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Dell Strays Further From Intel Chips, Donates ARM Server to ASF

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the you-and-what-arm dept.

Intel 37

Says a story at Slash Datacenter: "Dell announced Oct. 24 that it had taken the next step into the low-power server market through the development of a second ARM-based server platform, which it will donate to the Apache Software Foundation for software development and app porting. The 'Zinc' concept runs the Calxeda EnergyCore chip, an ARM-based processor that the company hopes will eventually be featured in data centers running specialized workloads. It follows Dell’s earlier effort, dubbed 'Copper,' which it released in May. Neither server is commercially available, with Dell saying only that it would bring the hardware to market at an 'appropriate time.' Dell has said that it believes that the ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, and that it believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers. It’s a big step for the company, which has historically been an all-Intel shop, only occasionally buying processors from AMD." The ASF has access to the server (humming in a data center in Austin), and it's been busy: developers have "performed more than a dozen builds within the first 24 hours of the servers’ deployment, and on-going builds are being performed by the Apache Derby, River, Tapestry, and Thrift projects."

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37 comments

I predict INFINITE Growth! (2)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 years ago | (#41768643)

Dell will have INFINITE year-on-year growth for its ARM servers once it manages to sell one. Buy that stock now!

Re:I predict INFINITE Growth! (3, Funny)

Dast (10275) | about 2 years ago | (#41768715)

Yep. And from there on it will all be down-hill for ARM server growth. I already miss the glory-days of ARM server and we've barely even started.

Re:I predict INFINITE Growth! (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41768977)

I predict that by the end of the month, both of you will have a few dozens of spouses.

builds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41768739)

Cant' you cross compile on your own machine and just use the real hardware for testing?

Dell should just (2, Funny)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#41768801)

shut down and give money back to the shareholders.

Re:Dell should just (0)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#41770863)

Too bad the ignorant mods haven't heard the Dell/Jobs story.

Re:Dell should just (0)

dfghjk (711126) | about 2 years ago | (#41772525)

I've never read an accurate telling of the Dell/Apple story. It wasn't a Dell/Jobs story.

The "ignorant mods" aren't missing anything not having heard the absurd partisan retellings by Apple fanboys.

Re:Dell should just (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#41773831)

I've never read an accurate telling of the Dell/Apple story.

Why is this [cnet.com] inaccurate?

fir^5t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41769029)

as fittingly FreEBSD because

Negotiating tactic with Intel (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41769123)

I think that what is really going on here is that Dell is making these ARM servers to put some heat on Intel to give Dell lower prices. If Intel caves in, the ARM servers are never sold to the public.

Dell used to use the same tactic against Intel, by periodically threatening use AMD CPUs. They also played the "Linux card" against Microsoft from time to time.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#41769175)

Played the linux card?
You know they sell lots of RHEL servers right?
They also sell a decent number of AMD CPUs in servers as well. For some work loads they make sense.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41769315)

You know they sell lots of RHEL servers right?

You know that they threatened to do that for years and years before they actually did it?

They also sell a decent number of AMD CPUs in servers as well.

They also talked about this for years and years before they finally followed through.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41769627)

Name one person or company that isn't doing something they "threatened" to do for years prior? I mean, isn't that what we call "planning", not "threatening"?

-- Posted from my Linux Desktop. I think I'll file the above argument under: "Playing the 'Desktop Linux' card."

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#41769597)

It is only a negotiating tactic if it ARM servers don't pan out for them, otherwise it is probably an attempt at finding out what the actual demand is for a product such as this.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 2 years ago | (#41771875)

Ultimately I think what the demand is will depend on how they price it. Yes power and rackspace do cost money but still the prices i've seen so-far for arm server gear have been unattractive to say the least.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41776383)

I've been thinking the same thing. Honestly if they could price arm/sparc/mips hardware at the same mobo/cpu prices as intel, preferably with ram slots instead of 'dedicated' ram, I'd be all over any of the three that came out.

But they haven't. The arm servers being discussed are dedicated onboard BGA ram chips. Mips, other than the Chinese longsoon(sp?) processors haven't been available on the desktop, high end or otherwise in what, 10 years? And at least the export versions of said hardware are definitely NOT price competitive, which is pretty mindblowing as a state sponsored project. Finally getting to sparc... Seriously? Single core, quad or octo thread desktop/ultra low end server. Maybe use the server reject models with broken 10G ethernet interfaces and disabled L2/L3 cache and let people run their networking off the PCIe bus. If they got them into desktop boxes at the sub 1000 dollar range, with a comparable benchmarking performance to ANY sub 1k x86 box, they could probably sell a few for application development if nothing else. Hell they might be able to get a console maker to integrate them, just to be different!

Point though: No other architecture has in the recent past even *TRIED* to compete with x86 for the desktop, despite the fact that they could for example license hypertransport and maybe one of AMDs socket formats and perhaps leverage already in place motherboard and chipset manufacturing to lower the TCO of their systems to a price/performance ratio that people would be willing to pay, even if not directly competitive with Intel.

