There was only one real question about ARM based servers remaining and AppliedMicro just answered it, “When can you buy them?” At ISC 14 they were showing off production X-Gene boxes and gave definitive timetables for several key bits so the answer is, “Now”.
There isn’t much more to say about the X-Gene other than while it is massively late, it is finally here. At ISC yesterday, the company was showing off several OEM devices with their ARM server chip in them. There are said to be systems from Eurotech, E4, Mitac, and even HP with a Moonshot HPC blade. These are not reference platforms mind you, they are OEM developed products that you can buy now or really soon depending on the specific vendor.
Officially the production X-Gene wafers went into the fab during March. Since 40nm wafers take about 10-12 weeks to have pretty little scribbles drawn on them they should be done by now. If you add in a week or two to test, dice, and package the result, production systems could be delivered any second now. On top of that the 28nm X-Gene2 chips are said to be sampling “this quarter”. That leaves three business days from this article so you won’t have to wait long now even if you already have been.
Also worth noting is a demo with Nvidia over Cuda which is now ported to ARM CPUs. You can officially run an Nvidia card without an x86 box and still have it actually work as of yesterday. I can only imagine how much this must ding the egos of a certain company’s mis-management, this was supposed to be Denver’s big debut. That said you can now get an x86-free HPC system with GPU compute capabilities if you want. Throw in a few more demos from Mellanox and others at the show and you can theoretically do almost everything you need with an ARM based server.
Some may make suggestions about ARM servers and compatibility but both Ubuntu and Red Hat are as close to 100% package compatible as possible between x86 and ARM ISAs. The author has seen demos of rapid cloud deployment with X-Gene systems and Ubuntu tools and LAMP stack setup and deployments with Red Hat but not on AppliedMicro CPUs. In short if you can easily deploy vanilla Openstack Icehouse, Juju, Hadoop, MySQL, Seph, Cassandra, MongoDB, SugarCRM, Mediawiki, Xen, and WordPress without thinking about the underlying ISA, there are no real compatibility issues for datacenter deployment.
In the end AppliedMicro got there first, later than they wanted but before the rest. Sure they are woefully late but they are the only one here now. Better yet the software is there too, Ubuntu claims 40,000+ packages with 14.04 and Red Hat is making similar statements, more than enough for anyone. With the big question about ARM servers now answered, the next open one is who will be the first to publicly deploy? It won’t be long before we know the answer.S|A
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