Business Model Disruptions in 2016, Part #1: Mini-Mainframe Bare-Metal CDN Server


2014 was a banner year for CDN feature set innovation, especially in the areas of Cyber Security, SDN, Virtualization and Wireless Last Mile Acceleration. 2015 is going to be a continuation of that, as CDNs make their feature sets more mature. However, 2016 is going to be more disruptive than all the previous years, as advancements in bare metal hardware, WAN routers, artificial intelligence and deep learning go mainstream. The high performance low cost commodity server is undergoing a major transformation, where a single server will be able to support more compute, I/O throughput, and LAN/WAN data transfer than an entire rack of servers from a few years ago. Besides hardware, innovation in artificial intelligence and deep learning is on a major upward trajectory, as Facebook, Google, and Netflix open source their most prized software for the world to see, where eventually it will find its way to the CDN Edge.

Server Hardware Innovation

High performance low cost commodity hardware has fueled the rise of the next-gen start-up CDN. The Intel Haswell microarchitecture is the first “Xeon processor family” to support “12-core/single-socket to 24-core/dual-socket, with motherboards supporting 1.5TB RAM ECC (24x64GB), 4x10Gbps embedded NICs, and 45MB cache. The next round of chipsets and motherboards will soon support 3TB’s/server (24x128GB ECC LDIMM) and 6TB/server (24x256GB ECC LDRIMM). Thus, one rack of servers will be able to support thousands of eCommerce customers from RAM, where request can be served from RAM, without them having to fetch content from SSDs.

Also, PCI card manufactures are innovating at a furious pace, creating cards that alleviate the CPU of its processing tasks. For example, the PCIe LSI Nytro WarpDrive application acceleration card states that it “can do the work of hundreds of traditional spinning hard disk drives”, where one PCIe card support 3.2TB of storage capacity, 260k Read IOPS, 200k Right IOPS, and Petabyte Writes of >90. Thereafter, add a Mellanox NIC to the equation, which supports 200Gbps per server (2x100Gbps/port), and the 6WindGate Packet Processing Software that accelerates Varnish/Nginx acceleration, IPsec, virtual switching, and so on by 7x to 10x, and that single server is like a mini-mainframe.

  • Single 2U Server in 2016: 6TB of RAM + 200Gbps NIC (2 x 100Gbps/port) + 6Wind Packet Processor + LSI Nytro WarpDrive Application Accelerator Card w/ 3.2TB of storage
  • CDN SuperRack (16 servers): 96TB RAM, 51TB of PCIe Storage, 3.2Tbps of bandwidth capacity, Support for tens of thousands of VMs, and so on.

Obviously, the WAN is the bottleneck in CDN infrastructure – we’ll discuss that more in detail in the 3rd post of this three part series.

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