Tópico: [EN] ARM Server Market
09-01-2016, 14:02 #1
[EN] ARM Server MarketJames Hamilton
Microservers and the motivations for microservers have been around for years. I first blogged about them back in 2008 (Cooperative, Expendable, Microslice, Servers: Low-Cost, Low-Power Servers for Internet-Scale Services) and even Intel has entered the market with Atom but it’s the ARM instruction set architecture that has had the majority of server world attention.
There have been some large data center deployments done on ARM servers and the ARM server market entrants have been many. At one point, I knew of nine semiconductor companies that were either in market or going to enter the market. Currently the biggest players in this nascent server market are AppliedMicro and Cavium. The most recent AppliedMicro part targets higher clock rates but with lower core count whereas the Cavium Thunder delivers a somewhat less powerful core part with 48 on die. AMD is also targeting the ARM server market.
Over the last 2 years, the ARM Server group of companies targeting ARM Servers has thinned somewhat with Calxeda going out of business and Samsung electing to leave the market. But Cavium, AppliedMicro, and AMD are still committed and Qualcomm recently did a press event essentially saying “this time we really are serious”. Qualcomm is particularly interesting in that they produce some of the best and most used mobile systems. And, for those that know them well, they have hired a good server team and there is no question that the team is capable of delivery, the company can fund a successful market participant, and they have a long history of proven custom CPU designs based upon the ARM architecture. But considerable time has passed and, although Qualcomm continued to talk about ARM Servers and continued to work on ARM Server designs through this period, they never really seemed any closer to delivery.
The press event last week is the public signal that Qualcomm really are serious about this market and they made the commitment real by announcing an initial 24 core server. This new 24-core server CPU is already sampling. I’m personally not super excited about this initial Qualcomm offering but I am excited to see them now in market and committed to server-side success. They have a high quality, dedicated team focused on producing compelling server chips and they plan to do a custom ARM design. They report the next version is well along, and from all I have seen so far, it’s real and will be a performer.
In the past, I’ve been quoted as disappointed in the pace of ARM server innovation (e.g. Amazon Engineering Says ARM Chips Lag Intel in Innovation). To a large extent, that remains true today but here are several important factors emerging that together stand a good chance of making an ARM server a real market competitor:
- Volume Economics: Qualcomm is the CPU supplier for many of the world’s leading smartphones and, overall, ARM powers just about every mobile phone on the market. We know all the big server architectural changes where driven by superior volume economics coming from below. Intel beat the UNIX Super Servers on the strength of the R&D stream funded by the Intel client business. ARM and all of ARM Partners including Qualcomm, Samsung, and literally 100s of others all gain from these volume economics. Historically, the volume client part producers eventually win in server.
- Process Technology: One of the most challenging aspects of Intel as a competitor is they are competent in overall semiconductor design. They produce good parts. And they are good at market development so the ISA is well supported and has all the important applications. All of these factors are important but where Intel has been positively unstoppable is in process technology. They have been at least one full process generation ahead of the rest of the industry. A full process node better means Intel has more processor real estate to work with, or can get higher yields with a smaller part, and has a power advantage as well. Intel’s dominance has been driven by the massive market share driving the highest semiconductor R&D budget in the world. But, the mobile world has changed all that. This year both Samsung and TSMC are outspending Intel in semiconductor R&D and it is not expected that Intel will retake the top spot in the near future. TSMC makes Apple mobile and Qualcomm CPUs and is, by far, the largest FAB-as-a-service provider in the market. TSMC is huge, Samsung is spending even more, and both are investing Intel. More R&D doesn’t necessarily translate to better results but all indications are that all three competitors are going to deliver the 7nm process node at about the same time. It looks a lot like the process technology generational advantage that Intel has enjoyed for years is being eaten up by the massive mobile and embedded part ecosystem R&D investment.
- Vibrant Ecosystem: ARM has literally 100s of licensees all starting with the basic ARM design and adding proprietary intellectual property, additional functionality, or packaging differently. Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm and all the rest all have the advantage sharing the initial IP investment and, perhaps more important, all have the advantage of a shared tool chain with rapidly improving compilers, Linux distros, and other tools all supporting ARM. Most of the Internet of Things market bigger than microcontrollers will be ARM based. The Raspberry PI is ARM based. The Android devices I used every day are all ARM-based (by Chance, all my mobile devices use Qualcomm CPUs but my Raspberry Pi is Broadcom powered.
