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AMD Cores Power Bluelock’s Cloud Business

Thanks to AMD at Work for this story

As AMD’s lead evangelist for enterprise customers, I’m always on the lookout for some interesting customer use studies. Recently I had the chance to sit down with Aaron Branham, Director of Technology at Bluelock, and a user of AMD-based HP ProLiant servers. Bluelock is an Indianapolis-based provider of cloud hosting solutions for the enterprise. Included below are highlights of my recent conversation with Aaron.

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Vlad: What does Bluelock offer its customers?

AaronAt Bluelock we provide virtual datacenters hosted in the public cloud. Our cloud solutions are based on VMware’s vCloud technologies and we are a certified VMware vCloud Datacenter Service Provider.

Vlad: Why did you choose to employ AMD Opteron™ processors?

Aaron: For our new POD architecture we took a fresh look at the usage patterns of our customers and what we thought we would need going forward.  We ran out of memory in our environment way before we ran out of CPU, and wanted to make sure we weren’t stranding resources in the new environment.  When we looked at the physical CPU to memory ratios and costs associated with different platforms, AMD Opteron processors made the most sense.

Vlad: What is unique about Bluelock’s new POD architecture?

Aaron: The new POD architecture was influenced by the previous 4 years of cloud hosting that Bluelock has done.  We looked at performance requirements from customers as well as the changing size of VM’s over time, with projections about what the future might look like.  The main guiding principles we used were:

  • Scalable – up to 8x larger than our previous design (with support for multiple PODs)
  • Performance – high speed networking, and different tiers of storage
  • Reliability – trying for 5 9’s across the platform, no single points of failure
  • Simplicity – reduce the number of devices to manage – network, servers, storage, etc
  • Cost – of course our goal was to reduce our hardware and operating costs

In the end the new POD has met or exceeded all of our expectations.

Vlad: When did you begin using AMD Opteron processors?

Aaron: The new environment was built in October of 2010 and went live in February of last year.  All of our customers have been migrated onto the new infrastructure.

Vlad: Describe the transition process if any?

Aaron: We are 100% virtualized in our cloud environment so there really was no transition process other than shutting down the virtual machines and moving them onto the new infrastructure platform.

Vlad: What benefits have you already seen to your business? If the deployment is still ongoing, what benefits are you expecting to see?

Aaron: Things have gone as or better than expected in most cases.  The reliability has been very high on the new infrastructure and we are getting more consolidation than we expected.

Vlad: Have you seen an improvement in your server performance since making the switch?

Aaron: The biggest improvement has been the increased size of the resource pools within VMware and less devices to manage.  Our old environment supported 32GB of memory, 8 CPUs and 6 VMs per server whereas the new environment supports up to 512GB of memory, 48 CPUs and more than 100 VMs per server.  We typically run between 30-40% CPU usage and 75% memory usage, which leaves room for spikes and the ability to take servers out of production for maintenance.

Vlad: How big is your datacenter footprint? How many servers are deployed?

Aaron: We currently have about 7,000 square feet of datacenter space in our main facility in Indianapolis, Indiana; we also have space in a datacenter in Salt Lake City, Utah and Piscataway, New Jersey.  There are currently about 1400 servers in the new infrastructure.

Vlad: Now that you’re running AMD Opteron processors and utilizing their high performance, multi-core architecture with optimization for virtualization, how many more servers can you add to your existing datacenter footprint?

Aaron: We went from high-density blade servers to more standard 4U rack servers.  Overall we can get about 2x the density per rack over the previous configuration.  Power savings is about 4x compared to the old environment. This has led to power savings of about $800 a month, per rack.

Vlad: In your own words, can you describe why having more cores is so important to your business?

Aaron: We have a diverse customer base running primarily production workloads so performance of the VMs is important.  The more cores we have the less VMs are on idle, waiting to get scheduled and the better the experience is for our user base.  The new version of VMware ESXi 5.0 will support up to 32 vCPUs and 1TB of memory.  We don’t currently have any customers doing that but we do have customers running VMs with 8 vCPU’s and up to 64GB of memory.

Vlad: What’s Bluelock’s growth plan?

Aaron: Bluelock will continue to evolve its virtual datacenters and cloud services to give our customers more of what they need from an enterprise provider. With our dedicated focus on the cloud and the enterprise market we are confident in our ability to grow and lead in the space.

Vlad:  Is there anything else you’d like to share.  Highlights from Superbowl weekend perhaps?

Aaron: It would have been nice to have the Colts playing in the Super Bowl this year; but at least a Manning brother still won.

Vlad Rozanovich is the director of Commercial Business Development at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only.  Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

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