Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Janakiram MSV, Andreas Grabner, Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

Microservices Expo: Article

Facebook Moves to Crush Servers in a Group Hug

Facebook released a Common Slot architecture specification for data center motherboards

Um, something happened this week you ought to know about.

Facebook blew up the traditional monolithic server - and lit charges under the entire $55 billion-a-year server industry.

GigaOm was first to say it that way and it may turn out to be true so it bears repeating.

Facebook, along with its user-leaning Open Compute contingent, is bent on redesigning servers to suit themselves using interchangeable, disaggregated, independently upgradeable parts.

Ultimately it's supposed to free the customer from the tyranny of the vendor roadmap.

To advance this crusade, Facebook released a Common Slot architecture specification for data center motherboards at the Open Compute Summit Wednesday.

The thing is nicknamed "Group Hug" and it's supposed to produce boards that are completely vendor-neutral and last through multiple generations of processors from multiple vendors.

Having been born too late to exert any influence over server blades, Facebook is determined to see that the new microserver architectures conform to some sort of compatibility code.

Intel, AMD, Applied Micro and Calxeda are already committed to producing products designed to the Common Slot spec and Calxeda, the little Texas start-up with the ARM microserver designs, is so pleased to be in this rarified company it's beside itself.

The way things are unfolding it looks like Facebook and the Open Compute Project (OPC) are endorsing microservers built out of the mobile chips used in smartphones and tablets, giving ARM a chance to break into the citadel held fast by the x86.

Frank Frankovsky, Facebook's VP of hardware design and supply chain as well as executive director of the Open Compute Foundation, showed off a Group Hug board with five unreleased Intel x86 Avoton S Series Atom chips on it as well as five X-Gene 64-bit ARM SoCs.

They all share the same power, electrical and mechanical interconnects and slide into the same microserver chassis.

The chips are on cards that are inserted into the so-called common slot. The motherboard can currently accommodate 10 cards.

"We're establishing for the first time a common slot for any SoC maker to design to a common standard," Frankovsky said. "All the surrounding bits are the same, with DDR memory and network controllers, and now for the first time we will have the ability to have a common slot architecture."

It uses a simple PCIe x8 connector to link the SoCs to the board.

"If we had left this to the industry they probably would have gone out and found the most expensive and esoteric connector on the planet," he said. "What we decided to do was use a PCI-e x8 connector and simply change the pin-out." The Facebook backplane design has one PCI pin-out per server.

The board's layout isn't etched in stone either. It's just supposed to encourage people to use the common slot for their CPUs. "We will now not be bound by placement of components on a single monolithic motherboard," Frankovsky said. "We will be able to do smarter tech refreshes."

The object of the game is to make hardware that's cheaper, greener, more upgradeable and software-defined so it fits the workload and less power hungry.

Group Hug envisions abandoning the modern vendor-integrated server that has to be switched out generation-to-generation for components that can be upgraded as they become available without scraping what surrounds them, letting customers design modular, custom, scalable servers with just the right compute, storage and networking for the job.

The growing consensus is you shouldn't have to change the whole system just to refresh processors, memory or I/O.

The concept and the movement building behind it obviously threaten IBM, HP, Dell and probably VMware too, since Facebook doesn't much fancy virtualization as a way to drive hardware utilization.

Intel, on the other hand, is on the movement's board and is contributing designs for its forthcoming silicon photonics technology, which will enable 100 Gbps interconnects, enough bandwidth to serve multiple processor generations.

Frankovsky said, "This technology also has such low latency that we can take components that previously needed to be bound to the same motherboard and begin to spread them out within a rack."

"We'll said be able to do things in the data center that we've never been able to do before," Intel CTO Justin Rattner said.

It's supposed to connect servers together using a laser-base technology created using silicon rather than pricier techniques.

A prototype Atom-based rack-mount server from Quanta uses Intel's 100 Gbps silicon photonics to connect parts at full speed anywhere on the rack.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
"DX encompasses the continuing technology revolution, and is addressing society's most important issues throughout the entire $78 trillion 21st-century global economy," said Roger Strukhoff, Conference Chair. "DX World Expo has organized these issues along 10 tracks with more than 150 of the world's top speakers coming to Istanbul to help change the world."
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We are focused on SAP running in the clouds, to make this super easy because we believe in the tremendous value of those powerful worlds - SAP and the cloud," explained Frank Stienhans, CTO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"We've been engaging with a lot of customers including Panasonic, we've been involved with Cisco and now we're working with the U.S. government - the Department of Homeland Security," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The financial services market is one of the most data-driven industries in the world, yet it’s bogged down by legacy CPU technologies that simply can’t keep up with the task of querying and visualizing billions of records. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Karthik Lalithraj, a Principal Solutions Architect at Kinetica, discussed how the advent of advanced in-database analytics on the GPU makes it possible to run sophisticated data science workloads on the same database that is housing the rich...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EnterpriseTech has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. EnterpriseTech is a professional resource for news and intelligence covering the migration of high-end technologies into the enterprise and business-IT industry, with a special focus on high-tech solutions in new product development, workload management, increased effic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...