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Scrapheap Challenge

On the way to ‘Powering the Cloud’ with Greg Ferro and Chris Evans, we got to discussing Greg’s book White Box Networking and whether there could be a whole series of books discussing White Box storage, virtualisation, servers etc and how to build a complete White Box environment.

This lead me to thinking about how you would build an entire environment and how cheap it would be if you simply used eBay as your supplier/reseller.  If you start looking round eBay, it is crazy how far you can make your money go; dual processor HP G7s with 24Gb for less than £1000.; 40 port 10 GbE switch for £1500; 10 GbE cards down to £60.  Throw in a Supermicro 36 drive storage chassis and build a hefty storage device utilising that; you can build a substantial environment for less than £10,000 without even trying.

I wonder how far you could go in building the necessary infrastructure for a start-up with very few compromises. And whether you can completely avoid going into the cloud at all?  The thing that itsstill going to hurt is the external network connectivity to the rest of the world.

But instead of ‘White Box’…perhaps it’s time for junk-box infrastructure. I don’t think it’d be any worse than quite a few existing corporate infrastructures and would probably be more up-to-date than many.

What you could build?



  1. Chris Cowley says:

    I have to admit I have done that with file servers. At one point I needed a couple to TB for another office. I have had proliants/MSA1000/HDs (albeit only one disk chassis) in the workshop to build 2 clusters. I built one and the spare disks and controllers sat in a drawer in the datacentre as spares.

    No need for 4hr support when you have enough spares sitting around.

  2. Etherealmind says:

    I have worked with customers who are building dual mode infrastructures. This is where there is a primary option of branded assets from recognised vendors with support and services.

    The secondary infrastructure is built entirely from white-box hardware, distirbuted stage and other open source software like OpenStack.

    Not all IT services require high reliability and fast response times and having a choice of low cost infrastructure enables new services to exist. With a lower cost threshold, projects that would have been rejected on cost are now possible.

  3. Prince_Jasbo says:

    I work mainly in small schools, “junk box” is an apt term for some of the kit I have to support, often the only route to spares at reasonable cost for their servers IS eBay.

    My favourite “junk box” projects are using old HP kit to create cheap and resilient DFS setups for storage hungry schools on low budgets, provided 3 of these with a DFS 2 node setup, 8tb raid storage with complete spare server and a backup box.
    Last setup cost only £1200 all in (3 x G6 DL180s and a HP Micro server for backups and the disks) everything from EBay.

  4. I brought up an small experimental RDMA testbed recently. A FatTwin2 (4 nodes, 2U) with old but power efficient Westmere EPs, 6x 8GB sticks/node: just over $1100 shipped. ConnectX2 adapters: $60-$140. 720Gbit/s 18 port switch: under $500. Outstanding stuff. Thanks greatly for the post. Heavily excerpted on my G+,

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