Canonical: present and accounted for…. Redhat where art thou?

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Canonical and Applied Micro demonstrated IceHouse Production OpenStack deployment in preparation for Computex next week, the behemoth Asian Tech Show in Taipei.  Why does Canonical always seem to be out in front,  while our dear friends at Redhat seem to provide only lip service to ARM servers?   Canonical has provided production (“LTS”, or Long Term Support) for Ubuntu since the 12.04 release,  two full years ago on 32-bit systems,  and now they are doing the same for ARM V8 64-bit platforms, starting with Applied’s X-Gene.  Meanwhile, Redhat sends dear Jon Masters, their uber-brilliant ARM Enthusiast,  all around the world touting ARM servers without a committed RedHat RHEL-equivalent release on their public roadmap.   So, Canonical has an -strength OS and the complete Canonical stack including OpenStack,  and Redhat has Jon’s vivacious personality and slides.   Hmmm.

We’ve seen this movie before.  When IBM decided to invest in Linux to revive the Mainframe, SUSE stepped up and supported the system in production environments with SLES.   Redhat only responded when their customers demanded that they step up,  and then they had to battle with SUSE to regain that lost share.   Now the same thing will happen with ARM support unless Redhat gets serious.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of smart people at Redhat who want to support ARM, but it is a significant investment that requires a solid business case.  And that business case apparently doesn’t yet convince Redhat’s executives to ante-up.  Meanwhile, Canonical is a more community-based organization, and are very close to the world’s largest cloud platform providers who are telling them they have a leadership opportunity with ARM.

So, Redhat,  I suggest you listen to the NEW customers (a.k.a. the cloudy types) who will move to ARM,  and not just to traditional IT customers who may not. It’s understandable that you don’t need to be there now, but don’t be too late or you may miss the boat!

How big is the ARM Server Market?

Much has been written and said about the possible ARM invasion of the datacenter.  The hype has been building lately as the first 64-bit implementations are being demonstrated at AMD and AppliedMicro, while Cavium should become more public sometime this summer when they get their very interesting chip ready for early sampling. Meanwhile, big players like Broadcom have development teams working on SOCs,  with  products likely in late 2015. Intel has responded to the potential threat with aggressively priced Atom SKUs to meet the need for “wimpy cores”…all while insisting that nobody really wants them.   Let’s look at how large this market may become. [Read more...]

AMD’s new K12 ARM project. No, its not Kindergarten!

 AMD announced last year that they were using ARM Cortex A57 as the basis for the Seattle SOC, some of us noted that AMD is the only vendor building a server SOC on the standard ARM Cores.  APMC, CAVM, BRCM, and others are heading down the custom core road, spending a lot more money to design their own chips with the hopes of out-perforing their competitors and building SOCs that have more differentiation than the  I/O and other “non-core” blocks.  A standard core is a great way to get into the market quickly, leveraging the common cores available from ARM Holdings.   But it is hard to differentiate on anything other than price and I/O if everyone can build a similar SOC for a few 10′s of millions of dollars.

As I consulted with industry players and investors,  I would often point out that AMD isn’t stupid;  they get it,  and are probably quietly working on their own ARM Cores,  leveraging the expertise and existing designs for GPUs, Memory, I/O, and Cores into a superior ARM server SOC part.  Well, today they stopped being quiet,  announcing their architectural license and intent to build a custom SOC 64-bit ARM SOC named “K12″ in 2016.  Jim Keller, famous for his earlier chips at AMD and Apple,  is leading this effort.  Jim pointed out that they will be applying the DNA from their Bulldozer high-frequency part, so this is not another Wimpy ARM core, but is meant to compete with Brawny Xeon’s and will be positioned above their Cortex A57 parts.

AMD also announced Project Skybridge,  their plans to deliver a Seattle (A57-based) SOC that is pin-compatible with a future x86 processor on 20nm in 2015.  . The first generation of Skybridge products (ARM and x86) will focus on clients and embedded markets but AMD indicated that Skybridge is a framework for future designs.  Does this mean that AMD has NOT abandoned X86 servers?  While they did not announce a next generation X86 server part,  it is clearly a part of their ambidextrous  strategy. Pin-compatibility is cool because it allows AMD’s customers to reduce design costs to support their ambidextrous processor strategy.  They can amortize design costs across more volume and and lower costs and speed time to market.

So, AMD will do Standard ARM, Custom ARM, and x86 for servers, clients, and embedded.   Thats a lot of work, and a lot of risk.  But there may be enough synergies between these projects that they could pull it off and, once again, surprise the industry as they did in their 1st Opteron dual core chip, which quickly stole 25% of the market from Intel.  Jim Keller said that much of the new X86 and ARM SOCs are the same,   so they are already leveraging a lot of IP and engineering.

Who said processors were becoming boring!???

ARM Servers: Hype vs. Reality

b283e604-cfcf-11e3-a3f9-12313d1c3a13-mediumAs the ARM server market began to emerge in press and powerpoint, it was not hard to separate the hype from reality:  it was a lot of hype.  Spread by well-meaning advocates trying to change the world and give Intel a run for their money, these myths created unrealistic expectations on whether ARM chips are worthy of server applications, when they will ship, and how hard they will be to use. I applaud the early leaders including APM and AMD for their early efforts on 64-bit products.  While they have tried to balance their excitement and the uncertainty of semiconductor development schedules, there are nonetheless a few myths that need clearing up.  Here are six common ones: [Read more...]

We’re Baaaacccckkkk!

PG

Well, not really.  Not Calxeda, anyway.  Just me looking for my favorite audience.  Hope you are all still interested in this space, as it is heating up as expected.   But now, its not just ARM and a couple little silicon companies.  Now, its the big boys, like Intel, AMD, and even IBM.  And no, not all are using ARM, but all are innovating more efficient servers for the new hyper scale datacenter.

It has been just over four months since Calxeda collapsed under the combined weight of massive expenses and the competitive challenges it inspired by its vision of low-power ARM-based SOCs for the datacenter. Much as been written about why it failed and what that does or does not mean to the movement it started. But armservers.com started a community of thousands of readers who wan to understand what this David and Goliath battle is all about and what it might mean to the industry. This story has only just begun. Calxeda opened the bottle, and even Intel can’t put the genie back in.

Since I wrote most of the blogs in armservers.com, and since I still have password access to site, I am just going to camp out here, play pirate, board this ship, and start sailing until someone notices and makes me walk the plank to another website.  If I get booted off, follow me on twitter @karlfreund, and I will tell you where I set up another soapbox.

For the next few blog postings, here’s what I plan to write about, just to catch everyone up on what’s been going on since our hiatus.   Thereafter, I will post musings and perspectives as as new products are rumored, announced, or delayed, and as benchmarks inevitably get published and abused.

  1. Market Summary
  2. Current vendor Landscape
  3. Individual Vendor Assessments
  4. Intel’s SWOT and Response

But first, I plan to talk about some of the myths and realities of this market. It’s time for me to pay my debts like a Lanister (ignore that reference if you aren’t a fan of Game of Thrones), and come clean from the hype I personally helped create at Calxeda.  Not that I was alone, so I will dispel a few myths that my worthy former competitors added to the pile. So my next posting will try to separate the hype from what I think is reality. Good, Bad and Ugly. If I suddenly go quiet, follow me @karlfreund.  (or look for me in a dumpster somewhere around Austin! ;-)

Karl

Ex-VP Marketing Calxeda, IBM, CRAY, and HP

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