OVH Fires Up Power8 Infrastructure Cloud
October 13, 2014 Timothy Prickett Morgan
OVH, one of the largest cloud computing and hosting providers in the world and the largest hosting provider in Europe, has gotten a bunch of Power8 machines and is offering virtual slices of the machines for customers to play around with as it works out how to more fully commercialize the service.
OVH was founded in 1999 outside of Paris by Octave Klaba, and the name is short for on vous hÃ©berge, which is French for “we host you.” The company built its first datacenter nearly a decade and a half ago in Paris, and now operates 16 datacenters worldwide. Notably, OVH has operations in North America and Canada now as well as centers in France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The company has over 180,000 customers that it is hosting, which to put that into perspective is considerably larger than IBM’s SoftLayer customer count (somewhere around 27,000) and is on par with Rackspace Hosting, which has more than 200,000 customers across its cloud and hosting businesses.
OVH likes to embrace new technologies, and significantly likes to build its own servers. On the X86 front, it is tight partners with Intel and Advanced Micro Devices as well as motherboard and component maker Supermicro, and it has server production lines in France and Canada. OVH manages its own supply chain and builds its own machines to cut costs. It also believes in picking the right machine for the job, and for dedicated hosting of relative small sites, it adopted Intel’s Atom server chips two years ago for some of its machinery, as an example.
The Power8 machinery that OVH is providing capacity not for its core hosting and cloud business, but rather a separate subsidiary, called RunAbove, that was setup with $10 million in funding to help developers create code on new architectures that are hosted in OVH datacenters. The RunAbove cloud is based on the OpenStack cloud controller and the premise is to have the latest-greatest iron. The cloud has Intel Xeon nodes and now IBM Power8 nodes, and they have solid state disks with 400 MB/sec of I/O from Samsung and 10 Gb/sec Ethernet links coming out of the servers into a 3 Tb/sec lossless Ethernet network that spans North America and Europe. The RunAbove cloud also has built-in protection against distributed denial of service attacks, which uses Arbor Networks‘ security software running on massively multicore processors from Tilera. The OpenStack Nova software controls both kinds of nodes, and both have access to OpenStack’s Swift object storage. Customer data is replicated three times in the Swift storage over a dedicated 40 Gb/sec Ethernet network. The servers are guaranteed to have 99.99 percent uptime, and have redundant power feeds coming into them. The RunAbove cloud adds open source software development kits and runtimes for Java, Go, Python, and PHP and supports Docker software containers on Linux instances for packaging up application and systems software so it can flit around the cloud.
It is not clear from the materials that OVH provides to customers what Power8 machines OVH is using in the Power side of the RunAbove cloud. It seemed unlikely to me that the company would be building its own Power8 machines as it does on the more generic OVH hosting and cloud business. While it was possible that OVH’s RunAbove cloud is using single-socket machines based on the Power8 motherboard made by Tyan, the specs of the services offered by RunAbove seem to make it look like a two-socket server. I reached out to OVH for confirmation of the Power8 servers it uses and while it did not say what specific IBM machine it has acquired for the service, OVH did confirm that it is an IBM chassis and motherboard with some modifications, particularly around networking.
In any event, the Power8 slices on the RunAbove cloud come in two flavors. The base Power8 S instance has eight threads allocated to a virtual machine, which is configured with 4 GB of virtual memory and 10 GB of local RAID storage. This instance is charged at 5 cents per hour and is capped at $32 per month. There is not a lot of oomph there, but there is enough to do code development and testing, which is the point. The Power8 2XL instance allocates an entire machine to a single virtual machine, and this server comes with 48 GB of memory and 480 GB of local RAID-protected storage for a cost of $1.08 per hour, which is capped at $700 per month. This instance has 176 threads available to the instance, which is a lot. A full-on 12-core Power8 dual-chip module (which is really two six-core chips in a single package sharing a socket) used in the Power S812, S822, and S824 machines has 96 threads per socket or 192 per system in the two-socket versions. That would leave 16 threads to be used by the PowerKVM hypervisor, if the machine is a Linux-only box, or the PowerVM hypervisor, if it is not. My presumption is that there are indeed Linux-only machines behind these Power8 instances and that it is a fully loaded two-socket box.
From the documentation it looks like the instances are running the Debian variant of Linux, but the company told me that right now Red Hat’s Fedora development release is supported with generic Debian and commercial-grade Ubuntu Server in the works. Ubuntu Server 14.10 is due in the next week or two and is certified on the new Power S824L Linux-only machine IBM announced last week.
Just because the Power8 slices are running Linux now does not mean that OVH cannot be encouraged to offer IBM i and AIX variants of the service as well. So start encouraging.
The Power8 slices are in public beta testing on OVM’s RunAbove cloud right now. The beta means that the service does not have the service level agreement of the production-grade service, even though customers are being charged.