Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo, Elizabeth White, PagerDuty Blog

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
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
The age of Digital Disruption is evolving into the next era – Digital Cohesion, an age in which applications securely self-assemble and deliver predictive services that continuously adapt to user behavior. Information from devices, sensors and applications around us will drive services seamlessly across mobile and fixed devices/infrastructure. This evolution is happening now in software defined services and secure networking. Four key drivers – Performance, Economics, Interoperability and Trust ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up 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. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Most Influential ‘Smart Cities - IIoT' Account and @BigDataExpo has been named fourteenth by Right Relevance (RR), which provides curated information and intelligence on approximately 50,000 topics. In addition, Right Relevance provides an Insights offering that combines the above Topics and Influencers information with real time conversations to provide actionable intelligence with visualizations to enable decision making. The Insights service is applicable to eve...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search an...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.