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Pixorial's video-sharing website virtualizes network resources with Xsigo I/O Director

Pixorial's video-sharing website combines virtualized Dell PowerEdge servers with Xsigo I/O Director and a dense, scalable SAN to add capacity and bandwidth dynamically.

Pixorial Inc., an online video-sharing website, turned to Xsigo Systems Inc.'s I/O virtualization director switch, Xsigo I/O Director, to build an infrastructure that will allow for quick scaling of storage and network bandwidth.

Pixorial lets users upload video to its website in any format, and they can edit the video and share it as high-resolution digital files or on DVDs. The website uses a co-location center in Aurora, Colo., for its main data center, but converts film and tapes sent in by users into high-resolution files at its Littleton, Colo.-based headquarters, said Joshua Terry, Pixorial's director of systems engineering.

Terry said the major concern when he began building the infrastructure eight months ago was having enough capacity and bandwidth to support the site's users, who pay $24.99 per year plus extra for customizable projects (customers can upload, edit and share up to 10 GB of content for free).

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"We had an idea of how many terabytes we'd have to store and move, so we knew we'd have a large storage environment, and we knew network bottlenecks would be a big issue for us," Terry said.

He said Pixorial will make an announcement with its a storage-area network (SAN) vendor in approximately a month, but isn't disclosing the identity yet. "I can say it's some of the densest rack shelves in the market, and the storage scales independently from the computing cluster," Terry said of his SAN.

Terry said Pixorial's current storage capacity is "35 TB and will grow by a factor of three by next month." That's because the site is getting ready to open to all comers after a limited trial that started in January and beta testing in April. Terry expects Pixorial to scale to 1 PB of storage in a year.

Unlike his storage vendor, Terry is talking more about how Pixorial approached the bandwidth issue. It connects Dell Inc. PowerEdge 2970 servers to an Xsigo Systems I/O Director with two 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) plug-in modules, allotting each server 20 Gbps of I/O bandwidth that can be shared among virtual machines (VMs). That allows Pixorial to dynamically connect any server to any storage or network device.

"We have multiple networks in a virtualized server environment," Terry said. "We can interconnect to different hardware devices easily. Our storage device will be bonded to the 10 gig module on Xsigo, essentially at InfiniBand line speeds [20 Gbps]. We can dynamically populate racks of disk without disrupting performance."

Terry said the 20 gigs of bandwidth gets "exported into a virtual interface and chopped up into loads as needed. You can dynamically deploy that 20 gig any way you want. We set the amount through a Web-based browser -- this connection gets this much bandwidth, this gets this much."

Pixorial had a limited budget to build up its infrastructure to start, but Terry knew he would eventually need to scale to petabytes and rapidly add servers and other network devices. Pixorial designed its content management and rendering applications from open-source software that runs on Linux and the Xen hypervisor.

"Our other connectivity options included traditional copper Ethernet, and we looked at 10 gig Fibre Channel interconnects, but they were all dedicated switches and putting cards into dedicated hardware became expensive," he said.

Terry said Xsigo's director provided "one common interface into our environment. Also, on the management side, the command line is all Linux. I can type in a couple of commands to set up a new server or type in a couple of commands, and have 10 network devices exported into that," he said.


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