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Performance Upgrades at About Half the Initial Investment

The performance race for server technologies is far from over. However, investing in data center services time and again costs money – more than actually necessary. The use of alternative standardized processor modules can drastically cut these costs. Microservers leveraging congatec Server-on-Modules based on the vendor-independent COM Express Type 7 standard help to significantly reduce upgrade costs. After three to five years, a second generation is expected to cost only about 50% of the initial investment, as a simple replacement of the processor modules will be all that’s required in the majority of cases.

It is not only the telecoms market that is struggling with the fact that revenues per Gigabit of data transfer are constantly falling, while performance requirements are constantly rising –despite the given TDP spectrum of each server rack. The same applies to data center operators as well as on-premise cloud and server applications, and even more so in the industrial server and energy-sensitive microserver segment, where space is often much more limited. Here too, Internet, IIoT and Industry 4.0 connected installations must manage increasingly complex challenges, such as image data recognition using artificial intelligence, without the option to scale the available server space in the control cabinet rack of machines or systems in often harsh environments. This makes it necessary to pack more and more performance onto the same microserver footprint without any additional thermal design scope.

When installing a new generation of microservers, it is already clear that the next generation will have to follow within three to five years in order to keep pace with requirements. But how can this next performance upgrade be implemented as cost-effectively as possible? German IT company Christmann has taken an innovative approach utilizing the new COM Express standard for Server-on-Modules to develop a new generation of modular 2U and 3U rackmount servers. They can be flexibly equipped with up to 27 CPU microservers with x86 or ARM architecture. In addition, they also offer standardized modular options for parallel processing in the form of GPGPU cards and FPGA modules, which the company also physically implements in a COM Express Basic footprint.

Fig 1: This Christmann 3U rackmount system can host up to 27 high-performance microservers. Each carrier blade uses up to 3 COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules from congatec.

Based on its own calculations, Christmann estimates that costs for migrating to a second generation amount to only about 50%, including all services that must be provided for new configurations, qualification and installation. When applying these costs, for example, to three innovation cycles, total investment is reduced to about two-thirds (200%/300%).

The modular concept makes such servers extremely scalable in terms of processor performance as they can host both COM Express Type 6 and COM Express Type 7 modules. This allows a flexible module choice, ranging from simple Intel Atom C3000 processor modules to Intel Xeon D1500 processors. Thanks to coded plug contacts, the Christmann blade carrier can automatically detect whether a COM Express Type 7 or a COM Express Type 6 module has been plugged in and adjust the routing to the backplane accordingly. This simplifies module replacement considerably. And as GPGPUs can also be used with classic PEG slots, the new rackmount servers are a perfect COTS platform for any edge server requirement.

Fig 2: The microservers can be equipped with Server-on-Modules or Computer-on-Modules from congatec as required.

In addition to the integrated 10/40 GB Ethernet switch, Christmann also offers an optional PCIe switch in the system that allows the individual microservers to seamlessly communicate with each other at extremely low latencies – a perfect foundation for fast, real-time data processing in applications that want multiple microservers to compute in parallel.


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As far as the Server-on-Modules are concerned, Christmann treats these as complete microservers in combination with the appropriate cooling and relies on modules from congatec. This is because congatec plays a key role in this area, is a top leader in the field of Computer-on-Modules in general, and provides excellent service.

“Sales of Computer-on-Modules and Server-on-Modules are always accompanied by personal integration support for OEM developers. There are no hotlines where you have to explain your problems all over again to a new employee every time you call. One contact person takes care of all issues,” explains Micha vor dem Berge, Head of Server Development at christmann informationstechnik + medien.

In addition, congatec  also offers comprehensive design-in services through its Technical Solution Center. The services offered by the Technical Solution Center range from customer-specific BSP customization to long-term hardware-related software maintenance for the OS. If required, the offer also includes the selection of suitable components for the carrier boards and blades, as well as design reviews and compliance tests of high-speed signals, thermal simulations, MTBF calculations and debugging services for customer-specific solutions. The goal is to always provide customers with the most convenient and efficient technical support – from requirement engineering to mass production.

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Performance Upgrades at About Half the Initial Investment

by Circuit Cellar Staff time to read: 3 min