Western Digital goes to the edge — with servers and SSD storage

Disk drive and SSD maker Western Digital is entering the server business with two specialised transportable systems for edge deployments.

It’s made embedded server storage systems already, in the form of home NAS boxes, but these new Ultrastar Edge servers are business products placed at the edge of the incumbent server vendors’ turf — meaning Dell, HPE, Lenovo, et al.

Kurt Chan, Western Digital’s VP for Data Centre Platforms, said in a statement: “The growth in data creation at the edge, the opportunities to extract value from that data, and the total available markets and customers innovating and doing work at the edge, gives us a great opportunity for our new Ultrastar Edge server family.”

WD is building two server systems:

  • Ultrastar Edge — transportable 2U rack-mountable server with a portable case for colos and edge data centres;
  • Ultrastar Edge-MR — an extremely rugged, stackable and transportable server for military and specialised field teams working in harsh remote environments.

WD organised a supporting quote from Manoj Sukumaran, Senior Analyst, Data Center Compute, at Omdia: “We expect server deployments at edge locations to double through 2024, totalling an estimated five million units, as they are an essential component in enabling new innovations and products, cloud services, remote campuses, CDNs, and virtually any vertical industry that relies on IoT, sensor or remote data.”

Ultrastar Edge server.

The base Ultrastar Edge product has 2x  Xeon Gold 6230T CPUs, 2.1GHz, each with 20 cores, an Nvidia Tesla T4 GPU, and 8x 7.68TB Ultrastar DC SN640 NVMe SSDs providing up to 61TB of storage. It has two 50Gbit/s or one 100Gbit/s Ethernet connection, so it can be hooked up to a data centre or public cloud when connected. These features make the product basically fast and capable of use for real-time analytics, AI, deep learning, ML training and inference, and video transcoding at the edge of an IT network.

Ultrastar Edge MR.

The Ultrastar Edge-MR is the Edge packaged as a rugged, stackable device, designed and tested in accordance with MIL-STD-810G-CHG-1 standards for limits of shock and vibration, and to the MIL-STD-461G standard for electromagnetic interference. It has the same pair of 2x gen-2 Xeon SP CPUs with up to 40 cores, a T4 GPU, 512GB of DRAM, and dual 10GBase-T RJ-45 ports plus a Mellanox ConnectX-5 100GbE QSFP28 port. These come inside a hardened box which is rated IP32 for protection against incoming water and debris.

All in it weighs 71.1lbs (32.25kg) — a heavy thing to lug about. WD is envisaging it being used for analysing data during oil and gas explorations, doing research in the Amazon, or in military operations far away from any server closet.

Both Ultrastar Edge products feature the Trusted Platform Module 2.0, a tamper-evident enclosure, and are built to meet the FIPS 140-2 Level 2 security standard.  

Asked why WD was getting into server market, a spokesperson said “Western Digital provides JBODs and JBOFs to xSPS, OEM and channel customers. As the centralised cloud has evolved to the edge, our xSP customers have looked to us to provide specialised servers for data transport and edge capture and compute that leverage our vertical integration capabilities and meet unique requirements that traditional, whitebox servers don’t satisfy.”

Will Western Digital use RISC-V processors in its servers? “The current Ultrastar Edge family is Intel-based. We are exploring other alternatives including AMD as well as RISC-V, especially for custom designs, and we’ll continue to use Arm when that makes the most sense.”

You can read an ‘Edgy’ blog and get an Edge datasheet here and an Edge MR datasheet here

Both Ultrastar Edge servers are sampling now and orderable, with general availability beginning c.Q4 2021.