Microsoft’s Key to Scaling Up:<br>A Look Inside a CMP System Running Datacenter

If you wantto run a huge, scale-up Windows 2000 system these days, all roads lead throughBlue Bell, Pa. That’s the headquarters of Unisys Corp., maker of the CellularMultiprocessing (CMP) system.

CMP systemsare designed primarily for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, which in turn hadits top-end specifications written to the capabilities of the Unisys CMPsystem.

Because ofthe size and scale of the system, we weren’t able to run independent tests onthe capabilities of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server on a CMP system. But we didtrek to Unisys’ technology center in Tredyffrin, Pa., for a detailed look atsome of the systems in action.

Thisoverview is intended to provide a glance at the current state of thecapabilities and uses of Unisys’ top-of-the-line Intel server. We will alsolook at what kind of customers are buying the systems, and provide adescription of the Datacenter Server Process Control tool in action on agreater-than-eight-processor machine.

System Features

Among thecapabilities of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server that currently can only be metby systems running Unisys’ CMP architecture are support for up to 32 processorsand up to 64 GB of RAM -- although Unisys currently tops out at 32 GB. The CMPsystems are the first Intel-based servers to begin to scale into the high-endrange occupied by Unix and mainframe systems.

Aside frompure scaling, Unisys built a number of features into its CMP design that extendthe flexibility of the systems. Unisys, for example, brought partitions intothe Intel world. Similar to the capabilities of mainframes and Sun servers, CMPsystems can be sliced and diced in a number of ways.

Users canchoose not to partition the system and run Datacenter Server across all 32processors; cut the system in half and run Datacenter Server on 16 processorsin one partition and a separate version of Datacenter Server in a secondpartition; or theoretically split it into eight partitions of four processorseach.

In anyconfiguration, each partition acts as its own machine, booting and runningindependently of other partitions. Power can be shut off to part of the systemwhile partitions elsewhere in the system run uninterrupted.

The companyalso designed the system to handle both 32-bit and 64-bit Intel processors atthe same time. While one partition runs with 32-bit processors, anotherpartition can run with 64-bit Itanium processors.

Unisyspositions the partitions for consolidating production, pilot, and testimplementations in one cabinet.

Connectivityof the system is extensive as well. Fully configured, the system sports 96 I/Oslots (see the breakdown of the box’s physical features).

The Marketplace

No otherhardware manufacturer has a 32-bit, Intel-based system of this scale on itspublic server roadmap until the post-64-bit Intel timeframe. After Itaniumships, NEC plans to roll out a 16-processor system, the only Intel-based systemwith more than eight processors on the radar.

Unisyssells the boxes under the e-Action ES7000 brand. Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, andICL are reselling the system under their own brand names.

“We expectat least one more OEM, maybe more than that,” says Pete Samson, vice presidentand general manager of the Unisys enterprise server business initiative.

Unisys hastaken about 200 orders for the ES7000, many since Microsoft wrapped up Windows2000 Datacenter Server in August. The first system shipment went to Microsoftin March. Counting unpaid test units or evaluation units, about 400 of thesystems are in the field. Microsoft has 12 of them, 10 with 16 processors andtwo with 32 processors. Veritest, the company that tests applications for theWindows 2000 certification program, has the systems at four of its labs.

Mostcustomers are buying systems with 16 or 32 processors installed, although a fewsystems have sold with eight processors and one company bought a 24-way for apartitioning scenario. Unisys is averaging 22 processors per sale, meaningbusiness is heavier on the 16-way side.

When Unisysfirst started taking orders for the ES7000, Windows 2000 wasn’t out yet, sosome units shipped with Windows NT 4.0 Server, Enterprise Edition. With theavailability of Windows 2000, Unisys began shipping Windows 2000 AdvancedServer with an option for customers to use beta code of Windows 2000 DatacenterServer. About 15 percent of customers ordered Unixware, an Intel-based flavorof Unix.

“Very few”of the systems sold thus far have shipped under the Windows Datacenter Program,according to Bob Vorauer, director of software program management at theenterprise server business initiative at Unisys. The program is a key part ofDatacenter Server in that it provides for extensive full-system testing andsupport. All systems shipping with Datacenter Server since September must shipunder the program.

The biggestfraction of the sales thus far -- about 30 percent -- has been for serverconsolidation. The majority of those consolidations at this point, bringtogether multiple servers of the same type, such as a conglomeration ofExchange servers or piling up file and print servers.

