IBM details PowerPC microserver aimed at square kilometre array

Fedora fires up on Freescale T4240-powered dense and frugal server

IBM has revealed more about a PowerPC microserver it says will help to crunch data gathered by the square kilometre array (SKA), the colossal radio telescope to be built across South Africa and Australia.

Once operational, the SKA is expected to generate around an exabyte – a million terabytes - of data each day. Even sorting the junk is going to need plenty of computing power, but operations at that scale need to be frugal lest electricity costs alone make the SKA horribly expensive to operate.

IBM and others have been pondering this for some time and Big Blue's efforts have included an effort to construct a microserver capable of being deployed in very, very, dense configurations. IBM's trick for making that possible is water-cooling for each server.

Last week IBM booted a new prototype board running Fedora for the first time and, as the video below shows, claims it was able to get the OS running and all of the Freescale T4240 system-on-chip's 12 actual (and 24 virtual) cores humming – and all threads running - while chewing up between 15.5 and 16 amps.

Youtube Video

The T4240 hums along at up to 1.8Ghz, packs 10Gbps and 1 Gbps Ethernet, plus four PCIe controllers. The server depicted above is a demo unit IBM promises to shrink, then assemble into dense rigs the SKA and other applications can consume.

There's no word on just when this server, or the SKA, will debut. But folks from IBM's Netherlands labs will reveal more at the ISSCC 2015 conference in San Francisco on on February 23rd. ®

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