At an event in London Intel’s Ed Barkhuysen showed off a rather interesting product, which Intel is calling Element. What Intel showed was a dual-slot PCI-Express card, which housed a BGA Xeon processor, two M.2 slots, two slots for SO-DIMM LPDDR4 memory, controllers for WiFi, two Ethernet ports, four USB ports, HDMI output for the Xeon integrated graphics, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The whole idea is that this would slot into a backplane with multiple PCI-Express slots and could be paired with GPUs or other accelerators.
What Intel showed off was not much more than a prototype. The name, design, and even the cooler are not final. But they did show that both the M.2 slots and SO-DIMM slots were user-accessible. This product actually comes from Systems Product Group inside Intel which is also responsible for many of Intel’s small form factor devices like the NUC.
Intel did show off a version of the product with a Xeon BGA processor, but Intel did they that they were open to all different type of options at this point. So we could see mobile processors as well as more mainstream desktop processors.
For those wondering about power the main backplane would be the source of power. A direct power supply into the backplate would give each PCI-Express slot 75W of power. However the Element card that was shown off did have an 8-pin PCI-Express power connection on it, which would bring with it an extra 150W of power giving the card a total of 225W.
The whole idea behind Element is to make it easier for upgrades. Customers would be able to keep the chassis, system setup, backplane, and all they would have to do would be to swap out the Element card to get the latest performance and features. Intel said they hope to see the Element in the hands of OEMs sometime in Q1 2020. It is still unknown how the Element will be packaged for OEMs or end-users.
It is definitely a very interesting concept. We will keep you updated once we know more.