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Hands-On Testing and Analysis

Gridbusters Made Me a YouTube Star

This summer started with the realization of an idea that has been stuck in my head for a couple of years. I figured we should create a video where we demonstrated that a scale-out storage system could survive a node failure in a dramatic fashion. Rather than just pull the plug on the node we’d destroy it with a pot of Thermite.

A couple of years ago I pitched this idea to a vendor who’s CTO thought it was a great idea but they then hired a new VP of Marketing who wanted to maintain a more professional image and put the kibosh on the project. I pitched the idea to my friends George Symons and Victoria Grey from Gridstore at the Storage Field Day 4 party and they decided to greenlight the project. Victoria decided that it would work best as a Mythbuster’s spoof and I agreed

In June George and I got hats to match Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman’s and went to work. We took a four node Gridstore Storage Grid out to Rocking Horse Ranch, put one node on some cinder blocks, put a pot of thermite on top and did this:

Thermite is a mixture of Iron Oxide and Aluminum, when it’s heated to the point that the Aluminum melts the oxygen migrates from the rust to the Aluminum as shown in this equation:

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → 2 Fe + Al2O3

The reaction also releases quite a bit of heat with the reaction occurring at about 4000 degrees F. The flower-pot contains the liquid Iron and Aluminum oxide, which being light floats on the top, until all the materials have joined the reaction and the iron flows out the drain hole at the bottom.

In the photo above you can see that the stream of iron has melted through the case of the Gridstore node and the motherboard to drip out the bottom. The systems fans stopped just a split second before the photo was snapped and you can see how the front to back airflow resulted in the smoke and fire being blown out the back of the node.

As the exciting part was taking place we had videos playing from the Gridstore Grid’s storage and even with the dramatic node failure the videos never stuttered.

You can see the whole video on youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krdy2nzYIsc and download the paper we wrote about it, and the additional testing we did in the lab, from the Gridstore site.

All in all it was a great time and I’m hoping to do something similar in the near future.