Discover What’s Waiting for You at the Edge

June 12, 2020 Dan Demers, Director, Sales & Marketing, congatec Americas

Remember back in the day, when workload consolidation was chiefly carried out via data center virtualization? Times have certainly changed, with demand now sprinting to the rough industrial edge!

Look around. It’s clear that more and more users are relying on edge servers for virtualization of their Industry 4.0 applications, such as machine manufacturers, systems manufacturers and industrial end users. These edge servers excel at consolidating the distribution of a spectrum of applications and controls across a manufacturing cell, for example. This solution is quickly replacing the common practice of assigning different tasks to multiple dedicated systems, as computing performance is better utilized and costs are reduced.

OK, so it’s easy to see a reduction of system costs with the use of industrial edge server technology, but did you know that cost savings are also realized on maintenance and administration? As workloads are consolidated on edge and fog servers, a welcomed upswing in application reliability and fail-safety is experienced. Less multiple distributed systems = a reduced chance of failure.

To obtain this benefit, OEMs require a powerful, real-time hypervisor and a highly scalable hardware platform that can easily be matched to a specific application. Edge and fog servers that are extremely diverse and application-specific are then more easily developed.

In addition to the power it possesses, a well-designed, embedded hypervisor is a free spirit that can run on any edge server platform. Together with modular hardware, OEMs can find the ideal application-specific balance of price vs. performance. Many edge systems, from the smallest gateways to industrial rack mount servers, can then be designed with the same modular paradigm.

Caption 1: Balancing of price vs. performance and loading is achieved by real-time hypervisor support, which is provided by fully modular edge and fog servers built with Server-on-Modules.

Opening the gate

Expemb’s LoRa gateway is a great example within the low-power segment. This edge-server can handle a wide range of LoRa applications and allows for an extensive range of edge logic implementation. Because of their modular design and small form factor, Computer-on-Modules not only provide convenient scalability but also support both x86 and Arm technology.

Playing nice with smart grids

Boxed edge servers are compatible with multiple applications. Their most important advantages include extended flexibility, as well as high scalability, which ranges from price-friendly Intel Atom to high-performance Xeon.. A good example is the distributed smart grid management system used in China’s energy market. For this case, COM Express Type 7 Computer-on-Modules were used with 16 core, 32 thread Intel® Xeon® D15xx processors. If alternative configurations would be required, Intel® Atom® C3xxx processors can also be used.

Caption 2: A range of innovative modular edge server systems, such as small LoRa gateways, industrial rack servers and smart grid edge servers, are offered by many manufacturers.

Taming demanding applications with modular rack servers

The top edge stands out with its extremely high performance modular rack servers. Christmann is one supplier that designs multi-processor servers using a modular design. In the case of Christmann, multiple COM Express Type 7 Server-on-Modules can be integrated in the design of their servers. In fact, Christmann will launch new designs in the near future that make use of the soon-to-be-released COM-HPC module standard.

In addition to being purpose-built for a specific task, the servers are also highly scalable for convenient performance upgrades as new technology becomes available. In fact, the fast pace of technological progress is predicted to usher in the second generation of servers within three to five years. Since only the processor module would need to be replaced, upgrade costs are estimated to be about fifty percent less than the cost required for replacement of conventional board-based servers. Christmann allows for up to 27 CPU microservers to be installed in their rackmount servers, so they take full advantage of the major TCO savings this design provides.

Kits for consolidating workloads in real-time

In order to provide the most comfortable development platform for modular edge servers, congatec enlisted the talents of Intel and Real-Time Systems in the creation of a development kit for consolidating workloads. In March 2020, the resulting kit received certification as an Intel certified RFP (ready for production). It was tailor-made for the next generation of image-based collaborative robotics and automation controllers, as well as autonomous vehicles that perform multiple tasks in parallel.

Based on a congatec COM Express Type 6 module with Intel® Xeon® E2 processor, and integrating three virtual machines, the solution-ready platform is able to demonstrate its extremely capable processing gymnastics by rebooting a system application while the real-time application continues to run fully unaffected on another virtual machine.. Try THAT with a Windows-hosted hypervisor!

Caption 3: Congatec offers a real-time workload consolidation starter kit built on a COM Express Type 6 module, which features an Intel® Xeon® E2 processor and Real-Time Systems’ RTS Hypervisor.

Is time-sensitive networking included? You bet!

Moreover, the introduction of 5G technologies and 10+ GbE networks has made it necessary to perform real time processing within tactile internet environments. With this in mind, the kit has also been designed to support time-sensitive networking (TSN). As you probably are already aware, many standards are met with TSN technology, such as time aware shaping (TAS), virtual LANs over Ethernet (IEEE 802.1q), and real-time synchronization using the precision time protocol (PTP).

Synchronization between nodes is carried out by PTP, with the time set by a master. The clock of each slave can achieve highly accurate two-digit nanosecond synchronization and send out time stamped packets based on these clocks. PTP networks are then able to synchronize with this same degree of accuracy, which means their IP packets favorably influence an application’s real-time performance. If a 1219 Intel Ethernet interface is used in this case, no additional dedicated hardware or proprietary applications are required, as clock synchronization is fully based on this standard component.

Come to the edge for real-time consolidation of your workloads

Experience how good life is on the edge with the many advantages offered by real-time consolidation of your workloads. Get your golden ticket with this starter kit that can be ordered directly from congatec or the Intel Marketplace.

Caption 4: Workload consolidation is complimented by time-sensitive networking, thereby allowing for real-time control over standard Ethernet networks and tactile sessions over the internet via real-time 5G.

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