COM-HPC Server Modules Are On the Way
October 25, 2021
“Higher performance” has become the mantra of edge server providers across the world. It’s easy to see why, as the demand for increased performance from servers at the edge is steadily growing and shows no signs of slowing down.
Although the COM-HPC standard for Server-on-Modules has been launched to help save the day, deployable Server-on-Modules (SoMs) are only here in spirit, or let’s say, only here for OEMs from a specification point-of-view. Only embedded partners of processor vendors, such as congatec, currently have their hands on this brand new silicon. Unfortunately, the latest batch of COM-HPC class processors from chip vendors are still MIA. So, the question is, when will the new entry-level server processors specifically designed for use in edge applications be available, so production can begin on systems that are based on COM-HPC server modules?
Caption 1: COM‑HPC Server offers significantly more interfaces than COM Express Type 7 modules.
Anticipation Grows For the New Higher Performance Server-on-Modules
Ever since hearing, "COM-HPC server modules will change the way edge servers are developed in the long term,” edge server providers have kept their ear to the door, waiting for it to open up and reveal a new world of high performance. But like anxious kids asking “How much farther!” when on a trip with their parents, it seems that these providers will also need to be patient and wait for Intel to roll out their new class of processors before higher performance Server-on-Modules will be available.
But let’s face it, waiting for the promised power increase is not easy when you consider that SoMs according to the COM-HPC standard offer OEMs significantly more cores, more processing performance and more bandwidth than ever before. Currently, 1 TByte of RAM is possible via up to 8 memory banks. That’s twice the capacity previously delivered by SoMs.
Caption 2: There are two different COM‑HPC Server form factors that can host either 4 or 8 SO-DIMM sockets.
Top Shelf Modularity
With a COM-HPC Server, modular integration of systems is even possible with, for example, two such SoMs on one carrier board, which allows for even higher performance! COM-HPC also enables edge servers to become more modular, and therefore, more sustainable. This is based on a manufacturer-independent specification from the globally recognized standards development organization PICMG, which enable SoMs to be easily changed out when new processors hit the market. As a result, performance upgrades are significantly less expensive than complete replacement of 1U or 3U rack systems and compute nodes. Of course, the same also applies to micro servers, where around 50% of the costs can be saved per upgrade compared to a new acquisition.
Caption 3: COM-HPC even enables high-density dual processor designs in a compact 1U 19” rack mount casing.
Up to +33% Return on Investment Without Increasing Prices
The combination of these factors makes COM-HPC server modules extremely attractive for edge data center providers who offer their systems "as a service". With modules, they can increase return-on-investment by +25 to +33 percent, while keeping prices at the same level. This is assuming that a system receives one or two performance upgrades via modules and that the performance increase is provided at no extra cost to the customer. Extremely high demand is therefore expected from the networking and storage segment, since "as a service" is increasingly becoming the standard.
Caption 4: An edge server can be provided with highly customized I/Os much more cost-efficiently when using Server-on-Modules since individual carrier boards incur significantly lower NRE costs.
Cost Efficient Local Processing That Allows for Flexible Designs
However, these return-on-investment and sustainability considerations are not the only benefit of modular edge servers, which also save backhaul costs via local processing. Users of such edge servers must also be able to tailor the design of their systems, such as for Industry 4.0 factories, smart trains and rail networks, as well as video surveillance solutions for public spaces. The use of modules allows for installations that are particularly efficient and extremely compact.
Up to 100 Watts With No Fan Required
To best prepare its customers for the tasks ahead, congatec has already expanded its ecosystem and developed cooling solutions that will enable OEMs to cool up to 100 watt systems without the need of an active fan. This increases the robustness of the systems and reduces the risk of failure in harsh environments. Due to the implementation of these cooling solutions, systems are more effectively protected from thermal shocks. One example would be if a service technician opens the door to a mobile edge data center during winter and the hardware is suddenly subjected to icy cold air.
The Ground is Prepared For a Bright and Compatible Future
But to prevent such on-site operations from becoming necessary in the first place, there are standardized remote management solutions for COM-HPC modules based on Redfish and IPMI. In fact, PICMG has specified how the interaction between a module and carrier board should be set up. This is an elementary building block for the acceptance of the COM-HPC server standard by server administrators, who are already used to such tools from the data center. In this respect, we at congatec are very happy that this specification was adopted before the launch of the first COM-HPC Server modules, as this allows each OEM to decide which strategy to follow without losing compatibility. In the end, it seems PICMG has done its homework.
Caption 5: The specification of a new high-end embedded computing standard became necessary because COM Express was launched in 2005 and is now 15 years old.
The Final Answer
So, the answer to the question posed at the start of this blog is that congatec COM-HPC modules are “coming soon”, and when they do, development of edge servers will experience an exciting new era of high performance. Are you just as excited as I am?
More information is available on our website at www.congatec.com
Dan Demers is the General Manager at congatec US.