IF YOU WANTED to see AMD’s upcoming Magny-Cours boards or 4 GPU compute platforms at CeBIT, SuperMicro was the place to be. That is only the short list though, there were a lot of other interesting bits all over its corner at Hannover.
The first one of interest is a line SuperMicro is calling Double Sided Storage. If you take a server and want to plug lots of drives into it, you have to cram the front of it with drive bays and are essentially limited by the box height. On a 2U, you can stuff tons of 2.5″ drives in vertically, but that tends not to be enough for some. Those people can either go to a larger box or live with fewer drives.
If you go to 4U, you can double the drive count, but that is still not enough for many. The idea behind the Double Sided Storage system is to take a 4U machine and fill the front with drive bays, and then most of the back as well. This gives you almost double the bays for essentially no extra rack space since those areas are essentially wasted on a standard server. If 45 drives isn’t enough, then you have to go bigger.
There is one problem though. If you have a rack that doesn’t allow easy access to the back side or is in a hot isle/cold isle data center, well, swapping drives is a challenge. To solve that, SuperMicro has a new rack system that is more open in back and has better cable management than standard racks. Cables are pulled off to the side allowing you to swap the drives much more easily.
This may not solve the hot isle/cold isle problem, but that is what interns are for. They don’t feel pain like higher paid employees do and also emit a much less acrid odor when burnt. The new racks should help a bit with TIS (Toasted Intern Syndrome), but since they are initially OEM only, you might have to stock up on interns to tide you over until they reach retail.
2S 24C Magny-Cours in 1U
How do you get 24 cores and two GPU compute cards into 1U? Use the upcoming A+ Server 1022GG-TF and plug in two 12 core Magny-Cours, aka Opteron 6100 series CPUs and a couple of FirePro GPUs.
4S Magny cours
If that isn’t enough, you can step up to the H8QG6-F, a 4 socket Magny-Cours machine. It has 6G SAS, LSI SAS controllers, dual LAN and remote KVM capabilities. You also can stuff in up to 512G of ram if you don’t want to bother loading from those pesky HDs. Both Magny-Cours machines use the AMD SR5690 chips or variants of it.
Quad-Fermi mockups abound
Should you want to move to greener pastures, SuperMicro has the servers for you. There were 2 and 4 Tesla/Quadro servers featuring that loveable scamp, Fermi. These were genuine ‘puppies‘, meaning they were not functional, just mockups. There are not enough samples to go around to bring working cards, much less six of them, to a trade show. (As a note to Nvidia PR, SuperMicro was honest when asked about the status of the cards on display. It can be done, no one died!)
Two other mockups were in another 1U machine. If you are expecting mass quantities before fall, I have a bridge to sell you that goes nicely with the Fermi color scheme. Write me for details, I am willing to let it go cheap.
More important than the Fermi mockups was a sea change at the SuperMicro booth. It showed all the GPU compute demos with ATI FireGL cards. This may not seem that unusual, but in 5+ years of covering it, I can’t recall a SuperMicro demo with an ATI GPU in it.
Given the number of servers that it sells, this could take a huge chunk out of the Nvidia compute market, and that will hit its bottom line hard. Then again, when AMD can deliver product and Nvidia can’t, there is only one option to buy. Keep an eye on this, for it has deep implications for the GPU space.
The last cool bit was something I didn’t expect to see, the SSE-G48-TG4 48-port ethernet switch. In addition to the GigE ports, there are 4 10GigE ports in this 1U ‘top of rack’ switch. SuperMicro claims 1:1 non-blocking routing, comprehensive management and layer-3 switching. I think the more important point will be that it does not come with the ‘Cisco tax’, something much more important to the majority of people out there.
In the end, three major themes were on display at Supermicro, AMD, ATI and branching out. AMD looks to have a much more competitive server lineup than anything it has fielded for years with Magny-Cours, something most weren’t expecting. ATI now looks to have a foothold in the GPU compute space, aided by Nvidia’s self-inflicted implosion, and it is hitting the green team where it hurts.
Last, SuperMicro is taking baby steps into the comprehensive data center solution space where price competition is a mere curiosity. All three moves will have profound implications in the data center over the next two or thee years.S|A