Last month, Mark Shuttleworth, the CEO of Canonical, assisted me in demonstrating the OpenStack software stack running on top of a Marvell-powered server platform at Computex. The box was developed by Mitac, a proof point that the portion of the server market where end customers own/control their software destiny will attract new hardware partners. Just over a week ago, Calxeda, Canonical and HP announced it was establishing a site called trystack.org that would enable companies to evaluate the capabilities of their software on an ARM powered platform. These types of initiatives are crucial to enable end users to compare how their workloads run on platforms based on different processor architectures as opposed to replying on synthetic benchmarks.
Talking of benchmarks, in the middle of June, another of the ARM silicon partners pursuing this space, Calxeda, posted the first server oriented benchmarks. These seem to indicate that the total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits that HP outlined in their analysis during the launch of Project Moonshot on November 1st should be achievable in real end platforms. Indeed, based on testing of early silicon, it seems that these results may even be a little better. While I was away in Europe, ARM also upstreamed the first Linux kernel for AArch64 (the 64-bit version of the ARMv8 instruction set). There are still a few library functions that need to be released, and you will see continued progress and postings about these releases in the coming weeks and months.
Today, August 1st, another silicon partner, Cavium, announced its intent to enter the fray. My corporate marketing communications team always advise me to avoid mentioning rival processor architectures by name in our blogs so I will simply state that this company has historically exclusively utilized a technology (that rhymes with “hips”) at the heart of the products it drives into high performance networking/computing infrastructure application, Cavium joins a growing list of silicon companies that have publically announced their intention to pursue the fastest growing area of the server market. Cavium’s adoption of the ARMv8 architecture, announced as their Project Thunder initiative, is in my opinion, further proof that one size will not fit all in this nascent area of the server market. Another qualitative piece about the changing dynamics of information technology was posted yesterday by Moor Insights here. A strong title! I look forward to seeing the subsequent postings from Patrick and Paul.
It is too early for me to share details about what Cavium’s products will look like and in what timeframe you will see them. It is appropriate for Cavium to share those details when they believe the time is right. It is fair to say that Cavium has a proven history developing highly integrated system-on-a-chip devices. It is fair to expect devices with a similar rich set of interfaces. I have mentioned previously that the tier 1 data centers used a combination of open source building blocks and their own software applications. Although this arguably would be implemented on any processor architecture, my stance, backed by end users, is that the solution needs a strong roadmap around open source, Java compilation, virtualization and a choice of silicon vendors and choice. This is, of course, what is keeping my team motivated and bust every day of the week.
Ian Ferguson, Director of Server Systems and Ecosystem, ARM, has spent years fighting from the corner of the underdog. Most of those scars are healing nicely. Ian is particularly passionate about taking ARM technology into new types of applications that do not exist or are at the very formative stages. Consequently, he is driving ARM’s server program with a view to reinvent the way the server function is implemented in networks as opposed to simply replacing incumbent platforms.
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