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.

Calxeda in the Cloud, TryStack Announces New ARM Zone

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.)

[Read more…]

Calxeda EnergyCore-Based Servers Now Available

We spent a lot of time at various tradeshows around the world in June and the #1 question we were asked was “when can I get my hands on a Calxeda-based server?” I am happy to tell you the wait is over.

We have been working with Boston Limited in the UK, a highly respected  solution provider, for about a year to bring an excellent Proof of Concept (POC) platform to market called “Viridis”.  Boston currently has about 20 customers lined up for beta testing and a pipeline of hundreds of others interested in evaluating the platform.  Boston is taking orders now from users in Europe, Asia and the US with shipments beginning later this month.

The Register published a great article today highlighting the features of the Boston Viridis platform:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/09/boston_viridis_arm_server/

Boston Viridis is a perfect option for those users who want to port their code, run benchmarks, and optimize their workloads for ARM.  This highly configurable solution allows users to create their ideal initial testing environments with options ranging from 4 to 48 Calxeda EnergyCore server nodes in a 2U form factor.

We look forward to working with Boston and other systems providers to enable the market with Calxeda-based POCs.  Stay tuned as we learn about success stories users experience with Calxeda EnergyCore-based solutions over the coming months.

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!

Apache Benchmarks for Calxeda’s 5-Watt Web Server

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.

[Read more…]

Calxeda CEO to speak at GigaOM Structure

Barry Evans, Calxeda CEO and co-founder, has been invited to speak at the upcoming Cloud Fab, GigaOM Structure, in San Francisco on June 20. If you have never been to Structure, it is the industry’s premier event for advancements in Cloud Computing hardware and software innovations, with a list of speakers from some of the industry’s movers, shakers, and entrepreneurs.  Barry will be on a panel with AMD’s Andrew Feldman (formerly CEO of SeaMicro) and Guido Appenzeller, CEO of BigSwitch Networks. Their panel is titled “Inside the data center: it’s all about the fabrics”. This is a hot area.  AMD’s acquisition of SeaMicro, and Intel’s acquisition of fabric assets from Cray, have recently piqued interest from around the industry. As we move from the age of the “Clock Wars” to the age of the “Core Wars”, and now to the age of the “Efficiency Wars”, the cluster and datacenter interconnect fabric and software-defined networking are emerging as the source of the next series of breakthroughs.

Calxeda will also have live hardware running in our booth at the show. Come by to for a demo of OpenStack and other Cloud infrastructure running on Calxeda-based hardware from the industry’s leading system vendors.

If you would like a discounted ticket to attend Structure, Calxeda can help you out. Go to our website, where you will find a link to obtain a discount code for 25% as a friend of Calxeda!

Hope to see you in San Francisco!

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!