Click here to close now.


Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, AppDynamics Blog, Liz McMillan, XebiaLabs Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

Microservices Expo: Article

Facebook Moves to Crush Servers in a Group Hug

Facebook released a Common Slot architecture specification for data center motherboards

Um, something happened this week you ought to know about.

Facebook blew up the traditional monolithic server - and lit charges under the entire $55 billion-a-year server industry.

GigaOm was first to say it that way and it may turn out to be true so it bears repeating.

Facebook, along with its user-leaning Open Compute contingent, is bent on redesigning servers to suit themselves using interchangeable, disaggregated, independently upgradeable parts.

Ultimately it's supposed to free the customer from the tyranny of the vendor roadmap.

To advance this crusade, Facebook released a Common Slot architecture specification for data center motherboards at the Open Compute Summit Wednesday.

The thing is nicknamed "Group Hug" and it's supposed to produce boards that are completely vendor-neutral and last through multiple generations of processors from multiple vendors.

Having been born too late to exert any influence over server blades, Facebook is determined to see that the new microserver architectures conform to some sort of compatibility code.

Intel, AMD, Applied Micro and Calxeda are already committed to producing products designed to the Common Slot spec and Calxeda, the little Texas start-up with the ARM microserver designs, is so pleased to be in this rarified company it's beside itself.

The way things are unfolding it looks like Facebook and the Open Compute Project (OPC) are endorsing microservers built out of the mobile chips used in smartphones and tablets, giving ARM a chance to break into the citadel held fast by the x86.

Frank Frankovsky, Facebook's VP of hardware design and supply chain as well as executive director of the Open Compute Foundation, showed off a Group Hug board with five unreleased Intel x86 Avoton S Series Atom chips on it as well as five X-Gene 64-bit ARM SoCs.

They all share the same power, electrical and mechanical interconnects and slide into the same microserver chassis.

The chips are on cards that are inserted into the so-called common slot. The motherboard can currently accommodate 10 cards.

"We're establishing for the first time a common slot for any SoC maker to design to a common standard," Frankovsky said. "All the surrounding bits are the same, with DDR memory and network controllers, and now for the first time we will have the ability to have a common slot architecture."

It uses a simple PCIe x8 connector to link the SoCs to the board.

"If we had left this to the industry they probably would have gone out and found the most expensive and esoteric connector on the planet," he said. "What we decided to do was use a PCI-e x8 connector and simply change the pin-out." The Facebook backplane design has one PCI pin-out per server.

The board's layout isn't etched in stone either. It's just supposed to encourage people to use the common slot for their CPUs. "We will now not be bound by placement of components on a single monolithic motherboard," Frankovsky said. "We will be able to do smarter tech refreshes."

The object of the game is to make hardware that's cheaper, greener, more upgradeable and software-defined so it fits the workload and less power hungry.

Group Hug envisions abandoning the modern vendor-integrated server that has to be switched out generation-to-generation for components that can be upgraded as they become available without scraping what surrounds them, letting customers design modular, custom, scalable servers with just the right compute, storage and networking for the job.

The growing consensus is you shouldn't have to change the whole system just to refresh processors, memory or I/O.

The concept and the movement building behind it obviously threaten IBM, HP, Dell and probably VMware too, since Facebook doesn't much fancy virtualization as a way to drive hardware utilization.

Intel, on the other hand, is on the movement's board and is contributing designs for its forthcoming silicon photonics technology, which will enable 100 Gbps interconnects, enough bandwidth to serve multiple processor generations.

Frankovsky said, "This technology also has such low latency that we can take components that previously needed to be bound to the same motherboard and begin to spread them out within a rack."

"We'll said be able to do things in the data center that we've never been able to do before," Intel CTO Justin Rattner said.

It's supposed to connect servers together using a laser-base technology created using silicon rather than pricier techniques.

