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Arm Server Update, Summer 2019

It has been a while since our last Arm Server update, and as usual there has been a lot of changes, forward progress, and new developments in the ecosystem!

The enterprise Arm Server hardware is now mostly consolidated around the Cavium ThunderX2 and Ampere eMag products, available from Gigabyte, Avantek and Phoenics Electronics. Each can be purchased in 1U, 2U, and 4U configurations ready for the datacenter, and high performance developer workstations based on the same hardware are available, as well. Both of these solutions can be customized with additional RAM, storage, and networking, to best fit the intended workload.

Another option that exists, but is difficult to obtain in the United States, is the Huawei 1620, also known as the Kunpeng 920. These servers are also enterprise grade servers ready to be installed in a datacenter environment, typically in a 2U chassis with configurable memory and storage options. However, availability outside of Asia is limited, and new regulations may make importing them difficult.

While the Cavium, Ampere, and (potentially) Huawei servers are available as bare-metal options shipped directly to you for installation in your own datacenter, Amazon has also made significant progress over the past few months and is rapidly becoming the most popular Arm Server provider. They use their own Arm Server CPU called the Gravitron, that they use in their own proprietary AWS A1 ECS instances. This is quickly becoming the best way to deploy Arm Servers, as the entire system is in the Cloud and no hardware has to be purchased. They come in various sizes and price ranges, and experienced developers organizations who are familiar with the AWS system can simply pay by the hour for temporary workloads. For users who are less familiar with the ECS dashboard, less comfortable with the fluctuations in billing model, or prefer a fixed rate, we at miniNodes offer pre-configured Arm VPS servers in a range of sizes and prices, hosted atop the AWS platform.

Finally, the Edge of the network continues to be where a lot of innovation is occurring, and Arm Servers are a perfect fit for deplopyment as Edge Servers, due to their low power consumption, cost-effectiveness, and wide range of size and formats. The MacchiattoBin has been demonstrated running workloads in the base of windmills, the new SolidRun Clearfog ITX is promising to be a flexible solution, and the new Odroid N2 is an intersting device that has “enough” performance to satisfy a wide range of workloads that don’t need to always rely on the Cloud, and can instead deliver services and data to end-users (or other devices) faster by being located in closer proximity to where compute is needed.

As always, check back regularly for updates and Arm Server news, or follow us on Twitter where we share Arm related news on a daily basis!

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Where to Buy an Arm Server

Being Arm enthusiasts and deeply embedded in the Arm Server ecosystem, one of the questions we get asked often is,

“Where can I buy an Arm Server?”

In the past, it was difficult to actually find Arm Server hardware available to individual end-users. Not long ago, the only way to gain access to Arm Servers was to have NDA’s with major OEM’s or having the right connections to get engineering-sample hardware. However, over the course of the past 2 to 3 years, more providers have entered the market and hardware is now readily available to consumers. Here are some of the easiest ways to buy an Arm Server, although this list is not exhaustive. These servers all have great performance, relatively low costs, and are well supported.

First and foremost, the AMD Opteron A1100 may not be a commercial success, but it is a fantastic Arm Server platform that is supported upstream and runs perfect out-of-the-box. The SoftIron OverDrive 1000 comes in a small desktop style case, but the OverDrive 3000 series comes in a 1U chassis ready for rackmount installation. It has a BMC, 10gb ethernet, 14 SATA ports (!), and 2 PCIe slots. A standard UEFI boot process allows for easy installation of CentOS, RedHat, Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE, and any other Linux flavor that has an ARM64 build.

Next up is the Cavium ThunderX, and the newly released ThunderX2. These chips are sold in servers from several vendors, which come in various shapes and sizes. Some of the examples we’ve found include the System76 Starling, the Avantek R-series in both 1U and 2U sizes, and the Gigabyte Arm offering that closely match Avantek’s specs. There are High Density designs, single processor and dual processor options, and 10 GBE as well as SFP options available.

A third option is the Qualcomm Centriq 2400 CPU, with it’s powerful “Falkor” cores and robust networking options. One word of caution is that Qualcomm recently cut staffing in it’s Datacenter division for a second time, and rumors have been swirling that they are looking to exit the business. However, the CPU is featured in servers built by SolarFlare, though there is no mention of price.

The final option is the newly released eMag Arm Server from a company that formed last year, Ampere Computing.  They released details on their Arm Server CPU, which is based on the IP gained from Applied Micro and their X-Gene 3 SoC, just prior to ArmTechCon.  Their platform has 32 Arm cores running at 3.0ghz, 42 lanes of PCIe bandwidth, and 1 TB of memory capacity.  It is now available for purchase from their website.

And of course, if buying physical servers and hosting them yourself, or placing them in a datacenter, is not feasible or cost effective in your situation, then our hosted Arm virtual servers are a great option as well!  Our miniNodes Arm VPS servers are built on the AWS platform, providing a reliable foundation and rapid provisioning, with predefined storage and networking limits and a fixed cost that doesn’t fluctuate month to month.  Be sure to check them out here:  https://www.mininodes.com/product-category/arm-vps/

Be sure to check back often for all things Arm Server related!

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ARM Server Update, Spring 2018

Continuing on with our quarterly updates to the ARM Server ecosystem, as usual there is quite a bit of news to report on!  Let’s dive right in to the analysis!

The Qualcomm Centriq continues to make headlines, with the first design win recently announced.  Hatch, a cloud gaming company, has chosen the Centriq 2400 to power it’s cloud gaming platform.  More information is available here:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/tiriasresearch/2018/02/20/hatch-qdt-cloud-gaming/

Qualcomm is also in the news for another reason as well.  Broadcom, another chip maker, has launched a hostile bid to takeover Qualcomm, although Qualcomm has thus far held off their unwanted pursuit, and is attempting to remain independent.  Consolidation in the chip maker space has been picking up in recent years, with the NXP purchase of Freescale, Intel buying Altera, Macom purchasing Applied Micro, and many more.

Which leads to the next news in the industry:  Macom had recently quietly sold off the Applied Micro assets to a secretively named buyer, known only as Project Denver Holdings.  However, they have now formed a new organization, called Ampere, who will continue on with the development and marketing of the X-Gene line of ARM Server processors.  More info on Ampere can be found here:  https://amperecomputing.com/

Finally, Linaro’s 96Boards team has brought to market a development workstation conforming to their Enterprise Edition standards.  The newly launched workstation features a 24-core Socionext Synquacer SoC, plus a hard drive, memory, and video card to round out the system.  It is currently listed for sale at $1,250, so it is not cheap, but it does fulfill a niched that has been underserved in the market.  It can be purchased here:  http://www.chip1stop.com/web/USA/en/search.do?dispPartIds=SOCI-0000001