I ran into Howard Marks from Deep Storage in the blogger lounge at HP Discover and while I was chatting with him he mentioned an interesting upcoming project that he was involved in that involved storage and pyrotechnics. Naturally I was intrigued, wouldn’t you be. The premise for this was to simulate a storage node failure in dramatic fashion in a clustered storage node environment and to demonstrate that despite a storage node failure the VMs running on the storage stay up and running and don’t miss a beat. To do this he setup an outdoor lab with storage nodes and hosts with one of the storage nodes being setup apart from the others with a big bucket of thermite set on top of it.
The thermite of course is the catalyst for initiating the storage node failure. If you’re not familiar with thermite it’s basically a pyrotechnic mixture of metal powder fuel and metal oxide. When thermite is ignited by heat it undergoes an exothermic oxidation-reduction reaction, this is fancy chemistry talk for a reaction that releases extreme outside heat (combustion). Unlike tannerite and other explosive components most thermite varieties are not explosive but instead burns at a extremely high temperature. When thermite burns it reaches temperatures close to 4000 degrees, which is pretty damn hot and can easily melt metals like steel which has a melting point of around 2750 degrees. Just imagine what this could do to a storage array.
So without giving too much away check out this video in the style of Mythbusters which demonstrates what happens when thermite meets storage and remember don’t try this in your data center: