Low-Power Slab Server Pairs ARM with Linux

A rendering of Codethink’s Baserock Slab ARM Server.

Are you a data-center operator with a love for Linux? Are you curious about the new generation servers built on low-power ARM architecture? Codethink’s Baserock Slab ARM Server may scratch that dual itch.

As with other servers built on ARM architecture, Codethink intends the Baserock Slab for data centers in need of extra power efficiency. The Slab supports Baserock Linux, currently in its second development release (known as “Secret Volcano”), as well as Debian GNU/Linux. “While the Baserock Slab was designed for building ARM-based embedded systems, they also serve as energy efficient and highly concentrated cloud or appliance servers,” Codethink wrote in a statement.

While Baserock Linux was first developed around the X86-64 platform, its developers planned the leap to the ARM platform. Each Slab CPU node consists of a Marvell quad-core 1.33-GHz Armada XP ARM chip, 2 GB of ECC RAM, a Cogent Computer Systems CSB1726 SoM, and a 30 GB solid-state drive. The nodes are connected to the high-speed network fabric, which includes two links per compute node driving 5 Gbits/s of bonded bandwidth to each CPU, with wire-speed switching and routing at up to 119 million packets per second.

Typical ARM cores consume just a fraction of the power of an X86-based server. While Codethink hasn’t outright disclosed the actual power needs of the Slab, its 260-watt power supply offers something of a clue. Meanwhile, the forward-compatible SOMs (server object managers) will allow operators to replace the CPUs with newer models.

“Like many ARM-based system developers, we understand the benefits of developing natively on ARM systems for ARM,” Paul Sherwood, chief executive of Codethink, wrote in a statement. “The Baserock Slab… is designed to [maximize] parallel horsepower—with high density, fast processors, fast switching and fast local storage.”

Codethink positions itself as a systems engineering design and consulting company, so it remains unclear how many Slabs will eventually ship to customers. The Slab is designed to be a volume product: each unit is half-depth, meaning that two can sit back-to-back within a 1U enclosure. That totals 76 units in a full-height rack, with 2,432 cores per rack. Codethink claims that sort of infrastructure will require no special cooling apparatus.

Gabriel Vizzard, vice-president of marketing and business development for the company, wrote in an email that Codethink will make the Slab available in a few weeks for $10,000 apiece:

“The Baserock Slab was designed for high performance as well as energy efficiency… That is why we have included a solid-state mSata drive with each processor module. This is quite suitable for building Linux systems for ARM on ARM as well as for cloud application servers.”

A commenter at Ars Technica claimed that the system’s SOMs and baseboard hardware were designed by Cogent Computer Systems, Inc. “The design was primarily meant to show the viability of an ARM server using our off the shelf SOM’s,” they wrote.

 

Image: Codethink

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