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Where one size doesn’t fit all… it fails all.

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Last week, the Texas Advanced Compute Center dedicated Stampede, its new supercomputer. Built upon Intel Xeon CPUs and Phi co-processors, Stampede delivers 10 Petaflops of total performance for researchers to run comprehensive simulation and data analysis capabilities.

If you get a chance to tour TACC’s facilities in Austin, Stampede should be stop number one on your tour. For stop number two, I recommend walking down the hall from Stampede to take a look at another cluster of computers built upon Dell’s Copper server concept. Copper is a cluster of 48 ARM-based servers in a compact 3U package that draws less than 15 Watts, and would appear to be the polar opposite of Stampede.

On the surface, this is a fair assessment. However, Stampede and Copper have something in common – they are both solutions architected to address specific customer needs. In the case of Stampede, the problem statement focused on solving some of the world’s most complex mathematical problems in record time. A solution based upon Intel’s Xeon and Phi technologies provides the appropriate balance of raw compute and massively parallel processing capability. In the case of Copper, the need was a new power paradigm for workloads in the web/tech segment where pure CPU performance does not dictate overall system performance. For this, a solution based upon Marvell’s Armada XP provides the appropriate horsepower for these workloads at a very attractive miles per gallon, in terms of power consumption and physical footprint.

In the coming days some of Dell’s competitors are going to be making a lot of noise around “breakthrough” solutions in server computing. There are two things you need to know: First, Dell pioneered this segment of computing five years ago with microservers and has been leading ever since. Our competition is shooting for the moon. When they get there, we will be happy to point out the flag we mounted five years ago. Second, slick marketing campaigns will attempt to paint these solutions as panacea for all problems in the data center. This is the major point of contrast between Dell and our competition. The previous two examples highlighted in this post prove that one size does not fit all – not even for the same customer. Beware of vendors pitching one size fits all when they aren’t asking about your problem statement. You are more likely to end up with one size fails all.

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