March 21, 2014

What Datacenter Equipment Is Apple Using?

During the WWDC “Stevenote” we got a rare glimpse into the mysterious Apple North Carolina data center. Two shots have been seen online so far: One showing showing swoopy Teradata racks and another open, exposing HP rack servers and what looks like a NetApp array. Since Apple spent billions building out this datacenter, and has kept their product choices very quiet, it’s amusing to try to suss out what they are using from their own promo video.

These look to be Teradata Extreme Data Appliance racks

  1. In the first photo, we have rows of swoopy racks – at least 30 are pictured. These appear to be Teradata Extreme Data Appliance racks. The gray color and funky doors give them away.
  2. This photo features rack servers and NetApp storage

  3. The second photo includes a 1U rack server with six 2.5″ drives featuring “HP purple” drive eject buttons. There are over 100 in this photo, receding to infinity. Looks like HP ProLiant DL360 G7 servers to me.
  4. We also have a 2U rack server with 16 2.5″ drive bays. I count over 20 of these. They don’t quite look like HP to me, but could be high-density HP DL380 G7 servers.
  5. What looks like a NetApp FAS6200 to me is at the lower right. It looks to be 6U high, compared to the shelves.
  6. We also have a number of disk shelves for the NetApp. I’m guessing NetApp DS2246 shelves.
  7. This still from Apple's official video shows more NetApp storage and HP servers

  8. In this third shot, we see more HP 1U servers, possibly ProLiant DL360 G7′s as noted above.
  9. We have another NetApp filer “head” similar to the one in the second shot.
  10. Some sort of 6U beige rackmount device is found in the bottom of two racks
  11. We have many more NetApp disk shelves or 1U servers above

Note that these racks contain many 1U Chatsworth “HotLok” filler panels. They’re not very efficiently racked, but perhaps this was due to flexibility or power requirements…

Stephen’s Stance

Whatever Apple bought for this datacenter, they bought a lot of it. Just the hint that they purchased Isilon bumped parent company EMC’s stock a few months back. I imagine Teradata and NetApp might see similar bumps from these images!

It’s also interesting to speculate on the political implications of Apple’s datacenter buys. Would they still buy HP equipment, now that Palm and WebOS are re-emerging as iOS-killer contenders? Would Jobs’ friendship with Larry Ellison indicate a proclivity to buy Oracle or Pillar Data? Maybe the Apple/Cisco Détente would suggest UCS or even EMC? And what about that rumored Isilon buy. Was that displaced by Teradata and NetApp?

Images from MacRumors.com

Note: This has been one of my most-popular posts, and has been referenced a lot by major news organizations. Here’s a list of those who linked and mentioned me. Thanks!

  • http://blogs.rupturedmonkey.com Nigel Poulton

    Stephen, my guess would be a NetApp FAS 31oo rather than 6200 as there aren’t enough disk enclosures to warrant a 6200. Looks like May be 4 x DS2246 2.5-inch drive shelves on the NetApp.

  • http://blog.fosketts.net sfoskett

    It’s one of those two – the 3100 or 6200. But I’m betting it’s a FAS6210, since it looks much taller than the disk shelves. It’s got a 6U faceplate to my eyes, and I don’t think the 3100 has that. Definitely a NetApp and not an Isilon! :-)

  • CP

    and teradata OEMs storage from … :)

  • Guest

    That’s a lot of NetApp storage in there.  The faceplate looks like either 32xx or 62xx, and of course the Teradata OEM’d stuff http://bit.ly/mhVAUi

  • Guest

    I can personally attest to the fact there’s also some Sun (Oracle) gear in there as well.  Several M5000′s and  T5240′s.

  • http://blog.fosketts.net sfoskett

    Summing up my tips: Apple populated the Maiden NC “datacenter 2″ with Teradata, HP, NetApp, and perhaps Sun/Oracle servers too. This was an earlier tender with IBM OEM NetApp winning storage. And Teradata uses OEM LSI hardware, which is now owned by NetApp too. Not sure if that does much for NetApp at this point though.

    I hear that the new tender for “datacenter 3″ was indeed won by Isilon (EMC) and is true to the StorageNewsletter rumor. But of course no one will talk on record, and this part is all gossip and rumor.

    The only fact we know is Apple’s video, which shows Teradata, HP, and NetApp.

  • http://blog.fosketts.net sfoskett

    Summing up my tips: Apple populated the Maiden NC “datacenter 2″ with Teradata, HP, NetApp, and perhaps Sun/Oracle servers too. This was an earlier tender with IBM OEM NetApp winning storage. And Teradata uses OEM LSI hardware, which is now owned by NetApp too. Not sure if that does much for NetApp at this point though.
    I hear that the new tender for “datacenter 3″ was indeed won by Isilon (EMC) and is true to the StorageNewsletter rumor. But of course no one will talk on record, and this part is all gossip and rumor.

    The only fact we know is Apple’s video, which shows Teradata, HP, and NetApp.

  • http://david.ulevitch.com/ Anonymous

    A bunch of those are just 1U spacers, not NetApp storage… sorry.  They are Chatsworth 1U snap-in filler panels:

    http://www.chatsworth.com/uploadedFiles/Files/14171_datasheet.pdf

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  • Anonymous Username

    The obvious missing brand of equipment is Apple.

  • European

    your conclusion is superficial.   6200 series have more advantages over 31000 series
    than just the sheer amount of attached shelves.

    a) the spacers in that rack indicate that more shelfs are to be (hot) added as need arises
    its called “future plannning flexibility”  

    It is by no means effiicent, to cram all boxes you currently have into as little space as possible
    because if you want to expand in future, you would need to plan a costly downtime 
    and re-rack all the stuff again.  not good.

    if you leave space in the rack above and below and sometimes also in the rack next to it
    in the first place, then you can plug in more netapp shelves at any time – without any downtime
    and with one person all alone within minutes….  

    That doesnt save Squaremeters, but it saves you money.  Cloud services hate beeing taken
    offline because of physical rack rearrangements coused by short sighted managers.

    b) bigger box, more CPU cores, more nvram memory  - if you want the biggest and best
    you buy the biggest and best, raw storage capacity is not the only
    value to be considered.

    c) also possible, it might be netapp vseries, that allow use of native shelf – as well as the use of other party  backend storage (luns) to be turned into better manageable multiprotocol & multitenancy storage – a typical need for cloud services me thinks.

  • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

    ROFL! Apple’s “iCloud” uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, and also relies on Amazon’s cloud storage platform.
     
    http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2011/06/08/is-icloud-running-on-microsoft-amazon-cloud-services/

  • Milles21

    I will take a few (disclaimer non-insider ) guesses as to the layout. I will insert some key points and let you draw your own conclusions.

    1. OS x lion licensing was changed for the virtualization
    2. Apple has been working heavily with VmWare
    3. Lion now downloaded via the app store as a add on that forces validation of he hardware before you can install it. Effectively changing osx server on x86 since it is never provided in full release. Even the Mac mini server have it preinstalled.

    4. Cheaper now to get server and storage than to make it you still run your os. You still maintain control by making the bits practically unaccessible to the general public while you run your customized vmware version.

  • http://blog.fosketts.net sfoskett

    I didn’t know Apple was working with VMware, though I had heard about the virtualization-friendly license changes. They’re such an amazingly difficult company to comprehend. Thanks for the information! 

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