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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Mini-STX format for 10GbE micro server for upgradeable IoT edge computing

By Nick Flaherty

congatec has launched  a deployment ready design study of a micro server carrier board with 10GbE support that can be used for edge processing in the Internet of Things. 

The modular server board in the 5x5 inch Mini-STX form factor (140mm x 147mm) offers high scalability across all suitable embedded server processor sockets by using a COM Express Type 7 slot. This enables 10GbE edge node performance upgrades at lowest cost, as nearly all investments in the real-time system design of 10GbE edge nodes can be re-used. 

To upgrade the performance, OEMs and network operators only need to exchange the Server-on-Module. This is especially interesting for operators of 5G networks and edge data centres, who expect real-time performance demands to increase once 10GbE infrastructures become deployed more widely, leading to constantly lower revenues per processed data volume. Also, all IIoT, Industry 4.0 and fog server applications will require continuous performance upgrades as security, analytics and artificial intelligence demands will keep evolving for at least a decade to come.

"Building a 10GbE infrastructure with IIoT, edge, fog or Industry 4.0 servers and 5G small cells for decentralized decision making in real time is only the first step," said Martin Danzer, Director of Product Management at congatec. "Once this infrastructure is established, the performance of these nodes will have to constantly increase as we are only at the beginning of designing such decentralized 10GbE node technologies and the demand for transcoding, security, data capture and analytics capabilities as well as artificial intelligence and real-time communication will continue to grow dramatically."

The edge server board in the 5x5 Mini-STX form factor uses a COM Express Type 7 conga-B7AC module based on the Intel Atom C3000 processor. With processor power consumption starting at just 11W TDP, the system offers 4x real-time 10GbE network performance and up to 16 cores for handling  many smaller packet sizes in parallel. Compared to other multi-core solutions, such as the Intel Xeon D processors, the costs and power consumption here are significantly lower, making it possible to roll out very high network bandwidths and storage capacities into the field.

The congatec micro server carrier board can be equipped with eight different Intel Atom server processor versions - from the 16-core Intel Atom C3958 to the quad-core C3508 processor for the extended temperature range (-40°C to +85°C). All offer up to 48GB of fast 2400 DDR4 memory, which can be designed with or without Error Correction Code (ECC) depending on customer requirements. The 10GbE interfaces are standardly implemented via SFP+ cages, enabling network connection via both fiber optic and copper cables. In addition, the carrier board provides 2x 1GbE and 2x USB 3.0 interfaces for service and peripherals. One of the 1GbE ports is connected to the integrated board management controller and can therefore be used for server-typical remote management tasks.

The  carrier board includes a VGA output and a serial interface for local administration. For custom extensions, it provides three M.2 slots, two for M.2 2280 cards with key M and 4 PCIe lanes or 1x SATA, which makes them particularly suitable for storage media. The third M.2 slot accepts M.2 3042 cards with key A. With 2x PCIe, 1x USB 3.0 and I²C, it can connect both storage media and other peripherals. The feature connectors also provide GPIOs, I²C, SM and LPC buses.

If the Server-on-Modules require active cooling - for example, with a 16-core Intel Xeon D processor - optional CPU and system fans can also be supported and controlled. This means the congatec micro server carrier board in the 5x5 Mini-STX form factor offers the same server-class performance that up to now only fully-featured 19-in rackmount servers were able to provide and can be mounted anywhere and even integrated into autonomous vehicles. 

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