- China: China is “only” a single country but it’s hard to talk about a country with more 1.3B people and use the word “only” in the same sentence. China has massive influence and, today, several of the major high scale Chinese infrastructure providers are deploying ARM servers aggressively. The Chinese market alone could fund the needed R&D stream to produce good server parts.
- Cloud Computing: More and more of the server processor volume is being purchased by the large cloud computing providers. Even though it’s still very early days for cloud computing, all the big players have 10s of data centers, with 10s of thousands of servers in each. The big players had a million servers a long time ago and continue to deploy at a staggering pace. AWS, as an example, just announced over 80% usage growth over the last year on what was already a massive base. This changes the server market dynamics in that the cloud providers are willing to take on big challenges and do buy in enough volume that they can create an tool and app ecosystem nearly on their own. Interestingly, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are all ARM licensees. The cloud changes what is possible in the server market and the vast size of the major cloud deployments make many of the big changes previously thought impossible seem fairly practical.
Clearly Intel still makes the CPU behind more than 90% of the world’s servers (even when taking a very generous interpretation of server). And, just as clear, Intel is a very competent company that has in the past responded quickly to competitive pressure. Intel has also gotten very good at working closely with its major customers and, unlike the bad old days, is actually very good to work with. I’m more impressed with what they have been bringing to market than ever. Nonetheless, there are factors that make it very likely that we are going to see some very good server parts based upon ARM in market in the near future. It’s hard to predict the pace of execution of any of the participants nor where this will end up but, generally, change and competition is good for the industry and great for customers.
I’m glad to see Qualcomm serious about the server CPU market, it’s good to see their first market entrant already sampling, I’m excited by what the next version might deliver, and it’s good to see the ARM-based server parts out there and the investment ramping up. Remember when server-side computing was boring? :-)
09-01-2016, 15:05 #2
China Setting Up Fund for Its Electronics IndustryBy PAUL MOZURJAN. 8, 2016
HONG KONG — A Chinese technology regulator said on Friday that it would cooperate with a bank to set up a $30 billion fund to support the country’s huge electronics supply chain.
The creation of the new fund underscores China’s ambitions to expand its tech capabilities and also signals how those ambitions are being threatened by slowing growth and recent market turmoil.
Official accounts of the fund did not make clear precisely how the money would be spent. But given the recent weakness in Chinese manufacturing and lower-end electronics manufacturers, it may be intended as a form of stimulus to the tech industry. The terminology used in media accounts signals China’s bold technology ambitions. Reports about the new fund said it would be used to build a “strong manufacturing country” and an “Internet power.”
A report in state-run media said the fund was created to address problems faced by small and medium enterprises that have come under pressure or folded recently because of a lack of funding. The report made reference to recent factory closures, specifically pointing out the closing in October of Fu Chang Electronic Technology, a supplier to the telecom equipment makers Huawei and ZTE.
The fund will be created through a partnership between an industry group controlled by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Ping An Bank. Signaling the importance of the initiative, the signing ceremony was held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which is often used to host visiting dignitaries, and was attended by representatives of many of China’s largest technology companies, including Lenovo and Alibaba, according to an official release.
Local shares have been hit hard this week by concerns about a depreciating currency and slowing growth. That volatility is most likely worsening an already difficult situation for lower-end electronics makers and component suppliers in China.
While China’s largest hardware brands and booming Internet companies tend to attract media attention, the country also has huge numbers of companies that support the electronics supply chain. With low margins and inconsistent orders, many are highly exposed to slowdowns in the worldwide demand for electronics.
The headwinds were highlighted again on Friday, when the Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn said that December revenue was 20 percent lower than it was last December. The company operates a number of city-size production facilities in China.
In another indication of the pressures on manufacturing in recent months, the China Labor Bulletin said in a recent report that there had been a “massive upsurge” in worker strikes and protests during the second half of 2015. Tracing the uptick in disputes to market turmoil last summer, the organization said it had tracked twice as many incidents in 2015 as it had in 2014.
The new fund seems to resemble a separate multibillion-dollar fund, announced in 2014, to provide financing and enable acquisitions to increase the size and sophistication of the country’s semiconductor industry. In a speech, Zhou Zixue, who leads the industry group overseeing the new fund, emphasized the importance of market forces, using language similar to that used in announcing the semiconductor fund.
Mr. Zhou, who is the chairman of the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, also said that the new fund would support “supply side” policies. That phrase, recently popular though less than precise, is usually used by Chinese economic policy makers to emphasize reducing excess manufacturing capacity and moving toward a more consumption-driven economy.