A prototype Atom-based rack-mount server from Quanta uses Intel's 100 Gbps silicon photonics to connect parts at full speed anywhere on the rack.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at) or paperboy(at), and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
If you are new to Python, you might be confused about the different versions that are available. Although Python 3 is the latest generation of the language, many programmers still use Python 2.7, the final update to Python 2, which was released in 2010. There is currently no clear-cut answer to the question of which version of Python you should use; the decision depends on what you want to achieve. While Python 3 is clearly the future of the language, some programmers choose to remain with Py...
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
Opinions on how best to package and deliver applications are legion and, like many other aspects of the software world, are subject to recurring trend cycles. On the server-side, the current favorite is container delivery: a “full stack” approach in which your application and everything it needs to run are specified in a container definition. That definition is then “compiled” down to a container image and deployed by retrieving the image and passing it to a container runtime to create a running...
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
As the world moves towards more DevOps and microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Raghavan "Rags" Srinivas, an Architect/Developer Evangeli...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
Despite all the talk about public cloud services and DevOps, you would think the move to cloud for enterprises is clear and simple. But in a survey of almost 1,600 IT decision makers across the USA and Europe, the state of the cloud in enterprise today is still fraught with considerable frustration. The business case for apps in the real world cloud is hybrid, bimodal, multi-platform, and difficult. Download this report commissioned by NTT Communications to see the insightful findings – registra...
Application availability is not just the measure of “being up”. Many apps can claim that status. Technically they are running and responding to requests, but at a rate which users would certainly interpret as being down. That’s because excessive load times can (and will be) interpreted as “not available.” That’s why it’s important to view ensuring application availability as requiring attention to all its composite parts: scalability, performance, and security.
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
There once was a time when testers operated on their own, in isolation. They’d huddle as a group around the harsh glow of dozens of CRT monitors, clicking through GUIs and recording results. Anxiously, they’d wait for the developers in the other room to fix the bugs they found, yet they’d frequently leave the office disappointed as issues were filed away as non-critical. These teams would rarely interact, save for those scarce moments when a coder would wander in needing to reproduce a particula...
All we need to do is have our teams self-organize, and behold! Emergent design and/or architecture springs up out of the nothingness! If only it were that easy, right? I follow in the footsteps of so many people who have long wondered at the meanings of such simple words, as though they were dogma from on high. Emerge? Self-organizing? Profound, to be sure. But what do we really make of this sentence?
As we increasingly rely on technology to improve the quality and efficiency of our personal and professional lives, software has become the key business differentiator. Organizations must release software faster, as well as ensure the safety, security, and reliability of their applications. The option to make trade-offs between time and quality no longer exists—software teams must deliver quality and speed. To meet these expectations, businesses have shifted from more traditional approaches of d...
Information overload has infiltrated our lives. From the amount of news available and at our fingertips 24/7, to the endless choices we have when making a simple purchase, to the quantity of emails we receive on a given day, it’s increasingly difficult to sift out the details that really matter. When you envision your cloud monitoring system, the same thinking applies. We receive a lot of useless data that gets fed into the system, and the reality is no one in IT or DevOps has the time to manu...
Last month, my partners in crime – Carmen DeArdo from Nationwide, Lee Reid, my colleague from IBM and I wrote a 3-part series of blog posts on We titled our posts the Simple Math, Calculus and Art of DevOps. I would venture to say these are must-reads for any organization adopting DevOps. We examined all three ascpects – the Cultural, Automation and Process improvement side of DevOps. One of the key underlying themes of the three posts was the need for Cultural change – things like t...
It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that Jesse Proudman, Blue Box CTO, has been appointed to the position of IBM Distinguished Engineer. Jesse is the first employee at Blue Box to receive this honor, and I’m quite confident there will be more to follow given the amazing talent at Blue Box with whom I have had the pleasure to collaborate. I’d like to provide an overview of what it means to become an IBM Distinguished Engineer.
I’ve been thinking a bit about microservices (μServices) recently. My immediate reaction is to think: “Isn’t this just yet another new term for the same stuff, Web Services->SOA->APIs->Microservices?” Followed shortly by the thought, “well yes it is, but there are some important differences/distinguishing factors.” Microservices is an evolutionary paradigm born out of the need for simplicity (i.e., get away from the ESB) and alignment with agile (think DevOps) and scalable (think Containerizati...
The cloud has reached mainstream IT. Those 18.7 million data centers out there (server closets to corporate data centers to colocation deployments) are moving to the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Achim Weiss, CEO & co-founder of ProfitBricks, will share how two companies – one in the U.S. and one in Germany – are achieving their goals with cloud infrastructure. More than a case study, he will share the details of how they prioritized their cloud computing infrastructure deployments ...
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley was a terrific event for us. The Qubell booth was crowded on all three days. We ran demos every 30 minutes with folks lining up to get a seat and usually standing around. It was great to meet and talk to over 500 people! My keynote was well received and so was Stan's joint presentation with RingCentral on Devops for BigData. I also participated in two Power Panels – ‘Women in Technology’ and ‘Why DevOps Is Even More Important than You Think,’ both ...