Leading-edge embedded edge server technology

01 September 2021

Data centre servers_stock shot
Data centre servers_stock shot

Next-generation data centres are behind everything in today’s connected world – from cameras to automated factories. In this article, high performance computing specialist, AMD explains how its new AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors are designed to address the increasing computing, I/O, memory & security demands for workloads at the embedded edges in many different industrial fields.

This article was originally featured in the September 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

With the launch of its AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors, AMD is reaching the core of the new emerging trend towards deploying embedded data centres across various industrial fields. Data centre technology is actually not new to AMD: the company innovated high-end x86 computing with the first 64-bit processor, and was also first-to-market with multi-core processor and HyperTransport technology. AMD’s share of the entire server market has been growing steadily since the introduction of EPYC. This builds a solid foundation to address the manifold different edge server demands in the industrial and embedded computing space.

Huge demand in edge servers, edge clouds & fog servers

According to research from market intelligence firms, there is massive demand for edge servers, edge clouds and fog servers in various industries. Occams Business Research predicts a CAGR of 50% for edge computing until 2023, while Grand View Research predicts a CAGR of 41% until 2025. TrendForce is slightly less enthusiastic, but still predicts a CAGR of 30% until 2022.

Edge computing demand for embedded and industrial applications can be found, for example, in the manufacturing automation sector, where there is a tremendous need to synchronise different machinery in real-time. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications – with and without attached vision systems – also need to handle massive server workloads in close proximity to the data source to minimise latency. The same demand occurs in collaborative and cooperative robotics, as well as autonomous logistic vehicles, where minimised latency is key for safety. Embedded edge servers and rugged NAS/SAN devices can also help accelerate leading big data and in-memory database applications, which have to provide massive storage capacities, high throughput and high-bandwidth I/O to manage and analyse massive amounts of unstructured data that come from all the various connected industrial Ethernets, fieldbuses and I/O nodes.

With increasing real-time capable bandwidth over Ethernet, machine vendors even want to consolidate their various control and HMI (human machine interface) platforms within a single manufacturing cell by utilising virtual machines (VMs) and desktop infrastructures (VDIs) to enhance control and protection of business-critical data, while at the same time also supporting improved collaboration in Industry 4.0 applications. Even better user experience can be provided when this is tied directly to server capabilities in combination with graphics processor support of SR-IOV (single-root input/output virtualization) for superior performance. Carrier-grade rugged network equipment providers who need to deploy earthquake resistant edge server devices also have ambitious design goals for next-generation network function virtualization (NFV), software defined networking (SDN) and networked storage infrastructures.

AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor
AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor

A need for rugged server technology with long-term availability

Data processing architects at the various edges are therefore looking to get a small footprint BGA platform that is capable of operating reliably in harsh environments with high shock, vibrations and extreme temperatures (0-105°C) and that features long time availability of at least 5-7 years, so that installations and support are guaranteed for the entire industrial lifecycle. For customers with an even longer lifecycle support roadmap, planned product availability can even be extended up to 10 years.

With the new Zen core-based AMD EPYC 3000 Embedded processor, this demand can now be served with exceptional reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) features. The new platforms – that can operate without any active cooling in the 35 watt versions, thus enabling maintenance-free designs – convince with best-in-class power efficiency and an industry-leading feature set for multi-threaded applications: based on benchmark tests, they offer up to 2.7x more performance-per-dollar and up to 2x more connectivity than competitive solutions on the market today. In combination with a new level of security-at-the-edge, plus simple integration, the new platforms are perfect candidates to spread to the edges all over the world.

Their Infinity Fabric delivers an evolved HyperTransport, beyond previous SoC (system-on-chip) designs enabling seamless, scalable interconnect for on-die and on-package. This enables AMD to offer engineers a highly scalable design on a pin-compatible BGA footprint from 4 to 16 cores. That helps to leverage a single design to serve the needs of a broad range of different solutions with individual performance, power and price demands. A single-socket solution with AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors in a two-die configuration with more than 8 cores can even offer redundancy for high availability, as well as for single failure tolerance voting systems. For superior data integrity, the platform also offers advanced error detection, correction, recovery and containment capabilities that are essential for the high availability demanded in edge server devices.

Flexible high-speed & legacy connectivity in all directions

Embedded applications also benefit from highly flexible high-speed options that are offered by up to 8x natively supported 10 GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) channels – and up to 64 PCIe (PCI Express) Gen 3 lanes by a single CPU. No other embedded edge server processor offers that much flexibility for interfaces and high-speed I/O (input/output). In a top-of-the-edge system design with one AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor, up to 4 full-blown PEG (PCI Express Graphics) Gen 3.0 graphics cards can be deployed on a single SFF (small form factor) server that is connected to 8 cameras based on 10 GigE vision for real-time high-res situational awareness applications. The AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 series processors deliver excellent performance for many HPC (high performance computing) workloads that may also include state-of-the-art GPUs (graphics processing units), such as AMD Radeon Embedded GPUs for the most demanding applications. Having all this out of a single hand and optimised for collaboration, engineers get to market faster and more efficiently with their latest AI and machine learning applications.

AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_01-Features
AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_01-Features

The new AMD Embedded EPYC 3000 processors offer up to 4 memory channels per CPU for up to 1 terabyte of RAM per socket, which also contributes to industry-leading memory bandwidth and high memory density. Customers no longer have to purchase dual-socket servers just because they need more I/O and/or memory capacity than previous or current competing single-socket servers can provide. AMD EPYC processors also support massive storage capacity of up to 32 NVMe or SATA devices in both single-socket and dual-socket designs, enabling streamlined software defined and direct attached storage solutions.