Process Control

One ofUnisys’ most effective demonstrations to this point has been process control. Afeature of Datacenter Server, Process Control is a tool that allowsadministrators to assign processors to a certain application.

While theMicrosoft tool allows for static assignments that an administrator can activelychange during peak loads, Unisys puts a fair amount of emphasis on creatingscripts that dynamically reassign processors to applications during times ofpeak stress. Part of the Unisys service package surrounding an ES7000deployment includes the tailoring of such scripts to customer environments,using Unisys add-on software over the base set of Windows 2000 DatacenterServer software.

ProcessControl works on the eight-processor systems of the Windows Datacenter Program,but it becomes most compelling beyond that number of processors.

For ourdemonstration, Unisys used the administration version of Windows 2000 TerminalServices to access Datacenter Server running on a 16-processor ES7000 and SQL Server 2000.

The demoinvolved a fictional online bookseller getting a sudden bump in order trafficaround the release of a new book. The system initially had four processorsassigned to the order processing database. As all four quickly ran to 100percent capacity, a dynamic rule spread the workload over eight processors.

Unisys alsodemonstrated the same scenario maxing out eight processors and bumping up to16, currently a possibility only on a CMP system in the Windows 2000 DatacenterServer world.

Unisys andMicrosoft are working together on dynamic partitioning software that wouldallow different partitions within an ES7000 to exchange processors in times ofload stress. Such software probably won’t be available until at least 2002,around the time of the Whistler release of Datacenter Server.

Unisys saysits ES7000 systems can be had for about $100,000, but those are outfitted withjust eight processors. A recent analysis from D.H. Brown put the price of a32-processor system with 32 GB of RAM and 96 I/O ports at $815,000.

[Infobox]But it Goes to 16
The Process Controlfunctionality in Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is at its most compelling whenused in the 16- and 32-processor CMP systems.

CMP Anatomy101

Coolingunits -- A fully configured system requires 10 impellers. Twelve are providedfor redundancy. Like most things in the Unisys ES7000, what is visible from thefront is mirrored in back. There are six cooling units in front and six inback.

Consolemanager card hub -- Allows connections from the network to the on-board systemprocessor for remote management of the system. Another card hub sits on theback of the system.

Systemmanagement processor -- System processor allows for remote management of thepartitions and hardware in the box. Uses an Intel Celeron 433 MHz with its ownCD and floppy drive. The Integrated Management System (IMS) software runs onthe MIP. The MIP is also redundant. These processors are over and above thenumber of production processors in a system. For example, a 32-processor ES7000actually contains 34 processors.

Displayscreen -- A touch-sensitive display screen powers the box up and down. All ofthe graphical information on the display software is reported in more detail inthe browser-based IMS software.

Coupe --Contains boot drives, internal drives, CD, and DAT. If you go beyond twopartitions, you’ll need external boxes for boot drives, etc.

Powersupply -- Fully configured system could have 16 Multiple Output Power Supplies(MOPS). Power is supplied and divided left and right. Seven MOPS are requiredon each side, the eighth provides redundancy.

Pod/Crossbar/Mezzanine-- The heart of the system. Each pod consists of two sub-pods, which containthe basic building block of the system: four processors and the Level 3 cachethe processors share. Sub-pods are the smallest possible unit in a partition.Each sub-pod can contain either 32-bit Intel processors or 64-bit Intel Itaniumprocessors when those become available. All processors in a sub-pod run at thespeed of the slowest processor. Level 3 cache for 32-bit systems is 16 MB. TheLevel 3 cache will amount to 32 MB for 64-bit systems.

MemoryStorage Unit (MSU) -- Main memory. There are four MSUs, two in front, two inback. Each MSU has 16 sets of DIMMs. Current maximum memory configuration is 32GB using 512 MB DIMMs. Systems can currently be ordered with 256 MB DIMMs or512 MB DIMMs. Unisys needs to make some engineering changes before the ES7000can handle the 1 GB DIMMs necessary to scale to the theoretical maximum 64 GBof memory.

PCI buses(a.k.a. Direct I/O Bridges or DIBs) -- There are eight DIBs, four in front,four in back, providing one DIB for each of the theoretical maximum of eightpartitions. Each DIB contains three sub-DIBs. Each sub-DIB can contain four 3.3volt PCI slots or three 5 volt slots. A maxed out configuration with 3.3 voltslots can have 96 I/O slots.