SBB – a viable server platform?

SBB, or storage bridge bay (see link on the right), was originally intended as a standard and open disk array platform that allowed different controller and chassis vendors to plug and play.

Then a few years ago, Intel and AMD started providing reference designs to several OEMs that provided their almost latest and greatest CPU and core logic chipset technology used in regular server environments in the SBB form factor. Not as powerful in terms of raw CPU power you find in typical servers, but still a viable x86 server (two in fact – one per SBB slot) that can run Linux, NAS, SAN target software, tiered storage maybe, thin provisioning, host failover in a single box, etc, etc, etc.

So why hasn’t it caught on? CPU too under powered? OEMs not getting behind it?

All good questions. The opinion here is that there is great potential in the SBB platform, but not for the original design goals stated. For one, the name – SBB = storage bridge bay – implies this platform can only do storage. Secondly, the focus has been on replacing low cost disk array controller technology with a more expensive CPU + software based technology for RAID and other storage functions, instead of focusing on the far greater potential of what else you can use that CPU for given a far more open software environment.

Bottom line, a few suggestions for the powers to be working on SBB:

  1. Come up with another acronym for servers based on SBB e.g. Modular Server Bay or something (ok maybe not MSB, but you get the idea)
  2. Focus the attention on developing a software ecosystem – the hardware was the easier (relatively speaking) part
  3. A multi-vendor interoperability lab and certification is needed to expand SBB to its full potential as a more open hardware platform
  4. You can’t rely on the large OEMs to drive multi-vendor interoperability. It has to be the little guys with help from Intel and AMD that innovate and drive a new set of applications