Also attractive is the improved floating point performance in both single- and dual-die solutions. This is essential for the many emerging AI applications, for example. But it is not only the performance that convinces. The TCO (total cost of ownership) is also better – in terms of hardware invests, as well as in terms of software, because operators of single-socket systems with doubled core count usually have to pay for licenses per socket, as is the case with VMware, for example.

High level of security & comprehensive encryption

Beside all the performance and performance-per-dollar measures, the new AMD EPYC processors also convince with high-level security features, since security is key for edge server devices. The AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor is the central root of trust for those installations, providing a three-step approach with:

•  Secure Boot, which also covers Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) virtual machines and prevents the use of malicious rootkits/bootkits to provide a secure environment for the OS and host OS to load;

•  Secure Run, to protect the data at work by encrypting the data in the memory via Secure Memory Encryption (SME), as well as Secure Virtualization Execution, which securely separates hypervisor and guest OS, so that neither has access to the resources of the other;

•  Secure Move, which establishes a secure channel between two SEV-enabled platforms, so that VMs can be migrated not only within the data centre, but also to private and even public clouds, given that the provider has also SEV-enabled platforms.

AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_02-Security-Features
AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_02-Security-Features

For data in motion, the AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 series provides seamless security protocol support, with integrated crypto acceleration supporting the IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) for its 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The result: even the server administrator has no access to such an encrypted VM. This is hugely important for any edge server services, as they are the collection points, for example in industrial automation applications, of various competing multi-vendor applications. With such secure multi-tenancy per CPU/SoC, even the most competing automation companies can now implement their Industry 4.0 technologies into a single edge device at customers’ local edge servers for minimal latency of tactile IoT (internet of things) applications. And with encrypted AMD-V™ hardware virtualization, a graphics-centric non-deterministic operating system can run alongside a deterministic hard real-time operating system. Encryption is executed by the AMD Secure Processor that offers one-time programmable (OTP) capabilities, enabling designers to uniquely configure their systems.

Attractive to system deployers is the fact that EPYC VMs are software compatible with Intel XEON, so that engineers can migrate either live or cold, and balance their loads as preferred with older equipment using standard VMware, Microsoft® Hyper-V, and Linux® KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) environments. And, coming back to the improved number of cores available on a single socket, deploying the AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 series means also more VMs and more robustly configured VMs per server than previously possible, so that network security monitoring can be easily deployed parallel to running real-time detection systems.

Remote administration capabilities are a must for edge applications

All these capabilities are now available at low power levels down to only 35 watts servers – an essential and new feature for embedded and industrial applications, compared to previous standard embedded computing platforms – with an extensive ecosystem of remote management for the distributed. This helps reduce administration, as well as maintenance costs and power consumption through service alerts, remote diagnostics and the ability to remotely schedule the turn on or off of stations. Enhanced serviceability features address the need to preplan servicing in advance, accelerating troubleshooting and helping reduce downtime. RAS features include machine check recovery on uncorrectable errors and Watchdog timers to maximise availability, even after severe software failures, as well as APML (Advanced Platform Management Link) SB-RMI (Side-Band Remote Management Interface) and APML Machine Check Architecture Extensions (MCAX) to report errors to the OS, DDR4 Post Package Repair at boot time for preventing, detecting and repairing errors in DDR DRAM interfaces, plus cache (L2, L3) and DRAM scrubbing to correct single-bit errors in the memory.

Scalability from CEO to I/O & back

The PC-compatible x86 architecture of the new AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors provides native support for Microsoft® Windows®, Linux® and a variety of popular real-time and safety-certified operating systems. This enables seamless interoperability from the CEO’s laptop, via the company servers and virtualized network and data centre infrastructure, down to the edges and even beyond, into the industrial fields. Such broad interoperability streamlines development and improves management efficiencies, while reducing overall cost of ownership. And interoperability is becoming more and more important as software is the game changer for IoT grids. Market intelligence firm, IDC predicts for example, that in 2020, 40% of workloads will be initiated by virtual usage models in data centres that lower TCO and optimise workload balancing, and include NFV and SDNs for the platform themselves.

AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_03-Infinity-Fabric
AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processor_03-Infinity-Fabric

With all these features and benefits, the AMD EPYC Embedded 3000 processors set a new benchmark for innovation and performance-per-dollar, giving system designers a cost-effective new choice for x86 embedded edge server processing. And they can expect a great future for their edge device designs, as the new AMD EPYC processor is backed by a roadmap for which system architects will see continuous improvements over the next years in innovation and performance with ZEN 2 (Rome) and Zen 3 (Milan). So it looks like AMD has plenty to offer in the coming years.

Embedded boards & system vendor ecosystem

With the launch of the new AMD EPYC processor, AMD gathered 15 system vendors providing up to 50 system configurations, the majority of them focusing on the commercial-grade level of edge servers in well-cooled data centres. They also made standard ATX motherboards and server-grade COMs (computer-on-modules) available. Right now, embedded and industrial board and system level platform vendors are close to the launch of new products for markets requiring shock and vibration resistance, as well as optional extended temperature ranges from 0-105°C.

On the board level, they are expected to become available in designs that are compatible to the 19-inch and ATX ecosystems, and as a new generation of COMs for custom-tailored edge server devices. On the system level, designs span from small boxes and top-hat rail systems for industrial cabinets to blade system designs, depending on the applications’ needs. Especially SFF server systems are often full-custom designs. Customers requiring a SFF platform will therefore need to ask design houses and the ODM (original design manufacturer) service teams from the embedded board level sector to get their own edge server designed. AMD will certainly be happy to help find the right partner for such projects.


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