Haswell E5 and the iPhone6: Why would anyone ever need more?


Aiphone6s expected,  Intel® announced the Haswell E5 processor family for Servers and Workstations at IDF on September 9.  Coincidentally the event was just up the valley from Apple’s event announcing the (ARM-based) iPhone 6, 6Plus, and Apple Watch.  Between the two media-saturation blitzes, one could barely find coverage of misbehaving NFL stars or Russian would-be Czars in the day’s news headlines.  While few would connect these two events in any way,  to me there is  a common thread,  best summarized by my interpretation of their messaging:  “It’s a floor wax! It’s a desert topping!  Its everything you ever wanted,  and more!”   If you’ll allow me, …

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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…]

A note about fruit

When comparing fruit,  everyone knows not to compare apples to, say, an orange or, god forbid,  a cumquat.  The same applies to chips.  See this nice article, then come back and read on…


Nice job, DELL.  Ditto Intel!  Now, you might think, “oh wow! A 20 watt Intel Server! ARM’s lead certainly didn’t last long; Calxeda is toast! ”  A sub-20 watt Xeon is indeed an accomplishment;  Intel is a great company and knows what they are doing.  But be careful when comparing our 3.8 (ok, call it 4) watt ECX-1000 to a Xeon.  On the surface, we consume 1/5th the power.  Not bad!  But the story runs deeper than that. Let’s dissect the fruit and see what’s inside.

Xeon is not an SoC (more on that in another blog).  It is a multi-core processor, like the Cortex A9 from ARM.  It does have some integrated I/O (PCI-E 3.0 to be precise).  But it does not have Ethernet, much less five 10Gigabit Ethernet ports.  It does not have SATA controllers. It does not have an integrated BMC for processor management, much less fabric management and power optimization.  All of these need to be added as additional components in the system BOM cost and power envelope to offer equivalent and necessary functionality to a Calxeda ECX-1000. Xeon does have more performance per thread; probably 3-5X, in fact, depending on the workload.  But remember that ARM processors for servers are NOT about performance.  If you need performance, buy Intel, or AMD, or IBM Power.  But, it doesn’t matter how fast your thread or core can run if you are spending 90% of your time waiting for I/O.  And that is exactly the problem people have with traditional architectures today in dealing with data-intensive computing  such as Hadoop.

What really matters is the total power and cost of a CLUSTER for a particular workload.  Not a processor, or even an SoC.  A cluster of Calxeda server nodes will consume only 5 watts each, complete with DRAM memory. At 100%.   At idle it only consumes .5 watts. (Oh, yeah, don’t forget about memory which can consume as much as 1Watt per Gigabyte in traditional servers!)

So, always be sure to check your fruit carefully!