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ARM Server Update, Summer 2018

Continuing our quarterly ARM Server update series, it is now Summer 2018 so it is time to review the ARM Server news and ecosystem updates from the past few months!  This blog series only covers the ARM Server highlights, but for more in-depth ARM Server news be sure to check out the Works on Arm Newsletter, delivered every Friday by Ed Vielmetti!

Looking at our recent blog posts, the most important headline seems to be the rumored exit from the business by Qualcomm.  Although, at the moment, this has not been confirmed, if true it would be a major setback for ARM Servers in the datacenter.  The Qualcomm Centriq had been shown to be very effective by CloudFlare for their distributed caching workload, and had been shown by Microsoft to be running a portion of the Azure workload as well.

However, just as Qualcomm is rumored to be exiting, Cavium has released the new ThunderX2 to general availability, and several new designs have now been shown and are listed for sale.  The ThunderX2 processor is a 32-core design that can directly compete with Xeons, and provides all of the platform features that a hyperscaler would expect.

Finally, in software news, Ubuntu has released it’s latest 18.04 Bionic Beaver release, which is an LTS version, thus offering 5 years of support.  As in the past, there is an ARM64 version of Ubuntu, which should technically work on any UEFI standard ARM Server.  Examples include Ampere X-Gene servers, Cavium ThunderX servers, Qualcomm, Huawei, HP Moonshot, and AMD Seattle servers.

As always, make sure to check back for more ARM Server and Datacenter industry news, or follow us on Twitter for daily updates on all things ARM, IoT, single board computers, edge computing, and more!

 

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Report: Qualcomm Looking to Exit ARM Server Processor Business

Recently, Bloomberg ran an article claiming that Qualcomm was seeking to close down or find a buyer for it’s ARM Server processor, the Centriq.  While the report has not been publicly confirmed by the company, if true, this would be welcome news to Cavium who just launched their ThunderX2 ARM Server processor.  Ampere could also benefit from this, as they are currently preparing to launch an updated X-Gene ARM Server processor based on the Applied Micro deisgn.

It would be a loss for the ARM Server ecosystem as a whole though, as the Centriq was well received in the press and reviews showed that the chip offered superior performance, lower power consumption, and excellent network throughput.

Here’s hoping this report is false!

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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ARM Server Update, Spring 2017

As always, much has changed in the ARM Server world since our last post!  Here are the highlights of what’s going on in the Linux on ARM Server community:

First and foremost, a huge announcement from Microsoft came at the 2017 Open Compute Project (OCP) U.S. Summit last month.  Microsoft stated they can utilize ARM Servers to power over 50% of their Cloud Workload, and demonstrated two designs, one based on the Cavium ThunderX2, and one based on the Qualcomm Centriq 2400.  They even showed an internal build of Windows Server running on the Qualcomm.

Next, 96Boards showed off all the latest projects and boards they have been working on at Linaro Connect, from IoT to the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SBC.

Finally, on the Raspberry Pi front, a new Raspberry Pi Zero was released with WiFi built-in.  This will allow the Raspberry Pi Zero to be more easily adapted to IoT applications, without the need for a USB Wi-Fi adapter or USB ethernet adapter that was previously required.  This simpler solution addresses one of the biggest complaints about the Pi Zero.

 

 

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Qualcomm Centriq 2400 ARM Server Processor

Qualcomm has announced their new ARM Server processor, called the Centriq 2400, which is designed for high efficiency processing and is capable of handling datacenter workloads.  While Cavium, AMD, and Applied Micro all have ARM Server processors, Qualcomm’s new processor is the first to be built on a 10-nanometer manufacturing process.  It will be able to handle cloud software stacks now that the software ecosystem has matured, and should be able to compete with Xeon offerings as the hyperscalers like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, and China Mobile build out next generation datacenters.

Qualcomm has lots of experience of course developing, manufacturing, and selling ARM processors via their Snapdragon line of cell phone chips, so they do have an edge on the competition as vendors like Cavium and Applied Micro don’t have the same experience and relationships already built.  Additionally, Qualcomm can leverage some synergies with the Snapdragon 820 and 835, albeit they definitely have their differences.

With another vendor now entering the ARM Server marketplace (and a major one at that), the future is looking bright for ARM gaining more traction and making inroads in the datacenter.