A few weeks ago, this year’s Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California concluded. I personally love this event to see what all the big massive scale data center operators are doing.

I have been following the program since it’s inception and unfortunately missed this year’s event but you can definitely be sure I was watching. One thing I immediately noticed was Facebook’s Bryce Canyon contribution that was detailed out quite well in a Facebook Engineering blog.

This new storage platform supersedes their 2nd generation Honey Badger design also known as “Open Vault”. In just a few years Facebook has matured their hardware designs significantly. After two iterations, it looks like they had an “ah ha” moment realizing vertically orienting data drives is far more efficient especially if physical space is a premium.

I recently wrote a blog comparing two Honey Badgers to a single Cisco UCS S-Series Storage Server. With the Bryce Canyon announcement I thought it merited a follow up blog on the topic as it is a major shift in hardware design for Facebook engineering that deserves some attention.

In my first blog, I compared storage capacity and capability within a 4RU footprint to create a level playing field between the Cisco S3260 and Honey Badger. The release of Bryce Canyon creates a more accurate “apples to apples” compare as it is designed within the constraints of a 4RU footprint.

Right off the bat you will see it’s modular design is identical to the Cisco S3260. However, there are a couple major differences tailored to Facebook’s unique workload requirements which we will go through in this blog. But to get you up to speed on our box check out this cool 3D model and also the product specification sheet to help do the compare.

Reading through their blog I couldn’t help but notice so many similarities to my recent blog. Who knows maybe the author might have been a fan of my blog or maybe it’s just coincidence. Any which way, read both blogs and judge for yourself.

While Bryce Canyon from a design perspective is similar to the Cisco UCS S3260 for many attributes. There are a few other things to look at and the first is size.

The graph above shows a compare of physical dimensions which could be a show stopper for you depending on the racks you use. Bryce Canyon is substantially larger than the Cisco S3260 as it was designed for use in Facebook’s 21” Open Rack and not an industry standard 19” rack.

After you compare dimensions you might ask “what’s inside the sheet metal?”. Here are some quick specs on both platforms.

  • Facebook Brice Canyon: 72 drives for single server node or 36 drives for dual server nodes
  • Cisco UCS S3260: 60 drives for single server node or 28 drives for dual server nodes

While the Cisco S3260 in it’s current form may have slightly less drives than Bryce Canyon. The difference in capacity per box is marginal when considering Petabyte scale deployments like we see with our ecosystem of industry leading software defined storage partners.

For example, check out this new Scality RING on Cisco UCS S-Series Storage Server solution brief and also stop by their Cisco UCS Partner page to learn more on what we are doing together.

Outside of storage alone, the S3260 offers much higher performance packed into a much smaller footprint. Stay tuned for a follow on blog to this topic as it’s looking pretty interesting in draft.

Overall comparing the two there are a lot of similarities and I am glad to see Facebook evolving their platform to where it is today. It’s great validation for Cisco UCS and it’s loyal customers. But remember, Facebook was founded as a digital business with very narrow focus on IT resulting in rigid data center architectures and point products for processing and storing it’s unstructured data.

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If you liked this blog please stay tuned for more on data center storage solutions at Cisco and be sure to follow me on Twitter.