Is it time for a new BOSS (Boot Optimized Storage Solution)?

To maximize the usable disk space per server and to separate the OS drives from the data drives, a technical solution is required that is not only performant but also redundant. The BOSS card (‘Boot Optimized Storage Solution’) is the latest generation of Dell PowerEdge servers that provides a simpler, more economical way to segregate operating system (OS) and data on server-internal storage. 

 This blog is about the use-case of a ‘Boot Optimized Storage Solution’ or BOSS in a Hyperconverged environment. 

 Nowadays, customers want to redefine the architecture they use for their infrastructure and are turning to customized solutions such as hyperconverged infrastructure. Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is defined as software-defined IT infrastructure that virtualizes all of the elements of conventional “hardware-defined” systems. HCI includes, at a minimum, virtualized computing (a hypervisor), a virtualized SAN (software-defined storage) and virtualized networking (software-defined networking).

 

How this could fit in with hyperconverged infrastructure

 

Boot Optimized Storage Solution

HCI typically runs on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. A dedicated server is not quite enough for HCI to run at its best. You require a good (backend) network which should be 10Gbps or better.  

 Next to that, the storage (or virtualized SAN) is ’embedded’ in the servers, this means the server must have enough storage capacity and performance to do its tasks. 

Here’s where the fun starts… 

We want to separate the OS from the (customer) data for obvious reasons, namely security and performance. Although most virtualization engines (like Vmware ESXi, Xenserver) can boot the Operating System from a SATADOM, SD-card or USB drive, it doesn’t provide the redundancy required. If the boot-device fails, the entire server is down.  

Bring in the BOSS card (‘Boot Optimized Storage Solution’). BOSS utilizes one or two read-intensive (Boot Class) M.2 SATA Solid State Devices (SSDs) which can be used in “pass-thru” or two devices in Hardware RAID 1 (mirroring). 

As you can see, this card is a PCI-e card (half-length and half-height form factor) thus freeing up 2 HDD slots that would normally be taken by the OS-drives. 

 

Building a hyperconverged solution 

 

One of our customers is building a hyperconverged solution in his private rack to run this for their SBC and VDI environments. 

The full network stack will be based on 10Gbps Arista switches for both Public, Private, and Storage connectivity.

Boot Optimized Storage Solution

In this specific setup, the customer also required hardware-based firewalls and load balancers and a separate Out-of-band network to manage all his devices.

Leaseweb deployed Dell R740xd servers with Intel Scalable CPU’s (Intel Gold 5118) that provide the CPU power the customer requires. Each server will have a BOSS-card with 2x240GB M2.SSD drives in a RAID-1 configuration.

 

The BOSS in more detail…

 

Configuration of the card is done via a dedicated menu in the BIOS under Device Settings. Here you can create a Virtual Disk (VD) using the 2x SSD drives in RAID-1.

Afterwards, this VD will appear in the boot order menu, so it can be selected as the primary boot device.

Rest of the Operating System installation is straightforward.

This customer will run VMware vSphere with VSAN (Virtual SAN), installed on the BOSS devices and utilizing all 6x960GB SSD’s for the VSAN.

 

How does the BOSS card perform?

 

Here’s our first impressions of the BOSS card:

+ Easy to set up and install in a server.

+ Good performance and redundancy

– In case of a failed M2.SSD, the server must be powered-off before it can be replaced.

– Dell/EMC servers supported only

We’ll have to wait and see what the reliability of such a setup is over the long term, but first impressions are good.

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