STH’s official birthday is June 8, 2009. That means the site has been around for nine years! A lot has changed in those nine years from when the site served as a personal blog and had a daily readership that one could measure on their hands and toes until now. I cannot say that nine years ago when I started STH that I envisioned the site turning into the largest hands-on enterprise review site on the Internet. From a personal blog to a site that now has 13 people working behind the scenes has been a major journey, to say the least. At this point, instead of dwelling on the past, I wanted to highlight a few things that are happening behind the scenes.
Taking STH to the Next Level
Over the past quarter, I have been focused on what the next-generation of STH will look like and how we will evolve the model. This is something that we do regularly, but it was time to step back and look at how we turn the site into something bigger and make even higher-value content for our readers. At STH we have an absolutely awesome set of IT professionals and developers who are building the systems of tomorrow. Keeping up with all of the great suggestions of our readers is a full-time job. Here are a few areas we have been working on to take STH to the next level.
STH Server Review Evolution
For longtime STH readers, this is something that most will have already noticed. Our server reviews have gotten (much) larger. One of the major drivers with us moving to multi-page reviews was to
- 2017 Era Review Examples: HPE DL60 Gen9 Review and Lenovo System x3650 M5 Server Review
- 2018 Era Review Examples: Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Review and Supermicro AS-1123US-TR4 Server Review
Some of the unique features we have now involve the ability to run multiple CPU options in a server. This provides our readers with the ability to gauge whether the incremental spend on additional CPUs is worthwhile. We have a project to benchmark “every” server CPU we internally call Project Xavier. With around $180,000 worth of current-generation Intel Xeon Skylake-SP generation and AMD EPYC 7000 series CPUs in the lab, this investment is bringing tangible benefits to the content we are creating.
STH Lab Upgrades
Another item many of our readers are going to be interested in is our lab upgrades. In 2017 we formally split our “embedded systems” lab and our “mainstream systems” labs. We did this for a number of reasons.
The embedded systems lab runs on 120V power, the standard in North America. Most embedded platforms and lower-end 1U servers are intended for deployments in remote branch offices, retail locations, and lower-cost commodity data centers. These data centers are often on 1GbE/ 10GbE and we expect it will take some time before 25GbE takes over this segment. As 10GbE becomes embedded into chipsets, we are seeing a lot of 10GbE up take but slower 25GbE adoption. Between the power and networking, we have a separate facility to do the majority of our embedded systems testing now.
Our mainstream systems lab has grown as well. Here we use 208V racks to power our gear. Historically this lab has been on 10GbE/ 40GbE networking but it is in the process of being converted into 25GbE/ 40GbE/ 50GbE/ 100GbE only de-emphasizing 10GbE. We also have Omni-Path switching and hope to add Mellanox EDR/ HDR networking in the near future since we decommissioned our FDR Infiniband network. The next generation of CPUs are going to use even more power and with the deep learning / AI space heating up, we need to be able to power single nodes that can hit 5kW each, such as DeepLearning11 which has become the reference single root, 10x GPU architecture of this generation.
Expanding Coverage and New Writers
Part of growing means moving into new waters. For the STH model, this is extremely challenging. Consumer-focused sites have a major advantage over STH. Their total addressable readership approaches the Earth’s population. Essentially if you make a gaming or mobile phone review website, your potential readership could theoretically be every human being. For STH, we essentially focus on enterprise IT which means few buyers. While we do cover some higher-end and unique client gear, the vast majority of what we do is in the server and embedded space. Data center equipment buyers are likely measured in the tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands worldwide as compared to billions of consumers.
Doing CPU and server reviews is great, but we are innovating in a number of areas. One example is our storage piece, Exploring the Best ZFS ZIL SLOG SSD with Intel Optane and NAND. Storage is always important, and there are plenty of places that can provide fio/ iometer results, so we are focusing on higher-value use cases. As we see more storage class memory hit the market over the next 18 months and persistent memory through technologies such as NVDIMMs, 3D Xpoint, and upcoming players, storage has the opportunity to become exciting again.
An area that we are going to focus on is solutions. One view of the world, which STH does a particularly good job at now, is that servers are the building blocks that almost anything can be built upon. Another view of the world is that IT buyers look more for solutions than servers. Internally enterprise IT marketing organizations struggle with their box v. solution mix all the time. At STH, moving into providing ready solutions is an area that is logical for expansion, and we have the hardware to do.
What we need are writers. If you are a STH reader, or know someone who should be, and want a big platform to write about VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, Canonical, Nutanix, Citrix, or other solutions, drop me a note (patrick at this domain.) Likewise, if you are a security, ZFS, Ceph, or similar guru, let me know. These days anyone can operate their own blog. On the other hand, STH is now a 9-year old platform and we have an entire data center test lab filled with the newest gear to help you gain notoriety in the IT field. If you want to be a Microsoft MVP or VMware vExpert, we have the platform to help.
More to Come
We have a few other projects in the works that are extremely exciting. Although several are not quite ready to share at this point, one you may have seen. I have started taking more speaking engagements, and that is something that will happen more often through this year. The first was at the Cavium ThunderX2 launch last month where I was on stage just before Cray, HPE and Bull/ Atos discussing the new chips.
Personally, a goal I have in 2018 is moving from the “guy who does server reviews on that website” to someone who folks are used to seeing in the industry talk about new trends. This is a logical next step given our position in the industry.
Over the past nine years, the STH community has flourished. Thank you to our awesome readers who energize this site. Every day we are working to bring you more great content. If you have friends in the IT or developer communities who are not yet STH’ers, send them to the site so that our 10th year anniversary next year can be even bigger.