To maximize the usable disk space per server and to separate the Operating System (OS) drives from the data drives, a technical solution is required that is not only performant but also redundant. Local, raid backed SSD drives for the OS or a Boot Optimized Storage Solution (BOSS) card can be used in combination with SATA, SSD or NVMe SSD drives for the data.
This blog is about the use-case of a Boot Optimized Storage Solution in a hyperconverged environment.
What is a BOSS card?
The BOSS card is available for the latest generations of Dell PowerEdge servers that provides a simpler, more economical way to segregate operating system (OS) and data on server-internal storage.
Nowadays, customers want to redefine the architecture they use for their infrastructure and are turning to customized solutions such as Hyperconverged Infrastructure. This offers customers higher performance and lower costs compared to traditional SAN storage.
What is 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).
Building your Hyperconverged Infrastructure
HCI typically runs on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. A standard dedicated server is a good starting point but not quite enough for HCI to run at its best. There are some other things you should take care of to get the best out of your hardware. For example, you will require a good (backend) network which should be 10Gbps or better.
Next to that, in a Hyperconverged solution, the storage (or virtualized SAN) is ’embedded’ and ‘distributed’ over all the servers. This means the server must have enough storage capacity and a fast backend network to do its tasks for the best performance experience.
Why you need a BOSS
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. And then there is the requirement to maximize the available disk-slots: the more disk-slots can be used, the higher the capacity and performance will be.
It’s time to bring in the BOSS card. 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, the first version of this card (Series1, available for the 14th generation of Dell Poweredge R740xd servers) 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.
The latest server models from Dell can be specified and equipped with the next generation BOSS card (Series 2, available for the 15th generation Dell Poweredge R750 & R7525 servers), which is a hot-swappable unit, like a power-supply.
Use case: Building a hyperconverged solution
One of our customers is building a hyperconverged solution in his private rack to run this for their SBC (Server Based computing) and VDI (Virtual Desktop) environments. The full network stack will be based on 10Gbps Arista switches for both Public, Private, and Storage connectivity.
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.
The 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 view of the BOSS card:
+ Easy to set up and install in a server.
+ Good performance and redundancy
+ Hot swappable M2.SSD drives (Series2 BOSS card only)
– In case of a failed M2.SSD, the server must be powered-off before it can be replaced (applicable to Series1 of the BOSS-card only).
– Dell/EMC servers supported only
As with any other SSD in a server, the BOSS card has proved to be very reliable over the long-term and we would definitely recommend it to our customers who are looking to build and run their own HCI platform.
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published on 9 January 2019 and was updated on 2 November 2022.
SinanJanuary 29, 2019 at 20:33
If the BOSS card is namely used because of redundancy, can I assume that the card is also redundant? Or is the SPOF being moved from the SD card to the BOSS card?
PeterFebruary 8, 2019 at 12:02
You can think of the BOSS card as a PCIe RAID-Controller card (which it actually is..). It is only a single card, serving the 2 M2.SSD devices. So yes, you could see it as SPOF, but in a similar way to any normal RAID-Controller card that are used in servers, in almost all cases only a single RAID-Controller is installed in a server.