First Jasper Forest SBB 2.0 motherboard pictured

Compact solution for storage servers

DURING THE INTEL Storage Solutions Forums we spotted a company that we weren’t familiar with displaying its products during the showcase and it just so happens that this company had one of the first Jasper Forest motherboards on display.

The company is called AIC and specializes in OEM/ODM storage solutions, ranging from enclosures to motherboards and ready platforms. The motherboard in question was designed to slot into AIC’s SBB chassis, or Storage Bridge Bay as the standard is known. It’s developed by Intel, but none of the big server manufacturers have adopted it so far, despite it already having been available freely for some three years.

No matter, what we were shown was still interesting. If you’ve seen the type of blades used in modern telephony equipment, then you have something of an idea of how SBB works. AIC offers a range of chassis options with 2U, 3U and 4U models. The so called “canisters” hold various expansion modules, ranging from the motherboard itself to simple PCI Express interfaces as seen below. Since the canisters are slotted into the rear of the server, the front can be kitted out with drive bays and as such you get as many drives bays as it’s possible to fit into the specific chassis size.

The unit we were show was a 4U chassis and it had for canister slots at the rear. A typical setup could include a pair of motherboards for failover protection and a pair of PCI Express expansion modules for add-on cards. The chassis also has room for redundant hot-swappable power supplies and cooling fans.

The motherboard itself in this case doesn’t look like much, although at closer inspection you’ll find that around the back is an external PCI Express x8 connector as well as an eight lane SAS port. AIC has also kitted out the motherboard with 10Gbit Ethernet and there’s also a Compact Flash slot around the back. The front of the PCB holds the chassis interconnects. There are also two mezzanine board connectors, one of which can take a RAID controller (obviously not required with the Jasper Forest) and a quad port Gigabit Ethernet solution.

It’s an interesting solution for storage servers as it should be quite easy to maximize the number of hard drives per server. We’re curious as to why none of the big server manufacturers have adopted this standard yet as it seems like a very well thought out solution for a wide range of storage related implementations for the corporate market space.S|A

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