Posted on

Where to Buy an Arm Server

Being Arm enthusiast’s 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, 10 GBE 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.

Finally, there 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, 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.

One last note to make, is that we expect to see the newly formed Ampere Computing release details soon on their latest Arm Server CPU, which is based on the IP gained from Applied Micro and their X-Gene 3 SoC. We will be sure to post an article containing info on that CPU once it’s released.

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

Posted on

Report: Qualcomm Centriq TCO beats Intel

Tirias Research recently released a new Report detailing the Qualcomm Centriq Total Cost of Ownership versus an Intel Xeon x86 platform on a common workload, and the Qualcomm came out far ahead.  The full article is located here:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/tiriasresearch/2018/02/20/qdt-improved-server-tco/#3bbff2bc4675  The relevant piece is this:

Our TCO analysis demonstrated that using only one Qualcomm Centriq 2452 SoC per server chassis, a 12kW rack full of 36 46-core SoCs should show slightly better performance than a rack full of Intel Xeon Silver 4110 dual-socket server chassis, at only 51% of the power consumption. That’s similar performance with about half the power consumption.

 

Using two Qualcomm Centriq 2452 SoCs per server chassis in a 12kW rack should yield a little over double the performance of the dual-socket Intel Xeon Silver 4110 servers at 88% of the power consumption. A key factor is that only 35 of the Intel Xeon Silver 4110 systems can fit within the 12kW rack power budget. In this scenario, Qualcomm Centriq 2400 offers double the performance with less power consumption.

So, a single socket Centriq is essentially using half as much power for the exact same performance and workload, translating in to real savings.  And, there is room for performance improvement as well, by moving up to a dual socket design.  In that scenario, doubling the performance of the Xeon rack still results in a 12% power budget savings.  Double the performance and still drawing less power per rack, Qualcomm’s going to be challenging Intel’s dominance in the datacenter.

 

Posted on

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

 

Posted on

ARM Server Update, Fall 2016

Two major conferences devoted to the ARM ecosystem and technologies were recently held, ARMTechCon and Linaro Connect. Some new product announcements were revealed, and of course ARM Servers were front and center.

Linaro Connect featured the announcement and release of the new 96Boards IoT edition, a new smaller platform specifically designed for secure Internet of Things applications. There were also conference talks on the kernel, storage, Android, OCP, and more. But of course lots of attention was placed on the ARM Server updates, with the latest information on OpenStack, Xen, and processor technology announced. Linaro focuses on Linux on ARM of course, from both a hardware and software perspective.

ArmTechCon featured a more diverse set of topics, such as automotive, robotics, Internet of Things, and others. New application specific processors devoted to secure automotive and autonomous driving, network interconnects, and GPU’s were announced as well.

 

Posted on

ARM Server Linux Update, June 2016

As usual, a lot has changed in just a short time since our last update.  Here are some of the highlights from industry news.

First and foremost, the RaspberryPi 3 has continued to be the most popular ARM single board computer.  It now includes WiFi and Bluetooth, and the official Raspbian operating system has been upgraded to include support for the new features.  While it has a 64-bit processor, for the time being it still uses a 32-bit operating system.

Just a few days ago, we got some detail on the Cavium ThunderX2 processor that is forthcoming.  This is an enterprise-grade processor that will have 54 cores and support up to 100gb of ethernet bandwidth.  It will deliver 2x to 3x the performance of the current ThunderX processor, and should be able to compete head-to-head with Xeon’s in many workloads.

Finally, the Pine64 has been shipping in volume now, with most Kickstarter backers having received their boards.  The Pine64 is based on a 64-bit Allwinner A64 processor, which is not the most powerful around, but it sets a new low-price for 64-bit ARM hardware.  At just $15 for the entry level Pine64, the price of 64-bit ARM hardware has dropped from $3,000 to $15 in the course of about 1 year.  Talk about rapid innovation!

Posted on

Hosted Raspberry Pi 3 Servers Now Available!

miniNodes.com is proud to be the first cloud hosting provider to offer the new Raspberry Pi 3 as a hosted server.  The Raspberry Pi 3 combines a powerful new Broadcom quad-core 64-bit ARM processor, 1gb of RAM, and the reliable Raspbian Stretch linux operating system.  This makes the Raspberry Pi 3 a great platform for a small ARM server that offers plenty of compute capacity for basic services such as hosting a website or email, API hosting and development, lightweight development frameworks such as NodeJS application hosting, Internet of Things gateways and communication servers, IoT endpoints, Azure Edge container hosts, and more.  The Raspberry Pi 3 server is also a great way to experiment with ARM servers in the cloud, and ensure code compatibility with other more powerful ARM servers that are forthcoming.  Each hosted Raspberry Pi 3 server comes with SSH access and a dedicated IP address, making deployments to the server easy and familiar to developers.

