There has been a lot of buzz in the industry around ARM in servers and the conversation kicked off to answer this very question. Tim, who was live from the HP’s “Discover Labs” in Houston, TX that today hosts several ARM-based servers from Project Moonshot, crystalized why people started thinking about ARM in this space when he talked about our history in mobile and consumer…but more importantly about the pillars of ARM technology. He said, “The first is low-power leadership,” he then went on to say “the second is innovation in the sense of the broad ecosystem of partners that are competing in a positive way.” This resonated with me personally because this is what I believe will fundamentally drive a positive transformation in an industry which has been so heavily constrained for such a long time.
John Masters talked about, “Passion, Engagement and Collaboration” being key to the exciting movements in this market. John is a longstanding enthusiast for ARM technology and within his wide ranging contribution; he pinpointed “the transition to Hyperscale computing” which has created new opportunities for architectural independence. He rather enthusiastically talked about his “boring experience with ARM.” He clarified that in his world boring was good and gave the example of a Red Hat deployment of a Calxeda-based ARM servers to do development work to support Fedora. Engineers who had never seen an ARM server “plugged it in, turned it on and it just worked.”
Mark Shuttleworth shared his software development perspective: Mark talked about the “generational shift” in the market, partly enabled by Linux-based platforms with Canonical’s Ubuntu, which is optimized for the ARM architecture. Mark also mentioned that while the transition to 64-bit is important, there are many cloud workloads today that are running on 32-bit, and how the current 32-bit ARM offerings could satisfy those requirements. Mark also talked about how data center thinking has shifted towards the “economics of getting things done” and how total cost of ownership has many components from the Silicon to, software, rack to, Data Center, etc. He shared his view on how a vibrant competitive ecosystem helps drive a competitive TCO. From our perspective a recent case in point being the commercial deployment of a Marvell-based storage server by Baidu.
Over the course of the hour, one of the most fun hours I have had in a while at work, we talked through a number of conversational threads including Hyperscale and the needs it is driving, which are forcing the industry to look at new technology to decrease power consumption and reduce costs. We touched on the Economics of large scale cloud deployments and how servers in many cases are now becoming the revenue generating aspect of the business. Specialization, one of the tenets of the ARM Ecosystem is now an innovation engine in a market that, as my brilliant colleague Ian Ferguson said, “has been bereft of innovations for several years now.”
Standardization without sacrificing differentiation… There is a great deal of collaboration happening now driven by ARM with hardware and software providers working together to define common foundational software and platforms. Linaro, Linaro Enterprise Group and Linaro Networking Group are great examples of companies collaborating to augment ARM enterprise Linux to make ensure everything works out of the box. Members include: AMD, AppliedMicro, Calxeda, Canonical, Cavium, ENEA, Facebook, Freescale, HiSilicon Technologies, HP, Samsung, LSI, Marvell, Montavista, Nokia Siemens, RedHat, and Texas Instruments.
Watch the whole thing below. But I think this hangout definitely helped me answer not only my daughter's questions of "Why ARM in servers?", but to also confirm my actual answer to her of, "it makes the world a better place because it consumes less power."
Lakshmi Mandyam, Director of Server Systems & Ecosystem, ARM, is thrilled to be working on products and technologies that she can excitedly point to when she is out and about with her family. At ARM she is delighted to be able to change people’s perceptions about being able to deliver high performance enterprise solutions in a energy efficient mobile power profile.
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