Just over a decade ago, Mercury's HDS6600 module was (and still is) an industry first: an OpenVPX module built on the server-class Intel® processor. At a time when the vast majority of single-board computers (SBCs) were built using the mobile processors found in laptop computers (primarily Core i7 processors), Mercury saw the need for deployable high-performance systems, and the high-density server (HDS) line of OpenVPX modules was founded. Ten years later, reflecting on recent technological developments, I felt compelled to put into writing the history of this product line; I’m lucky enough to have managed it over the last decade, and the disruptive value these products bring to the market and our customers continues to astonish me.
The challenge associated with ruggedizing and deploying server-class processors was daunting– not only did the CPU itself come in a socket-requiring land grid array (LGA) package only, but the size of that package, as well as the memory requirements needed, ate away the real estate available in OpenVPX-compliant module layouts.
Back in 2010, cloud computing hadn’t yet hit the mainstream. Amazon Web Services was only a few years old, Apple’s iCloud didn’t yet exist, and the “as -a-service” markets (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) were still in their infancy. Servers were typically larger, remote versions of desktop computers. Originally, the HDS product line was just delivering MORE – more compute, more memory, more pipes for I/O to flow into the OpenVPX system. Since then, however, the commercial market has evolved, and so has the HDS product line and the modular building blocks that operate alongside it.
Currently, server-class computing is focused squarely on the data center and the hurdles that come with deploying it -- power, thermal management, security and software compatibility considerations. Mercury’s HDS product line has overcome those obstacles to deliver data center capability to places where AWS, the Microsoft Azure cloud, and the rest of the web simply can’t reach. The HDS product line is the heart of the EnsembleSeries™ OpenVPX data center portfolio, and without it, the storage, I/O distribution, networking and GPU architectures would just be a collection of parts. With the HDS module, Mercury delivers all the pre-integrated, complementary modular blocks to put a data center onto any rugged platform, from ground mobile radars to airborne image-processing pods, where size, weight and power (SWaP) determine the solution. And because the entire data center portfolio uses the same silicon, interconnect and software building blocks, any enterprise-class application running today on commercial servers can be “picked up and put down” on these rugged processing subsystems – often without recompiling the code.
Ten years ago, the idea of bringing the data center to the tactical edge was only a concept. With today’s OpenVPX product line from Mercury, rooted in the evolution of the general-purpose processing power from the HDS line, that concept is now a reality for anyone who needs their own personal data center on land, sea or airborne platforms.