The airflow to cool the chassis is from the bottom of the container flowing upward and exhausting from the top toward the back. With cabling of ports A and B in each microserver, supervisory/management and peripheral connectivity, there is potential for shadowing / obstruction of airflow to microservers situated toward the back. In addition, the raising hot air from bottom RUs can add a couple of degrees to the microservers in the top RUs. Xi3 says they have resolved the airflow and cooling issues.
Figure 3 shows the side view
of the data center on wheels, which has power management, uplink ports,
cooling, UPS, etc., all self-contained.
Figure 3. Side view of the data center on wheels.
Container management, uplink and other supervisory connections are shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Back view of the container showing container management ports.
Xi3 uses a unique design of three mutually orthogonally-mounted boards, which it calls the Processor Board and the two I/O boards, Northbridge and Southbridge (with chip that controls all of the logic or I/O interfaces and interconnects for I/O). The result is the computer architecture with bare minimums of mother board and I/O boards. The processor board houses AMD's multicore processor, but Xi3 claims the designs are adaptable to any processor, including Intel's. The small form factor is also made possible by a clever use of solid state disks (SSD), shown below.
Xi3 claims this modular design for computers and servers allows an infinite amount of functions to be easily integrated into one core design. There appears to be a number of advantages to this design: adaptability to multiple use environments, heat dissipation, modular upgrades, mass-production and aesthetic appeal, to mention a few.
Figure 5. Xi3’s microserver (bottom surface has rails to mount the Zero module which provides additional storage capability in terabytes).
There is no doubt quite a bit of engineering has gone into Xi3's boxes. I did press for more detailed specs but was told it would be available in the coming weeks. On its website, Xi3 provides the specs for the modular computer but not the microserver:
Xi3's demo was in AMD's booth... I do know the Xi3 Microserver uses a dual-core 64-bit AMD CPU
Incidentally, the "3" in Xi3 stands for the three-part motherboard!
This does not seem very innovative except in style and marketing material. Launching a new design without the highest-speed next-generation interfaces makes it look like packaging exercise, as does the lack of tech specs in this press release.
This type of solution is very cool and a lot of engineering obviously went into it. Prospects should be concerned about lock in and system reuse however. I recently created a more COTS version that sits on a desk and sips 100 Watts per compute node http://www.crikit.info . We will be showing a 40Gbe version at CloudFair in Seattle in April. These types of compact, energy-efficient devices that run cloud software for on-premise and hybrid cloud configurations are the future of SMB and departmental computing. Very interesting times in computing. Moore's Law in action.
A good compact form but I see som potential issues of heat disspation when scaled. The either have to resort to chilled air circulation or alter the air movement across the chasis.
It would be interesting to know how much compute capacity in flops/sqmt this measures vs other offerings.