Today’s Dell announcement of their donation to the Apache Software Foundation is a huge milestone not only for Calxeda but the entire ARM server ecosystem. Supporting and engaging the open-source community has always been a high priority for the Round Rock based company, evidenced by their contributions and leadership in multiple open-source projects like OpenStack and other Apache projects. But this particular announcement is more than just a generous donation to a non-profit foundation.
Yesterday, Oracle made announcements regarding a few product lines including a subtle “update” release for Java SE 7 Update 6. While only an “update” for the Java community, this release is a significant milestone not only for Calxeda, but the entire ARM ecosystem. Java SE 7 Update 6 now introduces a general-purpose port of the JDK to Linux ARM. Here are a few of the highlights and some commentary on what this means for Calxeda:
- With the addition of the JDK port to ARM (previously only the JRE was available), Oracle is showing their support and belief in the emerging ARM server market.
- There is a 32-bit binary for the ARMv6 and v7 instruction sets, with both client (C1) and server (C2) compilers. That means that it a) natively supports the Cortex-A9 cores in our SOC, and b) provides a server optimized compiler.
- The ARM architecture is now treated as a “first class citizen” by the Oracle Java SE team, which means it is treated like all general-purpose JDK and JRE binaries from both a licensing and distribution perspective (under the Oracle Binary Code License):
- The ARM JDK is free for development and production use on general-purpose platforms.
- The binaries can be redistributed for free with applications targeting a general-purpose computer/server.
- With a fully supported version of Oracle Java now available for ARM servers, customers should feel confident about their Java apps running on Calxeda hardware. (While OpenJDK is available, we have seen Oracle’s JVM to be up to 5-6X faster in some instances.)
- The one caveat that remains is that Oracle Java SE 7 remains “softfloat ABI” only, which means that it will only run on Ubuntu today with Calxeda hardware. We will have updated installation instructions for Ubuntu available by end of this week.
Oracle’s commitment to the ARM architecture is a great sign of what’s to come for this ecosystem. Looking into their crystal ball, they clearly see the opportunity before them and the alignment with their strategy. Henrik Stahl, Sr. Director of Product Management in the Java Platform Group at Oracle, said it best in his blog post — when asked why Oracle is investing in an ARM port and then giving it away for free, he replied: “We have a super-secret agenda. The idea is to enable Java developers so that Java can continue to thrive, and maybe sell some middleware on ARM servers down the line.“
It’s been one week since the announcement of the new TryStack ARM zone and the response has been overwhelming. For those of you that missed the news, last Wednesday, a few of us from the OpenStack community came together to stand up a new ARM-based server cluster, with the intent of providing access to real ARM server hardware for software developers and others interested in finding out more about this new class of machines. Since it’s opening, the ARM zone now has:
- 251 registered users
- 139 active users
- 454 instances created to date
Not too shabby. And those numbers continue to grow every day. (The TryStack community at large is now at over 3500+ members in the Facebook group.) It’s not too late to participate. You can still sign up for free access to these OpenStack environments. Details on how to get started can be found here.
So what’s next?
We will soon begin to actively solicit feedback from the community, especially those who have taken these ARM servers for a test spin. If you’ve been actively using the ARM TryStack zone recently, leave us a comment below and let us know what you’re doing on the system and you overall experiences with the system. Maybe you’re porting applications, or just trying to understand how ARM servers are similar/different from your traditional servers – whatever it may be, we’d love to find out more!
To make it interesting, we’ll send the first 10 commenters (with legitimate usage/experiences) this “Early Adopter” t-shirt for free! (US-based residents only, please.)
Update: Some folks have expressed needs for access longer than 24-hours, or the use of multiple nodes simultaneously. If this applies to you, leave us a comment and a way to contact you (or send us a note on Facebook) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Jon Masters, Principal Software Engineer at RedHat, just finished his presentation (“Hyperscale Cloud Computing with ARM Processors”) at RedHat Summit ’12 and concluded with one of the cooler demos I’ve seen in quite some time! We sat down with Jon afterwards to get his thoughts and more detail into this very interesting topic. He’s graciously allowed us to publish his blog post here first.
Hyperscale computing is a truly exciting emerging technology that, I feel, promises great things over the next few years. It will take advantage of such technology innovations as System-on-Chip (SoC), distributed fabric technologies, and integrated systems management. These are all features that are available today in Calxeda’s EnergyCore, which powers HP’s Redstone ARM servers. A complete Calxeda server node requires only three components: the SoC, memory, and storage. Together, these can be combined into extremely dense Cloud servers. Density is important because the era of cheap single-core processor performance growth is over. While the 80s and 90s saw a 52% year-on-year growth in compute performance per core on average, we’ve since reached a limit and returned to a growth rate half of that. So, the future is multi-core, and at phenominal levels of scale. With such scale comes an opportunity to rethink the conventional server design. Not only can we integrate fabric technologies (and obviate the need for discrete networking components), but we can also redesign server systems at the rack-level to take advantages of the efficiencies of scale.
