Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 25-5 - 53

Predicting Server Platform Power
Delivery Performance through
Simulation, Measurement, and
Correlation
Judy Amanor-Boadu
I
n the age of big data, data is being processed at a much
faster rate than it was a few years ago. Online streaming,
social media, banking, and video chatting are few of the
activities that contribute to the increase in storage, processing,
and usage of data. According to Cyber Security ventures,
global data storage is predicted to exceed 200 zettabytes by
2025 [1]. The processing of that much data necessitates the
need for powerful processing units. This leads to datacenters
playing key roles in the age of big data.
The power delivery network (PDN) design of server platforms
in datacenters is critical to determining how much
power can be delivered to the central processing unit (CPU).
The prediction of the server platform power delivery is important
in scenarios, where time to market (TTM) is a priority,
'what if' scenarios are needed (such as decoupling capacitor
optimization), or hardware redesign is expensive. Server platforms'
performance predictions in datacenters with respect
to different workloads, such as data processing or memory
workloads, require accurate voltage regulator (VR) and power
delivery network models. Inaccurate models can result in
over-design, leading to increased costs, or an under-design,
which can lead to the performance deterioration of the server
platform. Methodologies are therefore needed to obtain accurate
VR and PDN models. This article gives an overview
of datacenters and server platforms, delving into the server
platform power delivery network, its modeling, and how simulation,
measurements, and correlation can help predict the
performance of server platforms' power delivery under various
applications without impacting TTM and increasing costs.
Components of a Datacenter
Datacenters are physical locations that house servers and
their respective networking systems. They are composed
of many components that can be grouped into three main
categories:
◗ Computing systems are composed of processing units
and memory modules
◗ Storage systems refer to components for storage, e.g.,
hard disk drives and solid-state drives
◗ Networking systems enable the components in a datacenter
to be connected to each other and also externally
to the outside world. They include routers, switches, and
modems.
In addition to all these components, datacenters require the
added infrastructure for support, ranging from cooling systems
to power systems. The main focus of this article is on the
computing aspect of the datacenter, i.e., the processing unit
and its power delivery.
Server Platform Hardware Architecture
The CPU is part of the server platform architecture which also
includes the motherboard, memory and storage.
Fig. 1 shows a server platform and its corresponding power
delivery network composed of:
◗ Motherboard - This is the core of the server, providing a
central location where all the components of the system
are connected, and peripheral devices are attached. This
also interconnects the voltage regulator module and
socket or package. There are several power rails on the
motherboard that power different functional or logic
blocks in the CPU die.
◗ Voltage Regulator Modules (VRM) - These are voltage
down-converters, buck converters, that get a dc
input voltage of 12 V or 5 V and convert it to the voltage
required by the CPU. A VRM has a controller that senses
the voltage near the load, i.e., CPU, and adjusts the output
current to regulate the voltage at the load. This controller
can either be classified as linear or non-linear. A linear
VR controller is based on a proportional-integral-derivative
(PID) control [2] while a non-linear VR controller uses
techniques such as sliding mode control and constant
on-time [3] to provide voltage regulation. Each CPU
power rail has a VRM that can either be configured as a
single phase or multiphase.
Dr. Amanor-Boadu received the 2020 IMS J. Barry Oakes Advancement Award
August 2022
IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine
1094-6969/22/$25.00©2022IEEE
53

Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 25-5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 25-5

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