Vapor IO's Server Management Controller to Be Powered by 64-Bit ARM Chips

Innovative data center startup and Applied Micro partner around top-of-rack BMC replacement

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

September 28, 2015

2 Min Read
Vapor IO Vapor Chambers
Visualization of a warehouse filled with Vapor Chambers (Image: Vapor IO)

Vapor IO, the startup that is challenging many of the data center design conventions, including the shape and placement of IT racks, has partnered with Applied Micro, whose 64-bit ARM processor will be the brain of the Vapor Edge Controller, a centralized, shared top-of-rack server management controller meant to replace proprietary Baseboard Management Controller in each individual server in the rack.

Vapor got a lot of attention when it came out of stealth in March, unveiling the Vapor Chamber, which replaces straight data center aisles with cylindrical pods that arrange six wedge-shaped racks in a circle. Cold air enters from outside of the cylinder and exhaust air gets blown into a chamber in the middle and gets sucked out by a fan at the top.

The physical design makes for higher power density per square foot, but that’s only part of Vapor’s pitch. The other part is a data center infrastructure management platform, consisting of hardware sensors, monitoring and analytics software, and a server management controller board, which is the board that will now be powered by Applied Micro’s chips.

Vapor chose the Sunnyvale, California, semiconductor maker’s quad-core HeliX 2 processor for a number of reasons. “The high performance, combined with low power consumption, small form factor, support for ARM 64-bit instruction set architecture and an integrated 64-bit memory controller are key features that we have leveraged to enable users to monitor and manage data center components like never before,” Cole Crawford, Vapor’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Crawford is a former executive director of the Open Compute Foundation, the Facebook-led open source hardware and data center design effort. Vapor's rack design is inspired by rack designs of the Open Compute Project, and the company has submitted an element of its data center management software called OpenDCRE (Open Data Center Runtime Environment) to the open source project.

Traditional server BMCs, used for monitoring a server’s vital signs, such as temperature, fan speed, and power consumption, among other parameters, have been criticized for being a good attack surface for hackers, primarily because of their proprietary nature, which makes them hard for users to fix if there are problems or secure on their own.

Facebook recently released open source server BMC software to address another set of problems with proprietary BMC. Facebook infrastructure engineers like to customize components to their needs, but server vendors are too slow to add features or fix problems in BMC software for Facebook’s needs.

Vapor’s server management controller replaces proprietary BMCs, regardless of rack or server type, the company said in a statement.

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