Servergy, Rex Show Off Power-Efficient Servers at Open Compute Summit

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-01-30

Servergy, Rex Show Off Power-Efficient Servers at Open Compute Summit

Much of the news coming out of the Open Compute Summit this week revolved around such high-profile names as Facebook, ARM, Advanced Micro Devices, Microsoft and Seagate.

For example, ARM issued a platform standard for the servers that will run on its 64-bit chip designs, while AMD introduced its first ARM chip, the A1100 "Seattle" system-on-a-chip (SoC). Microsoft joined the Open Compute Project (OCP).

However, the conference, hosted by the OCP, also attracts smaller companies and startups that are looking to leverage the open and energy-efficient data center hardware specifications in the products they're pulling together. Servergy and Rex Computing were at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, Calif., to show off what they had and give some direction about what is coming up.

Servergy, which designs highly energy-efficient servers, in October 2013 released the first system in its new Cleantech portfolio, the CTS-1000. During the Open Compute Summit, Servergy officials put the system on display. At the same time, the company officials also talked about its upcoming 64-bit Cleantech I/O accelerator and server, which they said is designs for I/O intensive workloads in scale-out data center environments.

"With Servergy's new Cleantech Server class of servers, we want to model how technology can improve being clean (energy-efficiency) and green (eco-friendly), while at the same time maximizing I/O performance-per-watt per U, TCO [total cost of ownership], OpEx and ROI [return on investment] for our customers," Servergy founder, chairman and CEO Bill Mapp said in a statement.

The company leverages Freescale's Power chip architecture for its systems, which are designed to give organizations highly dense and extremely efficient alternatives to traditional servers. The Cleantech systems come with high I/O and compute density.

Such systems come at a time when power efficiency is becoming as important as performance in massive, hyperscale data centers that run large numbers of systems and run huge numbers of workloads. Facebook is one of those companies and led the creation of the OCP to open source many the designs of the servers it developed for its data centers. Microsoft made a similar move at this year's summit, and Google also is said to be designing some of its own systems.

Most OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODMs) making these small, highly efficient servers leverage low-power x86 chips from Intel or AMD, or are moving to the ARM architecture, which comes from the mobile device and embedded systems spaces. SoCs based on ARM's upcoming 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture are expected to start rolling out this year, with systems hitting the market later in 2014 and into 2015.

However, in a statement in September 2013, Servergy officials said they instead chose the more mature Power Architecture rather than ARM.

Servergy's CTS-1000 system consumes about 100 watts running at full speed, and compared with traditional servers, offer up to 80 percent improvements in everything from power to cooling to space, and increase the I/O and compute density by as much as 16 times. The systems are about the size of a legal pad of paper, weigh about nine pounds and include two 10 Gigabit Ethernet and two Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Servergy, Rex Show Off Power-Efficient Servers at Open Compute Summit

The upcoming 64-bit system will be part of Servergy's new Cleantech Multi-Architecture Platform servers that can be optimized for density for both compute and I/O workloads. Company officials said the new system is being developed now and will be released later this year.

For its part, Rex Computing, which launched last year, showed off its first prototype blade server that includes not only ARM-based chips but also coprocessors developed by Adapteva. The systems are designed to offer greater performance than traditional servers while using significantly less power, according to company officials.

"For decades, the enterprise hardware industry has been dominated by large, established companies with little interest in fixing systemic problems throughout the business," Rex co-founder and CEO Thomas Sohmers said in a statement. "With data centers and cluster computing, these problems are particularly grim: everything from the basic architectures being used, how software is written, and even what racks are used has become a drag on innovation throughout the industry."

The OCP helps startups like Rex Computing by enabling the companies leverage designs created by the consortium as they develop their products, Sohmers said.

Sohmers and co-founder and CTO Kurt Keville are looking to address data center problems around power efficiency, density and scalability by using now only low-power chips, but also energy-efficient, scalable an easy-to-program coprocessors. The company's prototype is created from 16 individual compute nodes, with each node powered by a dual-core Zyng ARM chips from Xilinx that includes an integrated field programmable gate array (FPGA). Each node also includes an Epiphany III coprocessor from Adapteva.

Each node uses less than five watts of electricity, while a full blade consumers less than 150 watts, all while running 32 ARM Cortex-A9 cores and 256 Epiphany coprocessors. The blade fits into a "Torpedo" server chassis designed to the OCP's defined standards, and is one-third the width of a traditional server blade.

At the show, Rex—which was born out of computer cluster work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—gave participants in the show Open Compute Project Hackathon access to the 16-core "Parallella board" development kits, and allowed them to run their project on the whole 256 Epiphany core blade.

Editor's Note: In October, Servergy released first system in its Cleantech portfolio, the CTS-1000 server, not the CTX-1000 as originally reported.

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