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Donald K. Burleson

Oracle RAC Tips

Emerging Server Cluster Architectures

A server requires power as well as connectivity to both the IP network and storage. Clustered servers usually require a redundant heartbeat, a cluster management connection, and a potentially redundant connection to dual ported storage. As a cluster begins to grow and have many nodes, the cables and connectors of the physical environment become very complex and messy. Cluster architecture may result in multiple points of failure. It can be a real nightmare situation for data center managers.

The concept of the ‘Bladed Server’ or Blade Server is gaining wider acceptance since it helps solve the complexities of cluster management, and provides a modular solution for growing servers.

One of the leading examples includes the BladeFrame system from Egenera. The BladeFrame system allows a pool of up to 96 high-end Intel® processors to be deployed entirely through software and without the physical intervention of a system manager. The product consists of a 24x30x84 inch chassis containing 24 two-way and/or four-way SMP processing resources, redundant central controllers, redundant integrated switches, redundant high-speed interconnects, and Egenera PAN Manager software. Fig 3.5 shows an example of the bladed server architecture.

Fig 3.5 Architecture of BladeFrame

The BladeFrame architecture allows the hot insertion and removal of servers (also called ‘blades’) and consolidates the physical cables. PAN (process area manager) software handles the external storage mapping and virtualization, and the control of I/O and network traffic to and from individual servers. The Blade Server provides a specially designed rack into which the blades fit - the idea is to save space and power, reduce cabling, and simplify maintenance and expansion. In another development, Switch Computing Architecture, as popularized by TopSpin Communications, provides a unified switched fabric for IPC, Fibre Channel, and Ethernet, allowing computing elements to be connected into server area networks.

This enables the creation of virtual computers from pools of industry-standard processor, storage, and IO building blocks. It improves performance in three areas of the network: host-to-host interconnect communications, host-to-LAN/WAN communications, and host-to-storage communications. The ability to house terabits of aggregate bandwidth in a single chassis, while achieving latencies of less than 10 microseconds within the switches, makes the high performance cluster practical and feasible. [Fig 3.6]

New and evolving architectures, such as process area networks (PAN) and server area networks help to create and manage powerful clusters.

Fig 3.6 Switched Computing Environment

For more information, see the book Oracle 11g Grid and Real Application Clusters 30% off if you buy it directly from Rampant TechPress . 

Written by top Oracle experts, this RAC book has a complete online code depot with ready to use RAC scripts.  


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