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Custom Big Data, RAS Application.

Xeon Processor Board Design, 800+ Lanes of PCIe Gen3

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Trenton Systems Needs-Based Solution

Project info

Intel was approached by a unique and technically demanding storage application that required three separate Xeon-class processor boards with a very tight production schedule. Based on several decades of partnership, Intel trusted Trenton Systems to design the custom, proprietary processor board development.
  • Client: Confidential
  • Category: Big Data

Unique Highlights

  • 1PB of storage and 4TB cache in 10U Rackspace
  • RAS was critical (reliability, availability, and serviceability)
  • Three separate custom processor boards
  • Over 800 lanes of PCIe Gen3
  • Stringent signal impedance requirements
  • Development, validation, production ramp-up, and release schedule was very tight

Application Information

Trenton System’s customer needed high-speed, high-reliability storage in a compact space (initially 10U high rackmount computer with over 1PB of storage and greater than 4TB cache) that can scale and upgrade with future demands and future technology improvements. The end customer was a startup company with venture capital so time to market was critical to ensure they were ahead of the competition. A major obstacle to their vision was finding a computer hardware design partner that had the ability and track record of pulling off complicated designs in such a tight time period (5 months from kickoff to first prototypes).


Processor Board Requirements

Trenton Systems developed three separate custom/proprietary processor boards. Two of the processor boards were dual Xeon and one was a single Xeon. The processor boards were very sensitive to high-speed signal impedance requirements so Trenton Systems decided that the PCB bareboard material needed to be megtron-6 and the 24 sticks of RAM were very low profile LRDIMMs (load reduced memory). Each processor board was designed as a blade with custom, high-speed connectors that allowed higher RAS (reliability, availability, serviceability) and future upgrades as the technology evolved.

PCIe Requirements

Between the three boards there was over 800 lanes of PCIe Gen3 that fed the custom non-volatile storage blades. Note that reliability and availability were critical to the end customer’s application so extensive impedance and signal integrity testing / validation had to be done. There were three separate star fabrics of PCI Express to ensure redundancy and reliability. There was also a lot of custom programming that had to be done on the PCIe switches to get the star fabrics communicating correctly.


Finding a trusted, responsive, high-end computer designer (processor design, BIOS, mechanical) is critical to ensuring a reliable and timely products to market. The combination of high-end Xeon design as well as over a decade of PCI Express switch expertise proved to be the perfect combination to ensure the customer’s product was timely to market with a high-end RAS product.

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