NUCserver Hardware Development Project Status

 

  1. Proprietary IP-PDU – Completed and Launched

 

We first created an IP-addressable power control and distribution device for sets of 8 NUC’s. The IP-PDU allows for remote power management of individual ports, and we applied it to the NUCserver project. In order to adapt it for a conventional server rack environment, we downsized the power brick. Although it was designed for enterprise-level embedded environments, the fact that it is PC-based was creating some anxiety among consumers over its reliability. Creating this device was an inevitable decision we had to face in order to meet the needs of our clientele.

 

Figure 1. NUCserver Universal Solution

 

  1. Proprietary miniDP to Headless Dongle – Completed and Launched

     

    Servers that support IPMI, a widely known remote management technology, often include an analogue graphics chipset that enables features like remote power control and KVM remote desktop. In contrast, Intel’s vPro technology used for NUCserver was developed for purposes such as large-scale enterprise computing, industrial computing, digital signage and ATM machines. So it was developed for PC and workstation management, without much consideration for environments without monitors. The NUC5i5MYHE we picked for the NUCserver, in particular, had two Mini DisplayPorts, but had a drawback where remote KVM would not work without a monitor attached. In order to overcome this limitation, the industry launched many types of Headless Plug products which are easily purchased through websites like eBay. NewerTech had the smallest Mini DisplayPort to Headless dongle, called the Headless Mac Video Accelerator, created for Mac Mini.


    Figure 2. NewerTech Headless Mac Video Accelerator

     

    The problem was that this product is more expensive than it sounds, and as seen in Figure 1, it would not fit in the tightly-packed NUCserver universal solution containing 8 NUC’s. We decided to create our own. It took us multiple trials and errors. We had to look at the circuitry of a Chinese adaptor and in the end, it had taken us over four months to step through the prototypes in Figure 4 and 5, and finally reaching the final model in Figure 6. This dongle enables the use of remote KVM without a monitor.


    Figure 3. Chinese MiniDP to RGB Adaptor Used for Reference


    Figure 4. Prototype 1            Figure 5. Prototype 2          Figure 6. Completed Dongle

     

  2. Second Network Interface Development Project Status

     

    With the development of the IP-PDU and MiniDP to Headless Dongle, the NUCserver project was in full throttle. The initial NUCserver launch period in late 2015 coincided with a worldwide boom in cloud computing. Among the cloud platforms were OpenStack, which quickly became influential. We realized in our attempt to adapt our independent NUCservers into a cloud that in order to use OpenStack’s compute node, Nutron, we will need at least 2 network interfaces per device. We could have opted for using VLAN with the existing port to sidestep the limitation of having a single Ethernet port, but it would degrade performance. In order to avoid such degradation, we searched for a module that would fit the NUC5i5MYHE, which are the NUC’s used for NUCservers. Fortunately, we found a dual-port NGFF network interface sold by Innodisk, a Taiwanese manufacturer. Despite the relatively high price, we happily purchased a sample.


    Figure 7. Innodisk’s NGFF Dual Network Card Kit

    The trial went terribly. The interface was not recognized by the NUC, bridging through USB 3.0 caused overheating, and the thick cables made it clear that we could not add this module to the NUC. To circumvent this issue, we ended up developing our own circuitry, working with local ODM’s in China and Taiwan to avoid the complicated process of production.

        

    Figure 8. Design            Figure 9. Proprietary RJ45 Connector Size Limit

    There were two main design challenges. The first was minimizing the size to make it fit in the case, and the second was to find a RJ45 port that fits the opening in the case, which is relatively small at only 11 mm in height. Luckily, we were able to find a Taiwanese manufacturer selling Ultra Low Profile connectors used in Ultrabooks, and we proceeded in collaboration with a Chinese local ODM.

           

    Figure 10. Prototype 1            Figure 11. Prototype 1 Installed          

    As shown in Figure 11 and 12, we connected our first prototype, but we couldn’t fit it in. It was working correctly, however.

       

    Figure 12. Prototype 2 Installed            Figure 13. Prototype 3 Installed   

    Prototype 2 shown in Figure 12 was difficult to connect and integrate despite the longer module and shorter cables, because the distance between the connectors was too short. In Figure 13, we soldered the cable onto the daughter board in order to shorten the cable, which took care of reliability and connectability, but it was likely to lose contact after multiple uses.


    Figure 14. Completed Production-ready Model Exterior View

    We found that the production-ready model had increased reliability and compatibility. Performance tests also showed satisfactory results.


    Figure 15. Production-ready Model Performance and Installation Test

    Completed through a long development process, the True Networks Second Network Interface for NUCservers will finally be launched worldwide as early as May, after passing Intel’s certification process as requested by True Networks, an official Intel solutions partner.

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