Cloud Stories: Cloud Services Infrastructure
Expedient builds next-generation clouds with Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family–based servers
By Alex Rodriguez, vice president, Systems Engineering and Product Development, Expedient Communications
My company, Expedient Communications, provides cloud computing, managed services, and network connectivity. This means my team spends most of its time working to provide or extend the technical foundation for many of our customers. The lessons we’re learning might help your team as you build private clouds and evaluate external cloud services.
Because of our close working relationship with Intel, we had the opportunity to evaluate the new Intel® Xeon® processor E5 family of products prior to launch. Based on our evaluation experience—during which we’ve had the chance to test-drive the new processor’s features—we plan to use Intel Xeon processor E5-based servers as the core of our next-generation cloud infrastructure.
Of interest to us was the processor’s significant increase in performance, built-in security at the hardware level, and integrated support for unified networking via 10 gigabit Ethernet (GbE). These capabilities will help us achieve three important things:
- First, we can deliver greater security with our services without significant performance impacts from encryption and protect the platform by building trust between servers and environments.
- Second, we can increase bandwidth for faster network throughput to support expanding data-access needs.
- Third, we can lower power consumption in the data center to reduce energy costs.
Accelerated encryption and decryption performance is provided through Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI), which is built into the Intel Xeon processor E5 family of products. We used to deploy hardware-based encryption accelerators, and now, with Intel AES-NI, we can provide better encryption at a far lower cost.1
One of our big lessons is that security concerns must be addressed throughout the solution stack. For this reason, we are evaluating another technology that is built into the Intel Xeon processor E5 family of products, called Intel® Trusted Execution Technology, or Intel® TXT.2 Intel TXT is a hardware-based security solution that can help us extend a “chain of trust” between our environment and our customers’ environment.
Using 10 GbE is enabling us to increase network throughput, which is becoming more and more important as data sets get bigger and bigger. We believe 10 GbE is the most efficient technology for our cloud-based platforms, and Intel Xeon processor E5-based servers are the first to support integrated 10 GbE for mainstream servers. We’ll use Intel® Ethernet 10GBASE-T as the backbone of our next-generation cloud infrastructure.
Finally, we believe that Intel Xeon processor E5-based servers will help us better manage power usage in the data center. The processor has built-in power technology and sensors that will help us reduce power usage across our cloud infrastructure.
We plan to use Intel Xeon processor E5-based servers as the building blocks of our next cloud “PODs.” POD is the term we give to self-contained computing units that let us build our cloud infrastructure in a very modular, redundant, and secure way. These self-contained PODs include compute, storage, and I/O. We then replicate these PODs across the organization to provide a solid base for high availability. Starting with a modular architecture is one of the most important lessons we’ve learned in our experience of building cloud infrastructure.
"Based on our evaluation experience—during which we’ve had the chance to test drive the new processor’s features—we plan to use Intel® Xeon® processor E5-based servers as the core of our next-generation cloud infrastructure."
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1. Intel® AES New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) requires a computer system with an Intel® AES-NI enabled processor, as well as non-Intel software to execute the instructions in the correct sequence. For availability, consult your reseller or system manufacturer. For more information, see software.intel.com/en-us/articles/intel-advanced-encryption-standard-instructions-aes-ni/.
2. No computer system can provide absolute security under all conditions. Intel® Trusted Execution Technology requires a computer system with Intel® Virtualization Technology, an Intel TXT-enabled processor, chipset, BIOS, Authenticated Code Modules and an Intel TXT-compatible measured launched environment (MLE). The MLE could consist of a virtual machine monitor, an OS or an application. In addition, Intel TXT requires the system to contain a TPM v1.2, as defined by the Trusted Computing Group, and specific software for some uses. For more information, see www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/data-security/security-overview-general-technology.html.