Electronic Design
512 64-bit Atom Cores In 10U Rack

512 64-bit Atom Cores In 10U Rack

SeaMicro put 512 Atom chips into its 10U SM10000 server (see 10U Rack Packs 512 Atoms). The new SeaMicro's SM10000-64 (Fig. 1) also has 512 cores but in the form of 256 dual core, 1.66GHz Intel Atom N570 chips. The underlying hardware (Fig. 2) remains the same including a 1.28 Tbit/s interconnect fabric (Fig. 3) delivering 1 Gbit/s bandwidth per core.

The change between SM10000 and SM10000-64 is significant even though they have the same number of cores and plug into the same box. The Atom processors used in the SM10000 are 32-bit processors with a host of limitations. They are fine for netbooks and their low power was one reason for using them in the SM10000. The Atom N570 puts the SM10000-64 into the 64-bit realm. It adds support for Intel's VT-x virtualization and increases the address space to 4 Gbytes. This puts the SM10000-64 into the virtualization arena with Intel's Xeon. True, a Xeon SMP system can handle larger workloads but many systems are just running lots of little virtual machines (VM).

These VMs work equally well on the SM10000-64. The platform already has built-in management of each chip and can isolate groups of chips into a logical cluster. The SM10000 could already provide hot spares and load leveling support using a separate control plane that mirrors the communication fabric. The system provides storage using up to 64 SATA drives. For network communication there may be sixty four 1 Gbit Ethernet connections or sixteen 10G Ethernet connections.

The boards in SM10000-64 are the same size as SM10000 (Fig. 4). They are significantly less dense though. Memory is soldered to the back of the boards and that layout remains the same. They use the same SeaMicro fabric chips and each N570 connects to one using two x1 PCI Express lanes. The power advantage is key because there are half the number of processor chips as well a half as many TigerPoint controller chips. The power used by the SM10000 was already low but the SM10000-64 is 17% lower. Part of this is from better power control including more efficient POLs.

The SM10000-64 is integrated with Linux cluster and cloud management software. It actually supports a multiple level control hierarchy. It can handle oversubscription and per socket basis management allowing ISPs to offer true SLA with dedicated hardware. All this is available out of the box. This solution is not just a hunk of hardware.

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