Trenton Systems is out showing off its next-gen Ice Lake Xeon server platforms. It is calling the solution a “next gen Xeon-SP” part, that they cannot talk details on. At the same time, unlike its competitors such as Dell and HPE, Trenton Systems is able to advertise and show off its Ice Lake generation Xeon platform with pictures and block diagrams with that thin veil of obfuscation. Since Intel has publicly released information on the next-gen Ice Lake-SP parts, we can take a look at the Trenton Systems BAM and see how the next-gen Xeon-SP platform is being applied.
Trenton Systems BAM Intel Xeon Ice Lake Platform
Here is a cutaway look at the Trenton Systems BAM Intel Ice Lake Xeon server (BAC3000.) As one can see, this is a 3U platform that is prioritizing size and PCIe expansion.
Part of the design is having N+1 redundant PSUs on the side of the motherboard. This practically limits the width of the motherboard PCB in an enclosure such as this. Here we can see the motherboard layout for the system.
The specs suggest this can only support up to 205W TDP processors which means it will not support top-bin Ice Lake Xeons if that is correct. The specs confirm DDR4 support as well as PCIe Gen4 support. Since Sapphire Rapids will be the PCIe Gen5 generation product, and Ice Lake Xeons are Intel’s PCIe Gen4 product, we know exactly what we are looking at here.
The company also published a block diagram of its servers which proves interesting as well. As we discussed in our 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable Cooper Lake Launched for 4P and 8P piece, the Ice Lake “Whitley” platform will share the Lewisburg “Refresh” PCH. Trenton Systems in its marketing materials highlights the new security features of the platform. These partly come from the refreshed PCH but also Intels expansion into confidential computing using SGX. We discussed this a bit in our AMD PSB Vendor Locks EPYC CPUs for Enhanced Security piece but will have more details around the security overhaul that Intel is doing with Ice Lake as the chips launch.
A great example of what this block diagram confirms is that Ice Lake has 8-channel DDR4 memory. Due to the PSU placement in the 3U system, the BAM motherboard is designed to not span a full rack width. As a result, the company only supports 24 DIMM slots in the platform across two CPUs or 12 per CPU. The block diagram shows us the 8-channel memory with alternating channels running in 1DPC (DIMM per channel) or 2DPC modes. We fully expect to see mainstream servers with 2DPC configurations across all channels, which would lead Intel to be able to match the AMD EPYC 7002 CPUs 32x DDR4 DIMM slots in a dual socket platform.
This block diagram also confirms two other details. First, we see the PCIe configuration. One will notice the CPU0 has lanes dedicated to other platform features but CPU1 has 64x PCIe Gen4 lanes if we combine this with the spec sheet. That will match AMD EPYC 7002 series CPUs if AMD is using a 4x SERDES pairs for socket-to-socket bandwidth in a 128x PCIe Gen4 lane configuration.
Another nice tidbit here is that Trenton Systems is disclosing that the Ice Lake Xeon series will have 3x UPI links. Intel has not previously disclosed that they are still using UPI. Also, with the Big 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Refresh parts Intel moved a line to 2x UPI link configurations. For those looking for full socket-to-socket bandwidth, this is confirmation that we are
It is great that we have a company willing to show off the new platform and diagram with its details well ahead of Intel’s launch.
This is not the first time that we have featured Trenton Systems on STH. In 2017, the company was the first to publicly disclose details on the Intel Xeon Gold Processor 61xx Series. It seems like Trenton Systems, a company that designs solutions for the military and other specialty markets, has a special relationship with Intel that allows them to publicly market next-gen Xeon platforms well before other vendors such as Dell, HPE, Inspur, Lenovo, and Supermicro. These days, this type of early disclosure is usually coordinated with hyper-scalers such as what we covered in Facebook Introduces Next-Gen Cooper Lake Intel Xeon Platforms.
STH already discussed many of these specs as part of our The 2021 Intel Ice Pickle How 2021 Will be Crunch Time piece so they are not exactly new.
As we framed in that discussion, a challenge OEMs face is that the Ice Lake generation of servers will be relatively short-lived from a platform perspective. For a company like Trenton Systems that is aiming to get these servers designed into defense projects that can have longer procurement cycles, it makes sense that they are trying to generate interest early in order to maximize their window to sell these systems before Sapphire Rapids hits the market with PCIe Gen5 and CXL support. This early disclosure is a symptom of shrinking the saleable window of the Whitley platform.
For our readers, this is a great opportunity to see what a next-gen solution looks like. We know these are in the wild since the Whitley platform was designed for a series Cooper Lake processors that Intel first confirmed to STH that they were canceling earlier this year.