Green Computing Makes a Giant Leap Forward …thanks to the iPhone?…and ARM processors!

Written by Shawn Kaplan, General Manager – Financial Services, TELX

Shawn Kaplan, TELX General Manager Financial Services

Shawn Kaplan

Advances in multi-core computing have allowed far greater compute densities such that nearly all datacenter racks run out of available power far sooner than physical space.  Traditional High Performance Computing (HPC) X86 clusters can consume upwards of 400W per rack unit (U), this means that a typical data center rack with a 5KW – 8KW circuit can be maxed out in as little as 1/4 or 1/2 of the available space.  Many of today’s forward thinking IT leaders are asking “Why can’t I have both extremely dense computing and better power efficiency?”

[Read more...]

Dell & Apache: More than just a donation

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.

[Read more...]

Oracle Java Update Shows Future For ARM

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.

World’s First Bicycle Powered ARM Server

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!

Open Source Software Packages for Initial Calxeda Shipments

We are often asked what open-source software packages are available for initial shipments of Calxeda-based servers.

Here’s the current list (changing frequently).  Let us know what else you need!

Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS and Fedora v17+

Compilers/Languages

  • GCC/gFortran 4.6.2
  • PHP 5.3.8
  • Perl 5.14.2
  • Python 2.7.2, 3.2.2
  • Ruby 1.8.7, 1.9.3
  • Erlang r14

Debuggers/Profilers

  • GDB 7.4
  • GProf 2.13
  • OProfile 0.9.6

Java

  • Oracle JVM SEv7u4
  • OpenJDK 6b24

Applications

  • Apache 2.2.21
  • Tomcat 6.0.32
  • MySQL 5.5.17
  • PostgreSQL 9.1
  • Apache Cassandra 1.07+
  • Apache Hadoop 1.0.0+
  • Memcached v1.4.13+

HPC Related Packages

MPI

  • MPICH 1.2.7
  • OpenMPI 1.4.3
  • MPICH2 1.4.1
  • Open-MX 3.5

Checkpoint

  • DMTCP 1.2.1
  • Condor 7.2.4

Libraries

  • BLAS 1.2
  • FFTW 2.1.5
  • ScaLAPACK 1.8.0

Monitoring

  • Ganglia 3.1.7

 

The Little (ARM) Server That Could

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.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

(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:

  1. Fully functional web server powering a local copy of calxeda.com
  2. Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform via OpenStack
  3. 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...]

Calxeda demonstrates Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on EnergyCore SoC

This week, Calxeda is showing a live Calxeda cluster running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on real EnergyCore hardware at the Ubuntu Developer and Cloud Summit events in Oakland, CA. This is not an FPGA demo. This is the real deal on real silicon; quad-core, w/ 4MB cache, secure management engine, and Calxeda’s fabric, all up and running.

On stage at UDS

Larry Wikelius, Co-founder of Calxeda, on stage with Mark Shuttleworth at UDS.

Calxeda’s “Greenbox” (get it?) prototype supports up to 48 quad core SOCs in a 2U package

Ubuntu 12.04, with support from Canonical, is the 1st Linux distribution with full support for ARM as a 1st tier server architecture. Incorporating OpenStack’s cloud management infrastructure, Ubuntu 12.04 is designed to support the world’s largest cloud environments, where Ubuntu enjoys commanding market share today.

After months of discussion, debate, claims, and counterclaims, the industry can now begin a fact-based dialog about Calxeda-based servers. What applications are appropriate? Are they fast enough? How much can they really save large internet and IT shops? Do they really consume only 5 watts each? In other words, this new category of technology is moving beyond Powerpoints and on to proof-points. Ok, we will still pepper the market with pretty presentations, but at least they will contain real benchmarks and measurements made on real systems. We will begin communicating benchmark results on calxeda.com soon.

So, back to Oakland…Running Ubuntu 12.04, we are demonstrating a standard LAMP stack (running Calxeda’s website) along with other popular web frameworks such as node.js and Ruby on Rails, provisioning of OpenStack Nova compute instances, and even Canonical’s Metal-as-a-Service bare-metal provisioning. The cluster we are running is a Calxeda EnergyCard prototype in a 2U chassis that supports up to 48 quad-core nodes at under 300 watts, with up to 24 SATA drives. For more information about UDS, please see http://uds.ubuntu.com/. Remote Participation for UDS is available at http://uds.ubuntu.com/community/remote-participation/.

While exciting to see, this demo really shows just how easy it is to move modern software over to Calxeda and Ubuntu. Literally, it all just worked. The code came up without any modifications. Just load and go.

The Linux community will see immediate benefits from such a server for building Linux kernels and distributions. A complete build of the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel took less than an hour to compile on a single node, 1/4 the time of current ARM build platforms. With a larger Calxeda cluster, a full build of the entire distro will take hours, instead of weeks.

Now that Calxeda EnergyCore has been seen in the wild, you can expect more sightings at a variety of industry events, and end-users shipments will begin over the next 4-8 weeks. Volume shipments are expected to begin early this Fall from HP and other system vendors. Be sure to check our website frequently to get updates.

Who said that hardware is boring? Let the fun, and games, begin!

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