GRC & Minimus Servers Blog

Christiaan Best

CEO, CTO, and Founder of Green Revolution Cooling
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Recent Posts

Whitebox Servers: Is It Time to Switch? Hyperscalers Seem to Think So

Posted by Christiaan Best on March 14, 2017

A 2015 research report from IDC1 indicates that the market is increasingly abandoning big brand, OEM servers in favor of “whitebox” (unbranded) servers made using parts from ODM suppliers.

  • HP’s server sales went down almost 30% between 2010 and 2015.
  • Dell’s sever sales were pretty much flat with a 4.5% annual (server) revenue growth. Dell’s sales seem to be increasingly focused on whitebox style servers for hyperscale companies.
  • IBM’s server sales are down almost 70% during the same 5 year period (2010-2015).

A separate study released by Lawrence Berkley National Labs2 shows that while the major players are in decline, the market overall is getting bigger with white box servers taking over the market.

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Topics: Servers, components, hardware, cost, cost optimization, TCO

NVMe Vs SATA SSDs: Is it Time to Switch?

Posted by Christiaan Best on August 24, 2016

As NVMe approaches price parity with SATA SSDs, we have been receiving a growing number of requests for Minimus servers with NVMe SSD’s. While designing these servers, we’ve learned some interesting facts about NVMe and why it may be time to ditch SATA. Here is what we found:

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Topics: Servers, Storage, NVMe, SSD

Picking the Right Processor: $/GFLOP with Different Intel Models

Posted by Christiaan Best on August 16, 2016

Most HPC buyers look to get the most performance for the lowest budget. As mentioned in an earlier post 'Server Cost Breakdown By Components', processors are normally the most expensive component in a cluster, this is especially true for non-GPU / Co-processor accelerated clusters. Picking the right CPU is critical.

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Topics: HPC Cluster, cost, Processors, HPC, data center, TCO

The Incredible Shrinking Price of Memory

Posted by Christiaan Best on June 30, 2016
As covered in our previous blog reviewing server component costs, memory is often a dominant cost when buying a server. Surprisingly, memory prices are also one of the most volatile. Understanding trends are helpful to keeping your server costs low.

There are a couple of important points for those managing a data center:
  • Pricing can change fast, especially when a new line of processors chooses to support only certain standards. For example, when Intel E5-26xx v4 called out DDR4-2400 vs the DDR4-2133 for Intel E5-26xx v3.
  • While a specific model may go up or down, the overall trend in memory prices are downward. In some cases this is as much as 30% in 4 months.
  • Keeping on top of current memory is a constant battle. For example, we just updated minimusservers.com with significantly lower pricing despite being online for just over 2 months.
  • The current price for DDR4-2400 ECC memory is around $4.70 per GB.
    Note: this is Minimus pricing, pricing form other sources may be higher.
The website www.pcpartpicker.com has a great graphic for tracking general trends. The below graph shows pricing for many different brand and models of 4GB DDR4-2133 over time.


Figure 1: Price trends of 4GB DDR4-2400 from Jan 2015 to June 2016
Image credit: pcpartpicker.com



Comparing the pricing trends for two specific models of 16 GB DDR4 2133 from the same brand (Kingston), the pricing for one model is a lot more stable than the other.

Figure 2: Volatile price of the Kingston KVR21R15D4/16 (16 GB DDR4-2133)
Image credit: pcpartpicker.com



Figure 3: Relatively stable price trend of the Kingston KTH-PL421/16G (16 GB DDR4-2133)
Image credit: pcpartpicker.com



There are several conflicting factors that affect the daily price variance of memory:
  1. The cost of producing memory, like nearly all silicon based computer components, is largely from enormous upfront capital costs amortized over time. The marginal cost is actually quite low.
  2. When a new specification is released, pricing starts out high because of low demand, little competition, and low manufacturing yield. As a product matures and gains adoption, prices drop.
  3. Supply and demand does play a big role. Prices can change daily if demand is high or market conditions change.
  4. Manufacturers often increase their prices on specific models to incentivize customers to buy different models that cost less to produce. Searching against a specific configuration, you can see that memory costs will vary as much as 300% despite the same performance specification.

