Monday, September 11, 2006

Imagine this: a 'frig built out of ice cubes

IBM Corp. has confirmed to me will launch this fall a product based on its Ice Cube R&D project. Ice Cube does for today’s refrigerator-sized hard disk drive arrays what server blades do for servers—it breaks them into modules to make it easy for users to build arrays of any size they need.

Specifically, Ice Cube envisioned a 32Tbyte array based on 300 hard disk modules. Each module consisted of 12 2.5-inch hard drives, managed by four disk controllers which are tied to a microprocessor and a standard six-port Ethernet switch. Future versions were expected to migrate to lower latency, higher throughput Infiniband switches.

Each switch is linked to six couplers, one on each side of the brick, which can communicate with adjoining bricks at rates up to 10Gbits/second. The couplers are essentially capacitive plates that will communicate wirelessly over a 3.125 GHz frequency using an alternative current. The architecture gives each module an effective throughput of 60Gbits/second.

My question, dear comment posters, is what interconnects should these new-fangled array modules use? Extra points for anyone who has specs on IBM’s upcoming product, or similar ones that may be in the works from competitors such as EMC. --rbm


Chuck said...

Love the 3D architecture, but there is always the question of what happens when an interior cube dies. Well to get it out you potentially need to take 8 cubes out to get to it (one layer down) which means 96 drives offline or probably about 1/3 the storage comes down to service it. Doesn't seem like a win to me.

Rick Merritt said...

I forgot to mention, IBM was designing this with the assumption that when a drive dies you just leave it in the pile, given long MBTF times for drives and their relatively low costs. So they know the problem. But we'll have to wait for the launch to see whether the costs assumptions of that plan are acceptable.