IBM and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy ASTRON have unveiled the world’s first water-cooled 64-bit microserver. The prototype, which is roughly the size of a smartphone, is part of the proposed IT roadmap for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an international consortium to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Scientists estimate that the processing power required to operate the telescope will be equal to several millions of today’s fastest computers.
The microserver’s team has designed and demonstrated a prototype 64-bit microserver using a PowerPC based chip from Freescale Semiconductor running Linux Fedora and IBM DB2. At 133 × 55 mm2 the microserver contains all of the essential functions of today’s servers, which are 4 to 10 times larger in size.
Not only is the microserver compact, it is also very energy-efficient. One of its innovations is hotwater cooling, which in addition to keeping the chip operating temperature below 85 degrees C, will also transport electrical power by means of a copper plate. The concept is based on the same technology IBM developed for the SuperMUC supercomputer located outside of Munich, Germany. IBM scientists hope to keep each microserver operating between 35–40 watts including the system on a chip (SOC) — the current design is 60 watts.
The next step for scientists is to begin to take 128 of the microserver boards using the newest T4240 chips to create a 2U rack unit with 1536 cores and 3072 threads with up to 6 terabytes of DRAM. In addition, they will be adding an Ethernet switch and power module to the integrated water-cooling.