Still, Mr. Zhou said that the financing would be used to develop advanced technologies and support companies that are facing financing difficulties, an indication that it might not ultimately lead to a reduction in China’s huge number of low-cost electronics manufacturers.
Over the last year, the semiconductor fund has been used to finance a number of strategic investments and acquisitions in foreign chip companies. Foreign trade groups have said it gives unfair advantage to Chinese companies and is a tool of Beijing’s industrial policies. It is unclear whether the new fund will be used to support acquisitions.
14-01-2016, 13:27 #3
Will AMD’s "Seattle" Opteron A1100 Push ARM Servers Into The Mainstream?
With 14 SATA 3 ports and two 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports being driven from the system-on-chip, the Opteron A1100 is a natural choice for storage servers where compute needs are modest.
January 14, 2016 Timothy Prickett Morgan
With the launch today by AMD of the “Seattle” Opteron A1100, that makes three 64-bit ARM processors that are finally in production for servers, storage, and switches in the datacenter. The long-anticipated delivery of the Opteron A1100, which is more than a year late coming to market, nonetheless marks the increasing maturity of the ARM server ecosystem. Now it is up to the market to tell us precisely how useful the Opteron A1100 chip will be in the datacenter.
AMD has some stiff competition in the ARM chip arena now that Applied Micro has its X-Gene 1 out and X-Gene 2 chips ramping and Cavium is also shipping its first-generation ThunderX processors, both of which bring much more computing to bear than AMD’s Seattle. Few of the ARM server chip makers believe they can take on Intel’s hegemony in the datacenter with the Xeon processors head on with their first products, and they are being very careful to target their initial ARM processors at very specific workloads on the periphery of the core compute complexes at most organizations where the Intel Xeon prevails.
This is not a bad strategy, of course. This is precisely how Intel toppled proprietary minicomputers and mainframes and RISC/Unix platforms in the datacenter with the Xeons, starting from the PC and working its way up from file servers to core machines running mission critical applications. As The Next Platform has pointed out time and again, the attack usually comes from below when the processing technology changes in the platform, and in this case, the ARM upstarts are taking the chips preferred by smartphones and tablets and beefing it up to take on server jobs. The idea, according to ARM Holdings, the licensee of the ARM architecture, is to provide an increasingly broad and deep chip lineup across multiple vendors and by 2020 to take at least 25 percent of the server shipments in the world. It is an ambitious plan, and one that has had its bar raised from 20 percent only a year ago.
AMD has been a part of this plan for several years now, and with the delivery of the Opteron A1100, it hopes to get a little revenue return on its development investment and set the stage for the future “K12” ARM server chips expected in 2017. Daniel Bounds, who took over as senior director of datacenter solutions at AMD last October, did not mention the K12 effort as part of the prebriefings concerning the Seattle chip. But with the Opteron A1100 launch, all eyes will turn to the future even as AMD tries to keep its partners and potential customers rooted in the present, which is still early days for the ARM assault on the datacenter.
The basic feeds and speeds of the Opteron A1100 have been out since the middle of 2013 and the chip has been sampling since March 2014, but with the actual launch, we now get a sense of the SKUs and the pricing for the Seattle chips. Bounds also gave us a sense of the performance of the chips, but don’t get too excited. Like other ARM server chip makers, the data is thin and largely anecdotal.
To recap briefly, the Opteron A1100 was designed to compete with the four-core Xeon E3 processors that Intel partners use in workstations and low-end servers, and to basically have twice as many cores and twice as much main memory, giving it a leg up over the Xeon E3s and some ability to compete with the low-end of the Xeon E5 line for certain workloads. To get its first ARM processor out the door quickly, AMD decided to use ARM Holding’s stock Cortex-A57 cores in Seattle rather than design its own cores, as it is doing with the future “K12” ARM chips.
That speed didn’t happen as plans. The time between when the world knew about the Seattle project and when AMD is actually delivering is many years, and that left Intel with plenty of time to cook up the “Broadwell-D” Xeon D processor, which launched last March. The Xeon D is a stop gap that takes a real Xeon E5 and gears it down and adds a chipset on the package to compete with the ARM upstarts and their system-on-chip designs. (Xeon D also calls into question Intel’s own Atom server chips.) In November last year, Intel expanded the Xeon D line and provided some performance benchmarks for the key compute, storage, and network function virtualization workloads that it is aiming the Xeon D processor at, largely among the hyperscalers. Intel now has a dozen Xeon D parts, which scale from 2 to 8 cores running at between 1.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz, with 3 MB to 12 MB of L3 cache on the chip, and with thermal envelopes ranging from 20 watts to 45 watts. Intel is not providing pricing on the two lowest SKUs with only two cores, but on the other variants of the Xeon D, the prices for a single 1,000-unit tray range from $199 to $581 for each processor.