Check out the Minimus formula for cost savings and see a price comparison:
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Topics: Servers, components, hardware, cost, cost optimization, memory

Transformer Efficiency

Posted by Christiaan Best on June 8, 2016

Transformer Efficiency: Is it worth it?

PUE often encompasses all of the losses from the utility down to the server. This includes transformers that convert power down to 400 or 208, 3 phase power. To get an understanding of your "total" efficiency, transformer efficiency and costs have to first be understood.

Here are few things of interest to data center operators:
  • There are several factors that affect transformer inefficiency (electrical losses):
    • Hysteresis due to charging the field in the iron core (which is NOT proportional to load).
    • Line losses through the coil (which are proportional to load).
  • There are several different type of transformers:
    • "Standard temperature rise" – More efficient at partial loads, where data centers actually operate.
    • "Low temperature rise" – This means there is a low surface temperature (less heat coming off the transformer). These transformers have larger iron cores, which make them more efficient at transferring energy at high loads, but less efficient at partial loads, where data centers actually operate.
    • DOE 2016” – In the US, the Department of Energy released a new efficiency standard for all transformers sold. These transformers are more efficient across the board.
Below, Figure 1 shows a typical efficiency curve for a 225 kVA transformer from Square D. This is juxtaposed against older, standard temperature rise, and low temperature rise transformers.

Figure 1: Transformer efficiency curves for standard, low temperature, and DOE 2016 type transformers
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Topics: data center efficiency, transformers, cost, efficiency, power

Server Cost Breakdown By Components

Posted by Christiaan Best on June 1, 2016
A lot of people are curious to know how server costs breakdown, component by component. The costs can vary hugely depending on the configuration. Discounts also apply when you buy components in larger volumes. We put together an example below for a typical air-cooled server bought in quantities of a few hundred servers. There are a couple of takeaways:
  • Different buyers get different pricing* based on volume, type of organization, application, relationship with sales rep, etc. Big companies can end up spending as much as 40% less than small businesses.
  • CPUs are a dominant cost and are rarely negotiable
  • Memory and storage pricing is relatively constant between vendors after discounts
*GRC does not practice price discrimination.


Server Cost Breakdown

Note: the prices in the below table have been sourced from popular electronics vendor websites, and are not necessarily indicative of Minimus pricing.

Component Quantity Price Estimate Extended Total
CPU: E5-2650v4 (12 CORE) 2 $1,116.00 $2,232.00
Memory: 16GB, DDR4-2400, ECC 8 $95.00 $760.00
Storage: Boot SSD, 120GB 1 $119.00 $119.00
Storage: 480GB, Medium Endurance SSD 2 $391.97 $783.94
Network Card: None 0 $0.00 $0.00
Chassis Costs      
Motherboard: Dual Socket E5-26xx v4, 8 Memory DIMMS, On-board Network: 2x RJ45 Gbe LAN Ports, 1x RJ45 IPMI LAN Port 1 $299.00 $299.00
CPU Heat Sink 2 $14.00 $28.00
Power Supply 1 $95.00 $95.00
Storage Backplane 1 $75.00 $75.00
Drive Caddies 4 $13.00 $52.00
Fans 5 $10.00 $50.00
Internal Cables 1 $20.00 $20.00
Riser Cards 1 $19.30 $19.30
Sheet Metal Case 1 $100.00 $100.00
Assembly Labor and Test 1 $150.00 $150.00
10% Markup 1 $478.32 $478.32
    Total Cost $5,261.56



About GRC and Minimus Servers

Green Revolution Cooling has introduced Minimus Servers in partnership with hardware giants Supermicro and Gigabyte. The Minimus platform offers reliable, purpose-built servers for a fraction of the cost of OEM servers. The core of Minimus’s price-effectiveness is that customers get exactly the configuration they need, but without the added costs of extraneous features and brand-related premiums that are normally tacked onto OEM offerings.

To learn more about Minimus Servers contact us at info@minimusservers.com or call +1 512-692-8003.


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Topics: Servers, components, hardware, cost, cost optimization