One of the surprises at VMworld this year came at the AIC booth. AIC has been working with both Intel’s ruler form factor SSDs for some time along with the Samsung NF1 form factor drives. Visiting the AIC booth at VMworld we saw the AIC FB127-AG. This is a dual-node AMD EPYC 1U server with 18x NVMe SSDs per node (36 in the 1U) and multiple 100GbE NIC slots per node for massive I/O.
AIC FB127-AG 36x M.3 Platform
The AIC FB127-AG is a 36x NF1 SSD platform. SSD vendors have realized that they do not need to adhere to traditional 2.5″ and 1.8″ form factors. Instead, because they are not designed for rotating media, they can create longer drives. Samsung is pushing NF1 while Intel is pushing the Ruler SSD. Conceptually they are similar.
AIC has an Intel Xeon Scalable dual socket system for these next-generation SSDs, but there was another interesting design we saw: an AMD EPYC system called the AIC FB127-AG.
What caught our eye on this is that there is a front 36x SSD hot swap PCB. Behind the fan wall is what looks like two AMD EPYC sockets. Upon further inspection, this is actually two nodes, each controlling 18 drives. Each node also has its own BMC for out of band management and networking I/O. This is the first EPYC dual node 1U chassis we have seen, and certainly, the first one using next-generation SSD form factors. There are redundant 1.3kW power supplies making this an extraordinarily interesting design.
Peering Inside with the AIC Auriga
Each of the AIC FB127-AG nodes is based on the AIC Aurgia motherboard platform. We found an annotated diagram of the motherboard used:
Key here is that there are two PCIe 3.0 x16 rear slots along with OCP mezzanine slots for additional networking. Each node has its own USB, VGA, and networking. The AMD EPYC 7000 series CPU socket (SP3) is flanked by 8x DDR4 DIMM slots for a 1 DIMM per channel design.
The front of the PCB has a number of Slimline connectors providing PCIe Gen3 lanes. The version we saw at VMworld was not fully cabled, but the idea is that this is a flexible design. Cabling also helps with signal integrity. In the AIC FB127-AG, these lanes are directly attached to the NVMe backplane PCB. The impact is that this system does not require PCIe switches. For those looking for a compact VMware vSAN node, this provides two 18x SSD systems (36 total) with configurable 100GbE connectivity and up to 32 cores/ 1TB of RAM per node all in a 1U chassis.
This is an intriguing design as it shows a really differentiated way to use AMD EPYC. The AIC FB127-AG also integrates future NVMe form factor technologies and the ability to integrate high-speed networking interfaces into a single 1U design. This was one of the most innovative form factors and servers we saw at VMworld this year.