NEC shoehorns 368 Avoton cores and 1472GB of RAM into one box

Our visit to the Kingston booth at IDF was particularly interesting for more than one reason. With the launch of Intel's Avoton SoC for servers, in the form of the Atom C2000 series, super-dense microservers are likely to be getting a lot more attention. To show off Avoton's potential, Kingston had a nifty little demo system built inside of a standard mid-tower ATX case.

That little mainboard there houses four separate computers. Each of those black heatsinks cools a separate eight-core Avoton SoC, and each compute node has two SO-DIMMs worth of memory attached. All 32 cores are running a live demo without any fans mounted atop the heatsinks.

The Kingston rep wasn't sure which Avoton model was in use, so I stuck my finger on the heatsink and promptly concluded it was probably a 6W variant. The thing was barely warm to the touch. The Kingston dude flinched a bit when I accosted his demo system's CPUs but generally took it well. I managed not to unleash a killer static shock.

Kingston is excited about the potential of Avoton, and of microservers generally, because of the huge amounts of RAM they can consume. To better illustrate, the Kingston rep dragged me over to the NEC booth and pointed out this monster:

This is an Avoton-based microserver in a 2U rack-mount chassis. Those cards you see mounted in several of the slots have an eight-core Avoton compute node, and each one can host up to 32GB of RAM. So you're looking at a two-unit-high enclosure with as many as 368 Silvermont cores and up to 1472GB of DDR3 memory. Across the back of the system (to the right in the picture above) is an array of slots for storage expansion cards with 2.5" drives, as well.

I think we could host TR on that thing. Just maybe.

The crazy thing is that the main limitation in terms of per-node computing resources may well be memory capacity. Depends on the workload, of course, but for many uses, Avoton's memory capacity limit could be the main obstacle to Avoton-based microservers supplanting Xeons. Of course, ARM-based SoC providers are likely to build support for even higher memory capacities into their 64-bit ARMv8 SoCs based on the Cortex-A57.

These are very interesting times in the server market.

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