With the growing popularity of micro servers, networking has moved from connecting computers on desktops or servers in a rack to connecting processors on a board. 


That’s a new way of thinking about networking that takes a new kind of switch chip, which is why we’ve recently introduced the Intel® Ethernet Switch FM5224. To meet these new market needs takes a device that features a new design, mixed with legacy networking strengths.


What’s New

Micro servers are part of an emerging computing platform architecture that includes many low power processor modules in a single enclosure.  The micro server operating system parcels out computing tasks to the various processors and coordinates their work. For certain distributed data center workloads, there is a lot of interest in this approach.


However, designing a dense micro server cluster calls for a significant uplink data bandwidth combined with high port count interconnectivity between the processor modules.  Enter the new FM5224, which we call a high port-count Ethernet switch, to meet these needs.


The device can support up to 64 nonblocking ports of 2.5GbE along with up to eight 10GbE uplink ports (or two 40GbE ports). 


Why 2.5GbE?  This speed was popularized by blade server systems, but never made an official Ethernet standard. Our analysis of the bandwidth needs of micro servers shows that many workloads need more than 1 GbE per server module, which makes our 2.5GbE switch ports ideal for this application.


What’s the Same

While micro servers are new, they still communicate using Ethernet.  The FM5224 is built using Intel’s Alta switch architecture, which brings the benefit of some advanced features for micro server applications.


The I/O –heavy nature of micro servers makes non-blocking, low latency performance very important.  The FM5224 is built with Intel’s FlexPipe packet processing technology that delivers 360 million pps forwarding rate.  The device also offers less than 400 ns of latency, independent of packet size or features enabled. 


Combined, this performance makes it possible for each processor to pass data at wire rate, even small packets, which are expected to make up most of the data passed between processors. In addition, the FM5224 has excellent load distribution features that can be used to efficiently spread the workload across multiple micro server modules.


For the micro server chassis uplinks, OEMs have their choice of four 10GbE or two 40GbE ports that can directly drive direct-attach copper cables up to 7 meters without the need for an external PHY.


With the FM5224, OEMs have a tremendously flexible chip that is fine tuned for micro server applications.