The use of ARM technology in these systems is key in another way. It brings a new level of energy efficiency to datacenter server designs, such as the Redstone. A fully loaded ARM-based Calxeda server node (including memory) draws only 5W of power. Contrast this with conventional server designs using hundreds of Watts across many discrete components, bringing significant overhead in the form of power generation, distribution, and HVAC requirements. Since the future datacenter is all about high density at scale, it will be important to design server systems with energy efficiency in mind. These systems will use less energy and so will require less energy. They will generate less heat, and will have a greatly reduced overhead in terms of the traditional infrastructure, which has been designed to run legacy servers drawing hundreds of Watts.
Low energy computing has interested me personally for a number of years. At first in the embedded space, where I have worked with devices requiring under 1W of power and running for days or weeks on batteries, but now increasingly in the enterprise server space. When we have server nodes that require only 5W of power, we open up whole new avenues of exploration – both in terms of technology, and in terms of fun! With this in mind, it seemed only natural to find a way to truly visualize the low energy aspect of these emerging hyperscale server systems. Solar power is certainly an option. It’s a well-known, tried-and-tested technology that many people are familiar with. But I wanted to find something more novel and unique, more directly connected with the user and audience. The idea was suggested: why not use a bicycle? Bicycle generators have been used to power all kinds of things over the years, but to my knowledge they’ve never been used to power servers.
With this in mind, I designed and built what I think is the world’s first bicycle powered hyperscale server rig. The rig was used during my HP Redstone Server demo at the 2012 Red Hat Summit. It consists of a bicycle, attached to a generator via a friction bearing, the output of which is fed into a repurposed solar-charging circuit. The bike generator easily produces up to several hundred Watts, which trickle charges a battery that powers the server. Some smoothing circuitry is also added to prevent damage to the server as the pedal power is applied and removed, and a fan is attached to divert any excess power produced (which happens frequently), cooling the rider down. Finally, a series of multi-meters and some custom software is used to graph the instantaneous power generated by the rig as the rider pedals away. Using this rig, I have successfully powered the HP Redstone server while generating up to 200W of power on an average bicycle. At 5W per server node, that’s a lot of ARM server nodes that can be powered by one bicycle!
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Check out the pictures from the demo below!
Update: Some people have asked us what was actually running on the server for the demo. Each of the four nodes was running Fedora 17 GA and a distributed Mandelbrot demo using OpenMPI across 32 cores (8 Calxeda EnergyCores). Subtle, but this was the first public demo of Fedora on ARM that we are aware of…all powered by a bicycle!
It’s the middle of June, which means we’re smack in the middle of tradeshow and conference season for the IT industry. We were at Computex in Taipei two weeks ago, and this week we’re participating in International Supercomputing in Hamburg, and GigaOM’s Structure conference in San Francisco. In fact, our CEO, Barry Evans, is on a panel to discuss fabric technologies and their role in the evolution of datacenters. Should be a good one!
In spite of the hectic season, it hasn’t stopped us from moving forward with what everyone is really waiting for: benchmarks! Well, I’m happy to be able to share some preliminary results of both performance and power consumption for those of you looking for more efficient web servers.
Computex is one of the world’s largest technology events held every year. This year the conference is expected to draw over 36,000 attendees to its multiple exhibit halls across the entire city of Taipei. We didn’t want to miss out on the action, especially given Calxeda’s recent announcement launching our local presence in the region, so we have a team here in Taipei.
We’re here both to support our partners and also give attendees an in-person view of a live system running similar demos from the announcement last month at UDS.
If you’re interested in following us during this week, click the read more link to get more detailed updates throughout this week!
Or better yet, if you’re one of the lucky ones here in Taipei with us this week, let us know and swing by to say hello!
Two weeks ago, Calxeda publicly demonstrated Ubuntu 12.04 on the EnergyCore SoC, a monumental occasion for the ARM server industry. The progress that’s been made by Calxeda and our partners over the last 12 months has truly been remarkable. The journey we’ve taken and the opportunity afforded us reminds me of a famous childhood story, “The Little Engine That Could”; a story that teaches children about hard work and believing in ourselves.
(Spoiler alert: Essentially, there’s a stranded train that needs help getting over a high mountain. Some of the larger, more established, engines are asked to pull the train, but for various reasons they refuse. So they ask the small engine, who agrees to try. The engine successfully pulls the train over the mountain while repeating its motto: “I-think-I-can”.)
There have been naysayers who have, from the very beginning, doubted not only Calxeda’s ability, but the ability of an entire ecosystem to recognize and respond to an industry desperate for change. And that’s exactly why the world’s first Ubuntu 12.04 demo on an ARM server two weeks ago was so exciting! Together with our partners, we demonstrated the following on a Calxeda reference server:
- Fully functional web server powering a local copy of calxeda.com
- Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform via OpenStack
- Support for Canonical’s Juju and MaaS for system configuration and provisioning
Some people have recently asked me, “so, what’s the big deal?” Well, I want to take a moment to provide some color commentary about these demos and, more importantly, what these demos really represent. [Read more...]
Welcome to ARM Servers, Now!, a blog dedicated to bringing industry perspectives on ARM-based servers, data centers, and the technologies and partners bridging those two worlds. Our mission is to provide weekly news about the transformations data centers are taking to be more energy efficient while achieving the computational throughput needed by today’s scale-out, hyperscale, and cloud computing infrastructures.
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