Check them out here:  https://www.mininodes.com/product/raspberry-pi-3-server/

Posted on

How-to: Install Varnish and Nginx on ARM Servers

With the release of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, we read that Mythic Beasts was hosting a portion of the traffic going to the RaspberryPi.org site on an actual Pi 3! Pretty neat! We took a closer look and realized there wasn’t too much magic going on here, so we decided to write a quick how-to on setting up Varnish to cache content and speed up rendering and delivery of dynamic web pages. Since our little ARM servers are (obviously) not the most powerful platforms around, this can dramatically increase the performance and responsiveness of web servers running on ARM.

This guide will detail how setup Varnish and Nginx on a Debian 8 “Jessie” Server running on ARM.

First and foremost, we need to perform the actual installation of the software, then we can configure it. We simply run:

sudo apt-get install nginx varnish.

Now, we need to make some changes to setup the environment properly.

The first file we need to take a look at is the Nginx configuration file which should be located at /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

Specifically, we need to move Nginx off of port 80 so that Varnish will be able to take over port 80 traffic. For this example, we will place Nginx on port 8080 instead, so, we update the file to reflect the following:

server
listen 8080; {
root /usr/share/nginx/html;
index index.html index.htm;

# Make site accessible from http://localhost/
server_name localhost.localdomain;

(We are not using a fully qualified hostname in this example, so later on we will go update our hosts file to reflect this.)

Next, we can configure Varnish to go look for Nginx on port 8080, by editing the Varnish config file located at /usr/local/etc/varnish/default.vcl and editing the ‘backend’ section. Here is a simple example: (Note – This one has some common WordPress login pages excluded from being cached)

vcl 4.0;
# Based on: https://github.com/mattiasgeniar/varnish-4.0-configuration-templates/blob/master/default.vcl

import std;
import directors;

backend default {
.host = "127.0.0.1";
.port = "8080";
}

sub vcl_recv {
# Do not cache following pages (edit as needed for your configuration).
if (!( req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin|comments-post)" )) {
return (pass);
}

# Drop the cookies for everything else
unset req.http.cookie;

# Try a cache-lookup
return (hash);
}

sub vcl_backend_response {
# Below will cache the page for one week.(1s = 1 sec, 1d = 1 day)
set beresp.ttl = 1w;
}

Once Varnish knows where to look for Nginx, we can now set Varnish to take over port 80 that we previously freed up. To do this, we need to modify the Varnish start file, which in this case is located at /etc/systemd/system/varnish.service because we are using Debian. If you are on another distro, this location may vary. We need to change the ‘-a’ flag from -a :6081 to -a :80, then save and close the file.

The last change we need to make is to our hosts file, to ensure that the local network is interpreted correctly. We need to edit the /etc/hosts file, and add a line that translates 127.0.0.1 to localhost and localhost.localdomain:

127.0.0.1 localhost localhost.localdomain

At this point, we could technically restart the Nginx and Varnish services to read in these changes, but a reboot is probably a good idea as well if you can afford it.

Once the server comes back up, you should now have Varnish running on port 80 caching content from your Nginx web server. One way to test this is to go to http://www.isvarnishworking.com, and put in your IP address (keep in mind, you need a public facing IP for this). If everything is working, you should see a message like this:

varnish-nginx-on-arm-server

Additionally, you can run ‘sudo varnishstat’ to see a detailed breakdown of how much caching is being done by Varnish.

So, thanks go to Raspberry Pi for inspiring us to attempt to duplicate their work. Hopefully this helps you install Varnish and Nginx on ARM, and speed up web page rendering on your Pi’s or other small devices!

Posted on

ARM Linux Update, December 2015

Since our last update, quite a bit has happened in the Linux on ARM and ARM Server ecosystem. First and foremost, the price point for running a Linux ARM machine has reached a new low, only $5 USD! At the end of November, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new board known as the Raspberry Pi Zero, with a 1ghz ARM processor and 512mb of RAM running Raspbian (based on Debian Linux), at an incredible $5 price point. So, while it is not the exactly the fastest ARM PC around, it is still an amazing achievement and value for the $5 cost.

