Want to test some cloudy code on an ARM server?
Now you can! For Free!
Calxeda, OpenStack, HP, Canonical, and Core NAP hosting have now donated the hardware, software, and facilities to provide FREE access to HP’s Calxeda-based Redstone servers using the TryStack sandbox. This is so cool; you can provision a free server instance and play to your hearts content. Upload code or images. Develop and test your software. Use the OpenStack API’s on ARM and realize “Its just Linux!”. And pay nothing. For more information on how to access this, see the OpenStack Blog
Obviously, there has been a lot of interest about this new class of servers that can dramatically reduce power and space requirements for scale-out workloads. Thats why you came to this site! Some call these “micro-servers” (Intel). Some call them “Extreme Low Power Servers” (Gartner’s analysts). And yes, some have affectionately called them “Wimpy Nodes” (See Carnegie Mellon University’s “FAWN” paper.)
Whatever name you prefer, data centers and cloud operators around the world are asking the same questions:
- How difficult are they to program?
- When and where can I get one?
- What are they good for?
- How much energy and money will I save?
Since this technology is now becoming available, making it easy to access via a cloud-based dev/test service makes a lot of sense. And OpenStack’s “TryStack” cloud is the ideal platform to make that possible. By providing developers free access to Calxeda’s EnergyCore ARM-based processors, the development community can at last begin to answer the first two questions (ease of porting/programming and access) and begin to explore the third (which workloads make sense). To fully answer #3 and #4, benchmarking and power measurements will be required, and TryStack is not suitable; it is a shared, virtualized infrastructure (using Linux Containers, or LXC). We plan to provide a solution for those needing dedicated hardware access by the end of the year, perhaps using MAAS (Metal as a Service), from Canonical.
What user experience can you expect? Well, most people will find it a bit boring; it looks and acts just like any Linux server instance. But that’s exactly the point. For most code, it’s just compile and go. Or for interpretive workloads like Java, PHP, LAMP stack, and node.js, its just load and go. Just a little slower. And much less power. Each quad-core server consumes only 5 watts under load; and 1/2 watt at idle.
Oh, and did I mention it’s free? It’s simple to get started, simply join the TryStack group on Facebook and you’ll gain access to the original x86-based cluster. To get access to the ARM-based cluster, look for instructions inside the Facebook group to request access specifically to the new zone. (We’re working on streamlining this process and hope to have Facebook single sign-on integration soon.) Once accepted, you’ll have login credentials to the OpenStack dashboard where you can launch a new instance of Ubuntu 12.04 just like you would with any other cloud platforms.
We hope you will find this to be a valuable tool, and encourage everyone to share their experiences on the TryStack Facebook page. Was it helpful? What worked? What didn’t? How can we improve the service? What else do you need?
We look forward to your comments!