudu and Apple have Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) boxes that deliver HD movie content via the Internet, but they are self contained. Being a single box does make them easier to set up, and it provides better control from a distribution perspective.

The catch is that the internal drives store a couple hundred Gbytes. That’s a far cry from the capacity of the two NAS boxes from D-Link and Buffalo Technology. These IPTV boxes are already networked, so connecting them to a NAS box is a trivial software exercise.

Vudu has something in the works along these lines, but the ultimate will be when the split occurs so these boxes do not have any storage inside them. The same holds for digital video recorders (DVRs). Most new DVRs provide USB or eSATA hard-drive expansion options, but networking is the way to go. We already have a lot of analog TVs that are going to turn into heavy-duty paperweights. It would be nice if DVRs and IPTV boxes didn’t follow in their footsteps.

TAGS: Intel
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