SAN JOSE, Calif. -- RapidIO is poised to leap from wireless base stations to datacenters as an enabler of everything from greener supercomputers to ARM-based microservers. The effort could fuel the move into datacenter systems for ARM-based SoCs, many of which use or plan to adopt RapidIO.
The trade group behind the interconnect is working on server and switch reference designs it will submit to Facebook's Open Compute Project. Separately, two RapidIO-based supercomputers are already in the works. The designs will use the interconnect in ways that replace PCI Express, Infiniband, Ethernet, and proprietary fabrics used to link chips, boards, and systems in computers and switches.
Freescale, IDT, IP provider Mobiveil, and system maker Prodrive helped start the datacenter and networking task group inside the RapidIO Trade Association. It aims to have its server and switch reference designs in a prototype stage before the end of the year.
The effort begins less than three months before backers plan to launch a third-generation of RapidIO. The so-called 10XN version supports up to 16 lanes at 10 Gbits/second each, up from 6.25 Gbits per lane today.
Intel's x86 processors currently dominate datacenter systems. They increasingly integrate PCIe and come with companion chips based on Ethernet.
By contrast, RapidIO is already used in most 3G and LTE basestations today. It is typically integrated in ARM-based SoCs from companies such as Cavium, Freescale, Texas Instruments, and others who are looking to move their chips into ARM-based servers and switches.
"Microservers are just general-purpose versions of embedded computers," Devashish Paul, a spokesman for the RapidIO trade group and a senior product manager for RapidIO switch chips at IDT, told me.
IDT already supplies RapidIO intellectual property that TI uses in its SoCs. It hopes to strike similar deals for many of the ARM-based server SoCs shipping next year from nearly a dozen companies ranging from AMD to Samsung.
The initial designs for RapidIO servers and switches will use off-the-shelf Gen 2 chips. However, companies are working on 10XN versions supporting more lanes for next-generation efforts.
The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras is already at work on a supercomputer that will use RapidIO 10XN and a homegrown microprocessor. It aims to pack multi-petaflops of performance in a 42U rack, ultimately clustered into a 25 to 50 petaflop system.
Separately, a Bay Area startup announced earlier this year that it is developing a supercomputer based on the ATCA standard using RapidIO as an interconnect. It uses ARM-based SoCs from TI and switches from IDT, targeting 6.4 GFlops/Watt.
It is significantly more power efficient than current supercomputers using x86 chips. It should be available before the end of the year and already has orders from US government departments.
RapidIO launched nearly 10 years ago. It is currently used in most 3G basestations and all LTE basestations, said Paul of IDT. Some 25 million ports on installed systems use the interconnect.