back to article IBM details PowerPC microserver aimed at square kilometre array

IBM has revealed more about a PowerPC microserver it says will help to crunch data gathered by the square kilometre array (SKA), the colossal radio telescope to be built across South Africa and Australia. Once operational, the SKA is expected to generate around an exabyte – a million terabytes - of data each day. Even sorting …

  1. Ragequit

    In the past...

    I've been in the habit of using my PC hand-me-down hardware for my pet projects at home. But recently reconsidered trying out an Intel atom based SoC server board. Unfortunately as Intel seems wont to do these days they are bit miserly with PCI-e lanes. If only something like this IBM kit were available reasonably cheap. Not for a supercomputer mind you. 24 threads is totally not overkill for testing out software.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: In the past...

      How about some EC2 time?

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: In the past...

      Put it in a laptop!

      OK, so the water-cooling might be a problem. And 16A is a lot for a laptop power supply to put out, even if it's only at 1V. But I wouldn't mind having a scaled-down version. Hell, 4 physical cores would easily handle simultaneous building, testing, and interactive use (editing and the like).

      I don't think there's been a non-Apple PPC-based laptop since the Thinkpad 860 in 1996.

  2. TWB

    ' while chewing up between 15.5 and 16 amps.'

    Were you trying to talk about power here? Me thinks you need to learn a bit about units....

    It may draw that much current but without some idea of voltage we're kind of in the dark.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ' while chewing up between 15.5 and 16 amps.'

      If you watch the video it's operating a approx 1 volt. So unless my mind is truly gone tonight that would mean the same amount of watts as W = V * A. To be fair I had the same question about the article.

    2. John Klos

      Re: ' while chewing up between 15.5 and 16 amps.'

      The screen shows and the narrator says it's 1 volt.

  3. cortland

    At least THAT one

    At least THAT one should be RF-quiet enough to put amongst the radio antennas.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: At least THAT one

      No Way is it quiet enough

      It will still have to go inside a Faraday Cage, buried underground.

      1. ibmzrl

        Re: At least THAT one

        The design will be water-cooled. This is just a testing platform. For details visit

      2. cortland

        Re: At least THAT one

        That's all right, then, and thanks. I'll avoid putting one next to *my* radio antennas.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I am wise to this trick!

    Pretending this is not meant to run the alien Persona/AI once download has occurred.

    (You heard it here first!)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Microserver will be Water-Cooled

    Thanks for your comments. To be clear, this microserver will eventually be water-cooled with no fans. We will show it off at the CeBIT Fair in Hannover in March. Please stop by and take a look.

    Thanks, IBM Research Team

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Dear IBM research team

      Damn fine work. Carry on.

  6. Blitheringeejit

    It's a fine line....

    ...between watercooled and hosed. Mixing electrickery and water can only end badly - that's why I don't keep my data in the cloud.

  7. P0l0nium

    So power-efficient that it needs to be water-cooled ... WTF ??

    There's never an ARM server around when you need one, is there ??

    (Despite 17 companies in the business)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Efficiency times Density equals Watercooling.

      A human brain is super efficient but is water-cooled anyway. Generally.

    2. Deckard_C

      Water cooling

      They do intend to put 128 of the micro servers in a 2U rack unit along with 6 terabytes of DRAM. So excluding power for the DRAM that's 2KW. If they fill a rack with them that's 40KW. That enough water for 4 continuous hot showers.

  8. John Klos

    12 actual and 12 virtual cores

    BTW - it's not 12 actual and 24 virtual cores - it's 12 of each.

    1. Lennart Sorensen

      Re: 12 actual and 12 virtual cores

      It is a 12 core CPU with the ability to run 2 threads at once on each core. No different than what intel does with hyperthreading on many of their CPUs.

      So 12 physical cores, 24 virtual cores. Your OS would see 24 CPUs.

  9. michael4096

    growth industry

    Last time I worked on a water-cooled IBM box we had to identify the fungus growing before we could 'debug' it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: growth industry

      That fungus was growing where?

  10. Sceptic Tank Silver badge


    Not sure where the power for this SKA is going to come from. Unless you're generating your own power you only have a choice between these providers:

    1) Eskom

    2) Eskom

    3) Eskom

    We experience country-wide rolling blackouts daily from 8am to 10pm because the power plants have fallen into such disrepair that they break daily and reliable power supply has become impossible (Goooogle "majuba silo collapse" as an example). The other huge problem is cable theft.

    So-o-o-o..... Plenty of sunlight in the Karoo. Not sure how many solar panels / wind turbines one will need to drive thousands of these 16amp processors with cooling (you're going to need it...). Not sure how you're going to keep the locals away from your copper cable (or anything metal basically, like manhole covers, train rails, trains, fence posts, ...).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like