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10x Xeon class Cluster
The MSC3M is a highly optimised server cluster where high performance is required. It is optimised to not only be very powerful and quiet, it's also transportable - and rugged.
Wheel it in, pop it on your desk, remove the front and back end caps, plug in and see if you can hear the whisper fans start up - and then experience the raw power of a cluster of 10x Xeon Servers
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Sneek - Front
Sneek - Back
Sneek - Back (close up)
Sneek - Internal Shock System
Please enjoy reading our short series - the creation of the MSC3M Cluster.
We will soon list the product options.
The Xeon Cluster Concept #1 – the MSC3M
Here we want to share a short series of stories, as the Tranquil R&D team conceive, design, test and build one of the world's first rugged, transportable micro clusters, based on Intel Xeon Core processors – what would become the MSC3M.
Our first micro cluster, the Orange Box was developed with the founder of Ubuntu, Mark Shuttleworth. Watch here as Mark unveils the 'Orange Box' ~ at ODS 2014.
After the successful delivery of many of Intel NUC based micro clusters – branded Ubuntu ( Orange Box), and listening to the feedback from our customers, Tranquil R&D started a project plan to develop a 'true server class' micro cluster.
The aim being to create a powerful cluster of up to 10 Xeon class servers, in a single boxed product that could be light enough, yet rugged enough to be successfully transported on public airlines. This solution would not only deliver a unique solution to support real world field deployments (i.e. disaster zones), it would also be an ideal tool to support sales demonstrations, software training, exhibitions, sand box development etc., for cloud based organisations. Additionally the cluster would deliver a temporary or permanent solution to deliver high performance computing (HPC) needs i.e. data mining, big data, off-site web servers, engineering and rendering etc., where a small dedicated 'network engine / data centre' platform is required
The primary challenge was to create a unit light enough and rugged enough to be attractive to the prospective markets. After much deliberation it was decided the design team could only achieve the goal by making the server systems and the flight case in one unit – a challenge indeed. Although the military and other specialist industries have rugged computers in special flight cases, we haven't seen a 'cluster' of servers in a single, rugged case.
The story of the MSC3M begins...
A range of Xeon class cluster products had already been developed and produced back
in the Summer of 2014 – so the design and test time invested in the 'Xeon Blades' that would be used in the MSC3M could be relied on. A novel solution to closely stacking 'blades' was created. The complex custom 'blade carriers' were designed to not only support the main boards, SSDs etc., – but the embedded high performance heat pipes were used to carry the heat away from the CPU, chipset and voltage regulators to a large heat sink, spanning the depth and width of the system. The large, custom manufactured heat sink, assisting by forced air, cools all ten blades and also the power supply.
Having ten aluminium CPU 'blades' and the single or dual 720W PSUs connected to the large heat sink would then create a further challenge – a single large mass, of sensitive and expensive components. This 'core' mass was measured at 17-18Kg. Protecting the core from shocks that would be inflicted by couriers, airlines, and users is imperative to the success of the project.
The team designed a solution where the core is suspended inside the flight case itself. Specialised suspension devices and buffers were engineered to guarantee that even the most severe of transit shocks would be absorbed and there would be no damage to the core. In one of a series of tests a completed unit (total mass of 31Kg) was rolled down a flight of 15 concrete stairs! The system passed this excessive roll/drop test, although the flight case, and the stairs, did show small impact marks!
In the next part of this series, we share the CAD element of the design.
CAD, or Computer Aided Design, has come along way since it was first introduced in the late 1960's. At Tranquil PC we use the very latest 3D CAD software to 'design' and 'build' our products in a virtual world. The software we use is SolidEdge ST7 software from Siemens. It is very advanced and used by some of the world's largest engineering and manufacturing companies.
Not only do we use the software to design our aluminium and sheet parts, we also design or import every single component used in the product, right down to the last washer. By designing products in this way, we can 'see' where any production assembly issues could occur, before we manufacture any single part. The CAD software is also used to give an accurate indication of each component and the overall mass of the product, this is especially important when a product has a 'maximum mass' limit, in the case of the MSC3M.
Further tools within the CAD software also allow the engineers to determine the effectiveness of the fanned or fan less cooling systems – again, before any part is manufactured.
CAD has proven to be a very powerful tool, as it provides the team with a very high level of confidence in the product characteristics before any single part is made. This drastically cuts down or product design cycles and material costs (waste). Although very powerful, it is constrained by the standard rules of software – “what you put in, is what you get out” – but with over 30 man years of expertise aligned to the design of fan less and specialised IT servers, our products are evolving at a high level.
The MSC3M itself, had a number of specialised components to design, beyond the standard server main board / RAM / CPU etc. The CPU blade, with embedded heat pipes and SSD bays was perhaps one of the most challenging. Over 350 hours of design and testing were applied to the 'blade' cooling alone.
The 'blade' itself starts life as a solid billet of aluminium which is then precision milled on all six surfaces. The resulting part is optimised to cool the main system parts, support 2x 2.5” SSDs, integrate to the main heat sink and contain all cabling etc., – in a single part only 35mm tall. This svelte design allows up to 5x 'blades' to be stacked sideways on a 40mm pitch, resulting in the MSC3M being remarkably 'thin'. There are actually 2 rows of 5 'blades' in the unit.
Once the 'blade' part was finished the main supporting heat sink, a huge 420x 292mm part with over 600,000 square mm of cooling area, was designed. This part not only supports all of the blades, it also supports the internal PSU, Smart Ethernet switch, fan controllers and other peripherals. It also is the main heat transfer component to remove heat from the CPUs on the blades (via the embedded heat pipes). Even though the blades are very close together the CPU temperatures even under 100% load are stable and safe - bearing in mind there is up to 500W of power being generated internally.
CAD is also used to create the front and back panels, the shock absorbers and other custom components required for the product.
Once the entire assembly is built, from 1000's of components and has passed all of the engineering simulation tests, then the custom parts can then be processed in CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture).
In the CAM stage the types of cutting tools are selected and their paths created, to ensure that the final products are exactly as expected. The number of lines of 'code' that control the CNC mills generated in the CAM process can be 1000's and even 10,000's deep – one single mistake can lead to disaster – but with the advent of CAM, we rarely see code errors!
Now that we have completed the CAD/CAM stage the manufacturing team will start the cutting and finishing of the custom parts. It's normally in parallel that another team are working to ensure the product, once completed will 'look right' – this process known as 'photo realistic rendering' will be discussed in the next stage of the series.
In the next part of this series, we share the rendering process of the product design, using Luxion Keyshot
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Sir Henry Royce once remarked that “Small things make perfection, but perfection is no small thing.”
The MSC3M - small, perfect things working in harmony