Previous low price leader CHIP from NextThingCo ($9 USD) began shipping to the early Kickstarter backers, though the bulk shipments won’t happen until next year. Following close behind at the $15 price point is the Orange Pi PC, running a quad-core Allwinner H3 with support for Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, ArchLinux and more.

Another very interesting option is the new PINE64 board currently being funded on Kickstarter. This project promises to deliver Allwinner A64 processors, with 1gb or 2gb of RAM, also starting at $15. This will be the low cost leader for a 64-bit ARM processor board, coming in significantly cheaper than the $75 Qualcomm Dragonboard (although the Dragonboard is still the leader among *currently* shipping boards). According to the project, they are planning support for Ubuntu and Android.

On the server side, SoftIron has showed off their Overdrive 3000 server, based on the AMD Opteron A1100 processor. The Opteron A1100 is a 64-bit, 8-core, ARM Cortex-A57 design, and the Overdrive 3000 adds 16gb RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and 2 10gig Ethernet ports. The server is optimized for cloud, storage, and web based work, while reducing power consumption and TCO in the datacenter.

Looking back, 2015 saw a ton of progress in the ARM Linux ecosystem, and 2016 is shaping up to be just as exciting!

Posted on

Further Developments in the ARM Server Industry

This month, several new ARM Server industry announcements have made headlines, advancing the ecosystem yet again.

First and foremost, Qualcomm announced an enterprise-grade 24-core processor based on the ARMv8-A instruction set, geared towards data centers running Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, big data, and machine learning workloads.

Second, at the Amazon AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon revealed a new Internet of Things (IoT) service.  The service is geared towards communicating with and powering wearables, sensors, and other small devices listening and measuring the environment around them.  To coincide with the launch, a handful of certified devices and sensors were announced as well.  One of those devices is the Qualcomm Dragonboard, a 96Boards compliant 64-bit ARM single board computer.  While this may not seem like a big deal at first glance, it actually dramatically increases the number of 64-bit ARM Linux devices out in the wild.  The size, scale, and marketing efforts of the Amazon AWS platform will serve to increase adoption and increase the user base.

Finally, the Linaro Connect bi-annual meeting was held in San Francisco, where ARM, Linaro, and many of the industry and ecosystem partners got together to discuss all things Linux on ARM.  As usual, one day of the conference was entirely devoted to the Server ecosystem, with talks and discussions specifically focused on enterprise applications and hardware.  Many, many resources were made available for everyone to review here:  http://connect.linaro.org/sfo15/

Of course, to get familiar with 64-bit Linux on ARM, be sure to check out our 96Boards HiKey server running Debian 8 Jessie!

Posted on

Update: Latest Progress in the ARM Server Industry

Its no secret that at miniNodes, we are ARM fans.  We believe that the future of the datacenter is one where efficiency, density, reduced power consumption, and scalability are the primary design factors.  ARM processors are well positioned to meet that demand, and ARM has committed to making a strategic investment in this market.  However, change does not happen overnight.

Instead, ARM is taking slow, but very deliberate steps to ensure that the hardware and software ecosystem are optimized and mature, to increase their chances of success.  Let’s recap some of those latest efforts:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server for ARM Development Preview 7.1 – Red Hat has been working hard on adding support for 64-bit ARM architecture to their popular Linux distribution, and is getting closer to reaching a beta state.  For now however, you do need to be a part of their Early Access Program.

Linaro / 96Boards Project –  This project is focused on driving down the cost of 64-bit ARM hardware and making it more readily available to developers.  Two boards are now shipping, the Dragonboard 410c with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, and the HiKey board powered by an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 620 processor.   The upcoming “Enterprise Edition” specification is expected to launch in the near future, as well.

CentOS – The CentOS team is hard at work building an ARM version of their Linux distro as well, and have some Google Summer of Code projects devoted to the effort.

Gigabyte – Last month at Computex, Gigabyte showed off a new server motherboard based on the AppliedMicro XGene1 ARM processor, as well as a cold storage server powered by an ARM processor.

So, as you can see, the ARM Server ecosystem is still rapidly evolving, but not with reckless abandon.  Instead, deliberate and measured steps are being taken to ensure a successful entrance in to the datacenter and server industry.