14-01-2016, 13:28 #4
We presume that Intel is perfectly happy to provide customized versions of the Xeon D processors, as it has done for the Xeon E5 and Xeon E7 processors, but Bounds said that with the Seattle chip, AMD is not intending to offer custom parts to potential customers. There are three different SKUs of the Opteron A1100s, and that is it. Here they are:
AMD is not releasing pricing for all of the Opteron A1100 chips, but Bounds tells The Next Platform that the top-bin part, with eight cores running at 2 GHz, 8 MB of L3 cache, and a 32 watt thermal design point, will cost under $150. Pricing on the other chips will scale down from there. If you put a gun to our heads, we would say the eight-core part running at 1.7 GHz would cost about $120 and the four-core part will go for maybe $80. But those are just wild guesses. What is obvious is that the Opteron A1100s are much less expensive than the Xeon D chips. The question, of course, is what performance can you get for the money? We asked.
“While we have synthetic benchmarks, we decided it is more important to make sure we are empowering our partners, and you will see more characterizations come out for particular workloads,” Bounds explained. “I will tell you anecdotally that we compare favorably to Atom on an apples-to-apples compiler perspective. When we get into higher frequency, more robust cores, we have to look at the situation a little differently. Because the book has not been completely written on these workloads and use cases, we think that in the next couple of months when customers begin to put this product on the bench and test it out, we will learn from that as well.”
With 14 SATA 3 ports and two 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports being driven from the system-on-chip, the Opteron A1100 is a natural choice for storage servers where compute needs are modest. So it is not surprising that one of the key target workloads for the Seattle processor is Ceph object and block storage and OpenStack Swift object storage. AMD also thinks there is some play for the Opteron A1100 in Hadoop and Cassandra data stores, too. The machines are also being targeted at the traditional LAMP stack, where Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP or Python underpin Web serving, Java application serving, and Squid or Memcached caching workloads. AMD is also pitching the chip as a host for data plane, virtual function I/O, deep packet inspection and similar network jobs as well as for modestly powered OpenStack compute clouds. AMD is also keen for developers to use Seattle machines to port their applications from X86 and Power architectures to ARM.
More than anything else, AMD believes that Seattle can be the mainstream part that the ARM ecosystem has been waiting for.
“Mainstream is a critical part of this,” said Bounds in reference to the Seattle launch. “In the past, there have been fits and starts with ARM In the datacenter, whether that be in a traditional compute environment or whether that be in the networking or comms environment or whether that be in a storage environment. All of these kind of matriculate back to the need around core mainstream features and being able to take advantage of a 64-bit design, and enabling that design with elements like ECC memory or different flavors of Linux that are developed, tested, and most importantly supported for this platform.”
While AMD is certainly larger than either Applied Micro or Cavium, the fits and starts with the Seattle product and the rewriting of its product roadmap as it killed off its “SkyBridge” unified X86-ARM platform last year did not help build confidence. That is all water under the bridge now, but still people want to know what took so long. Bounds offered this explanation:
“There was maturity in the silicon that we had to work through. For the server space, this is the first time this business unit had brought to market an enterprise-class part. It took a little bit longer – significantly longer – than we originally intended. However, in many respects, when we look at the readiness of the ecosystem, a lot happened in 2015. So in terms of lost time, I am not sure we lost a lot of time. We would have loved to have this part out much earlier, but the fact remains we are happy to be in production at the beginning of 2016, our partners are there in lockstep with us, and we think there is tremendous opportunity this year.”
One of the things that AMD is doing to stir up support for the Seattle chip is offer a ten-year guarantee that parts will be supplied – something it has done for embedded versions of its X86-style Opterons in the past.
As for initial partners for the Opteron A1100, there are a few. SoftIron, an upstart server maker that has been part of the ARM movement for a few years, will deliver a version of its Overdrive3000 systems using the chip and is also working on a range of storage products. CASwell, which is part of the Foxconn IT and consumer gear manufacturing conglomerate, is rolling out an NFV platform based on Seattle, and the 96 Boards effort to make cheap development servers that cost hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars is also working on a Seattle machine.
Hopefully others will follow. But we suspect that what the system makers of the world want to know – including OEMs, ODMs and their hyperscale customers, and more than a few HPC centers – is what the Opteron K12 ARM chips will look like and how they will compete against the “Skylake” Xeons of the 2017 timeframe.