ASR-3100 Overview by Magic Pao, Director, Advantech Industrial Intelligent Systems (Industrial PC/Server) Group
Nowadays at the gym, people listen to streaming music chosen on-the-fly instead of pre-downloaded music while weight training or cycling in spin class. In restaurants, the first response of diners when their meals are served is not to pick up a knife and fork but to upload photos of their food. The popularity of various types of intelligent devices and the rapid expansion of cloud computing applications has already transformed traditional data storage modes. Numerous access-intensive apps have overwhelmed traditional computer storage technology, leading to the formation of brand new storage concepts.
The storage needs of IT computer room systems are commonly driven by existing data traffic throughputs. Generally, enterprises categorize data into the following 3 “temperature” groups according to access frequency and demand response time: cold, warm, and hot data.
As the category name suggests, cold data has the lowest access frequency, followed by warm and hot data, which have higher access frequencies. Hot data involves high input/output operations per second (IOPS) and often presents the biggest challenge when constructing corporate IT systems. Architects must purchase high-performance storage devices to prevent system delays during high-frequency access periods. To handle such demand, current IT systems require high-intensity storage devices and Advantech’s ASR-3100 is one of the best.
Advantech introduced ASR-3100 as “the world’s fastest IOPS compact server”, which was our original intention when developing the product specifications. With ASR-3100, Advantech has reached a new milestone in the field of server storage.
When designing “the world’s fastest IOPS compact server”, the first challenge the R&D team faced was that the hard disk needed to support the latest NVMe interface. Currently, storage ports have three mainstream standards; specifically, SAS, SATA, and NVMe. SAS and SATA are quite mature standards while NVMe is a new technology. The largest difference between NVMe, SAS and SATA standards is operating mode. When data is received from the PCIe channel, a controller is required to convert the data into SAS or SATA format, whereas the NVMe standard directly transmits data from CPU to hard disk for access. Because NVMe does not require a controller, the data access latency is significantly less than that of SAS and SATA and not limited by the controller performance. Compared to SAS, which is faster than SATA, NVMe offers at least 10 times faster speed.
NVMe Speed Changes Everything
Advantech’s high-speed ASR-3100 storage server performs well in new types of applications. In the past when limited to low IOPS, system architects had to stack multiple hard drives and scatter high level access across various hard drives. With NVMe’s high access speed, ASR-3100 only needs one-tenth of the hard drives required by an SAS port for HDD performance. Therefore, the extended performance with NVM far exceeds that of a hard disk with an SAS or SATA port.
For example, in a 1U space, the installation of 16 NVMe ASR-3100 ports is equivalent to 160 SAS ports. Systems with this access performance and space ratio are far beyond the capability of previous servers. Although the NVMe port gives ASR-3100 its high access speed, allowing a larger number of hard drives to be installed in the same space, it also causes mechanical design problems, such as the need to install 16 hard drives in a 1U space.
Considering the potential of hot swap capabilities, Advantech designed ASR-3100 with eight drives at the front of the machine and eight drives at the back, accessible via a unique riser tray. Because the power and network cables and other connectors located at the back of the machine are likely to obstruct the withdrawing of rear hard drives, the R&D team designed a special “cable arm” at the rear of the machine. When the cabinet is opened and pulled forward, the cable arm ensures that the cables at the back move forward together.
This beats previous methods, where the system had to be turned off before opening the cabinet to prevent the cables from detaching. Safety and reliability were the second and third design aims. Because the chassis is lifted manually, to prevent internal components from colliding, the back part that rises upward stops first. When the operation is complete and the raised part is reset, the system closes slowly to avoid vibration, which may affect the reliability of internal components. Advantech has applied for a patent for this unique design. The high access speed of NVMe necessitates a processor with equivalent performance. We've equipped the ASR-3100 with two CPUs that are responsible for a row of eight NVMe hard drives each. Although this approach seems simple, the wiring is complex.
LAN length differs because of the differing locations, resulting in different data access times for each hard disk, affecting overall performance. However, with a number of adjustments, our R&D team was able to balance the data access operations of both rows of hard drives to achieve a superior design. Another notable feature of ASR-3100 is its flexible design. Because of diversified market demands for networks, a single interface standard can no longer meet all design requirements. Consequently, Advantech designed the ASR-3100 with two expansion slots to provide system designers with sufficient application flexibility according to their needs.
Real-Time Transactions Become a Key Application
Because the design of ASR-3100 is focused on hot data processing, future applications will also emphasize this functionality. Advantech believes that real-time transactions such as those of stock markets (HFT) and retail stores (OLTP) will become ASR-3100’s primary use case - with existing customers deploying the system to their biggest U.S. and Canadian stores and datacenters. When customers make credit card payments, the system immediately sends relevant data to back-end servers, and that data is transmitted in real-time to customer cell phones to prevent credit card fraud.
Besides transaction processing, Advantech believes that live video streaming is another application with great potential. In the future, Advantech will continue to emphasize Industry 4.0 development and support customers by providing smart technology and services that improve their market competitiveness.