The main M2DC goal is to:

Develop a new class of low-power TCO-optimised appliances with built-in efficiency and dependability enhancements, easy to integrate with a broad ecosystem of management software and fully software-defined to enable optimisation for a variety of future demanding applications in a cost-effective way.

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Modular Microserver DataCentre Pillars

Modular Microserver DataCentre (M2DC) investigates, develops and demonstrates a modular, highly-efficient, cost-optimized server architecture composed of heterogeneous microserver computing resources, being able to be tailored to meet requirements from various application domains such as image processing, cloud computing or even HPC.

To achieve this objective, M2DC is built on three main pillars:

  • [Pillar 1] A flexible server architecture that can be easily customised, maintained and updated so as to enable adaptation of the data centre. This architecture will be optimized with respect to the integration of computing resources with constrained thermal power dissipation such as embedded CPUs and GPUs, FPGAs, manycore processors, while also being able to integrate more powerful resources if needed. Built on established standards such as COM Express, the server architecture will enable the integration of third-party boards and chips, leading to what can be called an open server architecture. Particular attention will be put on maintainability and reliability by design, relying for example on computing resource hot plug management and redundancy of power supplies.
  • [Pillar 2] Advanced management strategies [Pillar 2a] and system efficiency enhancements (SEE) [Pillar 2b]. In order to improve the behaviour of the system during runtime and to meet requirements from the various applications, the server architecture will include built-in enhancements (e.g., for computing acceleration, enhancements of the global efficiency thanks to data management, dependability and security, behaviour monitoring, etc.) on system level. High power efficiency will be provided by an intelligent power management enabling to constantly optimize the power consumption of the system thanks to proactive and reactive strategies.
  • [Pillar 3] Well-defined interfaces to surrounding software ecosystem will allow for an easy integration into existing data centre management solutions through the use of the latest middleware software for resource management, provisioning, etc. Building on the Linux operating system (e.g., Linaro for ARM-based compute modules) and other well-known software infrastructures, M2DC will also feature optimized runtime software implementations when needed for improving the efficiency of the system towards application domains such as cloud computing, big data analytics and HPC applications.

The results of these three pillars will be combined to produce TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)-optimized appliances, deployed in a real data centre environment and seamlessly interacting with existing infrastructure to run real-life applications.

Main M2DC goal

M2DC is developing turnkey appliances based on a microserver system enabling to build use-case driven, modular, high-density data centres. The idea is to provide use cases in the form of turnkey appliances which can be easily configured, produced, installed and maintained. Thus, the main M2DC goal is to deliver a new class of appliances with the following properties:

  • [P1] Low cost – taking into account the whole appliance lifecycle (purchase, operation, maintenance and refresh cycles) and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) optimisation,
  • [P2] Low power and energy efficient – dramatically reducing power usage and heat dissipation while meeting Quality of Service (QoS) for key and emerging applications,
  • [P3] Dependable by design – delivering built-in reliability and security by integrating fast and efficient monitoring and management functions,
  • [P4] Versatile and scalable – easy to customise and update (software and hardware) to specific application types and large scales by seamless inclusion of heterogeneous and highly parallel computing resources,
  • [P5] Easy to use and integrate with data centre ecosystems – easy provisioning, monitoring and management by modern DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management), cloud and HPC software,
  • [P6] Applicable to a variety of real-life applications – facilitating application and middleware programming, deployment, and optimization in order to use M2DC appliances for various important real-life applications.

To develop its appliances M2DC proposes a flexible server architecture [P4] that can be easily customised [P6], equipped with intelligent power management [P2] and integrated with well-defined interfaces to the surrounding software ecosystem [P5]. The server architecture is based on low power System on Chip (SoC) [P2] components accompanied by built-in enhancements (e.g. for performance acceleration, efficiency, dependability) on system level, thus delivering great efficiency while minimising the effort needed from users. M2DC appliances will enable TCO optimisation [P2][P3] for specific use cases and application areas. The overall costs will be lowered by the use of low cost microserver modules, decrease of energy consumption costs, and facilitating maintenance and integration with existing computing environments [P1]. Relations of this approach to the M2DC appliance properties are illustrated in Figure 1.

Image - m2dcfigure1_transparent.png



To achieve this main goal, M2DC will realise several technical objectives.

