AMD Rolls Out Energy-Efficient Open Compute Server Board

The AMD Open 3.0 platform is designed to bring organizations greater flexibility, energy efficiency and cost savings to servers in their data centers.

Advanced Micro Devices is unveiling a new server motherboard formerly dubbed "Roadrunner" that complies with standards laid out by the Facebook-led Open Compute Project.

Given the name AMD Open 3.0, the motherboard is designed to high performance and high energy efficiency, giving users greater flexibility in the data center and a way to drive down costs around power, space and cooling, according to Bob Ogrey, technical cloud evangelist and AMD engineering fellow.

The new server board, introduced Jan. 16 at the Open Compute Summit, is designed to be an alternative to traditional servers that populate most data centers, Ogrey told eWEEK. The goal of the AMD Open 3.0 platform is to give organizations the flexibility to bring in servers they want for their data center operations. The server board can come with various numbers of dual in-line memory module (DIMM) slots, PCI-Express slots and Serial ATA ports. It has two USB slots, is powered by two 16-core Opteron 6300 chips and can be put into 1U, 1.5U, 2U and 3U rack-height systems, depending on the customer's needs.

Broadcom and Mellanox offer compatible off-the-shelf add-in cards, and the server board is aimed at high-performance computing (HPC), cloud and storage environments, Ogrey said. As organizations continue to grapple with the transformative trends in the data center, from virtualization to cloud to big data, they are looking for greater flexibility in the systems they buy.

The motherboard is a 16-inch-by-16.7-inch board that comes in a unique T shape per the demands from the financial services companies AMD is working with. Some companies wanted the power supply on the left side, and others needed it on the right, he said.

"This type of model ... is what a lot of large customers and data centers are looking at," Ogrey said.

Facebook officials launched the Open Compute Project in April 2011 looking for ways to open-source the specifications they had in the hardware they had built for their own data centers. The giant social networking company several years ago began designing their own systems to meet the cost demands in their massive data centers. The company saw significant improvements in power consumption, cooling costs and space savings.

The Open Compute Project was developed to encourage technology vendors to produce new data center products based on Facebook's specifications, which the company and other organizations could use in their data centers.

Two years ago, AMD officials sat down with counterparts from large financial services firms who informed the chip maker of their data center needs, according to AMD's Ogrey. Last year AMD engineers demonstrated a prototype of Roadrunner during the second Open Compute Summit, and now the company is coming out with the AMD Open 3.0 platform.

Select customers will receive the server board, Ogrey said. Productions systems—made by Quanta Computer and Tyan and available through such systems integrators as Penguin Computing and Avnet Electronics Marketing—will hit the market before the end of the first quarter.
Through the Open Compute Project, AMD also is collaborating with larger rival Intel on developing common infrastructure and components, including the mezzanine connector. It was the first time Ogrey had ever worked with people from Intel, Ogrey said.

The AMD Open 3.0 platform is the first product out of the Open Compute Project that wasn't designed for Facebook data centers, he noted. While the server board was created with the financial services companies in mind, it could have applicability across other industries, according to Ogrey. AMD currently is beginning to talk with some companies in the oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries, as well as other organizations that have large data centers.

"This is taking Open Compute to the next level," he said.

Such products also are a key part of AMD's growth strategy. The chip maker has been hit hard by the slowing sales of PCs worldwide. In the third quarter of 2012, about 85 percent of AMD's revenues came from the PC business, according to CEO Rory Read. As part of a turnaround plan that also included cutting 15 percent of the company's workforce, AMD officials are looking to reduce the reliance on PCs to about 40 to 50 percent of revenues by focusing on new growth areas.

One of those new areas is dense servers for environments such as HPC and cloud computing. Others include ultraportable computing devices such as ultrathins and tablets as well as embedded devices.