Facebook nixes virtualization, eyes Intel microservers

Intel lays out roadmap for microserver chips and reveals Facebook is a fan

Facebook is bucking the trend toward server virtualization and is interested in microservers for inexpensive growth and quick failover, the company's lab director said Tuesday.

Computerworld feature Virtualization 101: What is virtualization?

The social networking giant came out in support of Intel's plans for an expanded lineup of processors for microservers, as Gio Coglitore, director of Facebook labs, spoke at an Intel press briefing in San Francisco. At the event, Intel said it would introduce four new chips for microservers this year and in 2012, ranging from a 45-watt Xeon to an Atom-based processor with less than 10 watts of power consumption. All will have server-class features, such as 64-bit compatibility and ECC (Error-Correcting Code) memory.

Facebook has tested microservers in production and is interested in the architecture for its massive data centers, Coglitore said. The inclusion of those server features is key for the company to be able to use microservers, he said.

Microservers, a concept that Intel introduced in 2009, are small, low-power, one-processor servers that can be packed into a data center more densely than rack or blade servers. The microservers in a rack typically share power and cooling and may also share storage and network connections, said Boyd Davis, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and general manager of data center group marketing.

Manufacturers including Dell, Seamicro and Tyan have adopted the architecture, which has been most popular among large cloud service providers for large-scale, low-end hosting and Web serving, according to Intel. The company expects microservers to remain about 10 percent of its server processor market.

Front-end Web servers are where Facebook is nearly ready to start using microservers, according to Coglitore. "With Intel's announcement, it's just about to happen," he said. Facebook will probably start implementing microservers on a large scale beginning late this year or early next year.

Facebook uses a variety of server types across different parts of its data centers, but the company's aversion to virtualization extends throughout its infrastructure, Coglitore said.

"We find in our testing that a realized environment brings efficiencies and brings the ability to scale more effectively," Coglitore said. "If virtualization was the right approach, we would be a virtualized environment."

Facebook wants to be able to balance its computing load across many systems and potentially lose a server without degrading the user experience. "As you start to virtualize, the importance of that individual server is greatly enhanced, and when you have that at scale, it becomes very difficult," Coglitore said. He prefers to think of computing units as faceless, interchangeable "foot soldiers." Virtualization makes it harder to treat hardware resources that way, Coglitore said. Using a virtualization software layer also tends to create lock-in, he said.

In addition, though Facebook could take advantage of more powerful server platforms for some functions, it sometimes turns to lower end systems for budgetary reasons. Facebook prefers to change servers every two to three years, following the chip refresh cycles of Intel and other processor makers, Coglitore said.

Intel currently ships a 45-watt Xeon and a 30-watt Xeon processor for microservers. Upcoming microserver chips include the 45-watt E3-1260L and 20-watt E3-1220L, which are already shipping to server makers, and a unnamed 15-watt part based on the new Sandy Bridge architecture. The Atom-based, sub-10-watt microserver processor coming next year also does not yet have a name, Intel's Davis said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags internetFacebookintelserverssocial networkingprocessorshardware systemsComponentsInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?