The list of technical objectives consists of:

  • [O1] Development of the new class of appliances with minimised Total Cost of Ownership. M2DC will deliver appliances that will provide significantly lower costs in terms of combined CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) and OPEX (Operating Expense) for data centres. Target: Costs for application users within the project should be reduced by a factor of 2.
  • [O2] Reduction of energy consumed by the appliances. M2DC Appliances will use next-generation microserver modules based on latest low-power heterogeneous SoCs coming from server or mobile and embedded markets. Their smart integration in a heterogeneous system including resources such as x86, GPU or FPGA-based architectures and built-in efficiency enhancements using reconfigurable chips will deliver unprecedented efficiency while meeting quality of service demands of relevant workloads. Target: Energy efficiency improvements should reach up to 10-100 times for selected use cases and applications compared to typical servers used by  the users in 2013.
  • [O3] Development of built-in dependability functions. M2DC appliances will include dependability features by design. This objective will be achieved by integration of built-in hardware-supported monitoring and management features, fast and efficient techniques for pattern matching in order to prevent failures and security threats, as well as solutions for easy maintenance and integration with external and existing systems. These functions will be implemented and integrated into turnkey appliances through the use of specific low level middleware and reconfigurable hardware. Target: M2DC appliances will contain pre-integrated security and failure detection mechanisms.
  • [O4] Versatility, customisation and scalability thanks to fully software-defined design. Appliances will allow dynamic customisation to specific application workloads including their built-in functions and communication, power and thermal management (power & temperature caps, energy budgets) features. First, M2DC will extensively use the selection methodology from the FP7 FiPS project to select (possibly heterogeneous) hardware in the design and configuration phase. Second, it will also enable on-the-fly hardware customisation and adaptation by dynamic reconfiguration of FPGAs and communication facilities, include all needed software pre-installed and integrated, and add functionality to scale and integrate within data centres. Target: Customization of the M2DC appliance to a given application will take at least twice less time than providing tailored solutions using today’s heterogeneous servers.
  • [O5] Intelligent power management. M2DC will achieve additional significant improvements in efficiency by integrating software and hardware techniques at various levels including: hardware-assisted system efficiency enhancements, taking advantage of novel fine-grained virtualisation techniques, optimal mapping to heterogeneous resources, optimised thermal management, and interfaces to data centre management systems. Target: Energy efficiency improved by a factor of 2-10 only using these techniques.
  • [O6] Easy and powerful integration with existing data centre ecosystems. M2DC appliances will enable dynamic management and scalability by easy adaptation to an existing data centre eco-system as well as cloud and HPC systems. This integration will provide flexibility; easy deployment, provisioning, and maintenance; precise and dynamic control of power and temperature at data centre level. Hence, it will allow reducing power and cost also within a bigger ecosystem – the whole data centre. Target: Particular M2DC appliances will be integrated into BEYOND and PSNC data centres using parts of existing infrastructure and proposed to early customers and researchers.
  • [O7] Enabling easy adoption of cutting-edge hardware technologies for selected applications. In addition to the latest ARM-based server and embedded processors at the latest technology nodes, M2DC will apply cutting-edge solutions such as reconfigurable hardware and HMC memory based on 3D-stacking, optical interconnects, and new manycore SoCs, to improve efficiency and limit power/temperature of the system. To enable easy adoption, M2DC will leverage existing software and use these technologies to provide built-in system enhancements functions and will benchmark relevant applications to prove the advantages of the approach. Target: Adoption and evaluation of cutting-edge technologies for at least one real industrial and scientific application.
  • [O8] Demonstration of appliances for a broad set of relevant applications. One of the main challenges when designing a heterogeneous low-power system using computing resources such as ARM-based SoCs and accelerators is to identify the proper configuration of the system with respect to applications. Another challenge is to port the applications to the configured systems and to deliver sufficient QoS to the users. M2DC will strongly focus on software aspects pursuing a concept of hardware-software co-design. M2DC will ensure reliable and efficient execution of applications and other software required to implement M2DC use-cases. It will support a wide spectrum of growing classes of important applications, e.g., multimedia processing, online big data analytics for IoT and/or CyberPhysical systems, cloud computing, and HPC applications. Target: Demonstrate M2DC appliance use and efficiency for diverse applications in real environments (photo processing, IoT data analytics, cloud PaaS, and HPC tools /applications).

These objectives will enable M2DC to:

  • reduce TCO for selected applications and use cases by 50% compared to other servers,
  • improve energy-efficiency by 10-100 times, compared to 2013 typical servers depending on selected system configuration and application.