The biggest travesty to come out of the 90s was the segregation of motherboard chipsets by processor vendor. If the market had gone differently, such that Intel hadn't stabbed their chipset developers in the back, or such that AMD and the DEC remnants (sold to Compaq) had consolidated their chipset interfacing into a single unified motherboard standard, we could be spending today picking out what processor makes the most sense for our demands, rather than having to decide if the package deal will work for us. (Seriously, other than budget chipsets there is VERY LITTLE variation in features moving up in cost. Everything has IKVM and possibly some form of proprietary raid, but beyond that it's just more ports, memory, or IO. The differentiation is on quantity, rather than necessarily quality.

Re:Negotiating tactic with Intel (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 2 years ago | (#41796615)

The arm servers being discussed are dedicated onboard BGA ram chips.

Not true, the new server orientated arm chips like the marvell armada XP and the calexeda energycore are finally supporting the bus widths needed to drive normal memory modules and the vendors (at least dell, HP, boston and openblocks) are putting on slots for them in at least some of their designs.

Aw, hell no. I can already see where this is going (2)

BLToday (1777712) | about 2 years ago | (#41769177)

Dell is thinking of buying AMD. We don't need that. Samsung buying AMD is better.

Re:Aw, hell no. I can already see where this is go (2)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#41770501)

No, what we need is for Nvidia to buy Via which would give Nvidia an in for x86 processors as well as many other similar markets.

Re:Aw, hell no. I can already see where this is go (1)

Bob The Cowboy (308954) | about 2 years ago | (#41773379)

No, what we need is for Nvidia to buy Via which would give Nvidia an in for x86 processors as well as many other similar markets.

Also, Nvidiavia. Awesome name.

Re:Aw, hell no. I can already see where this is go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41789649)

Nah, it should be 'Nvivia. Well played.'

Re:Aw, hell no. I can already see where this is go (1)

WildTangent (982186) | about 2 years ago | (#41780005)

False. If Via sells, their x86 license is forfeit. The only way it would work would be a reverse merger with Via *buys* Nvidia.

Intel is dead! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41769625)

Is this the point were we proclaim Intel's death?

Re:Intel is dead! (1)

baka_toroi (1194359) | about 2 years ago | (#41769685)

Intel will be relevant for 8 years more at least, very likely much more.

Perhaps you mean death of Intel-as-a-monopoly?

Re:Intel is dead! (4, Interesting)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#41770487)

Intel is not a stagnant monopoly, they have best-in-class R&D. In just the past few years, their IGP has gone from "god-awful" to "almost as good as AMD/nVidia low-end", which is their target. They've also gone from "power hungry desktop chips" to 10%-20% more power draw than ARM7 but 50%-100% better performance.... yeah

This is going to be some great times for everyone except Intel and ARM. They're going to war.

Re:Intel is dead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41779665)

Sometimes it's hard for me to compare Intel and ARM. ARM licenses there architecture and instruction set, they get royalty money from this, period. Intel... designs, architects and manufactures processors, networking cards, SSD, etc. For ARM, the ecosystem is different, Qualcom/Nvidia/ etc, build on top of their cores and send them to manufacture somewhere else (perhaps not the same case as Samsung and TI). Intel pushes on all the corners, architecture, core, manufacturing. I don't see clearly a metric to compare ARM to Intel yet.

Re:Intel is dead! (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#41780961)

Great points. I guess a good way may be to take several of the most similar chips/platforms from ARM and Intel and look at raw idle/load power usage and work per energy.

Intel's upcoming atom CPUs are demoing with nearly identical idle and load power draws as a whole platform to current competitive ARM based products. Both ARM and Intel still had their own strong points, but Intel closed the gap in one generation. Assuming final deliverables are similar, Intel has proven the x86 isn't entirely crippled on low power devices.

Re:Intel is dead! (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#41772259)

"Is this the point were we proclaim Intel's death?"

When Netcraft confirms it.

Calexda EnergyCore looks interesting (1)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#41769787)

I could see it making a lot of sense for certain workloads.

Re:Calexda EnergyCore looks interesting (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#41770435)

Web servers, file servers, and firewalls/routers come to mind.

Re:Calexda EnergyCore looks interesting (1)

Lennie (16154) | about 2 years ago | (#41774953)

firewalls and routers ? Really ? Only if they use ASICs.

Serious Player (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#41770897)

If you want a real ARM beast, look into the Slab [baserock.com] servers at Baserock. 2400+ cores per rack, air cooled. Plus, they're an open source company.

Re:Serious Player (2)

petermgreen (876956) | about 2 years ago | (#41771923)

They didn't return my emails asking for price info but I later found an article from the register quoting arround $10K per slab. IMO that is just too much for what they are offering.

Re:Serious Player (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#41772285)

They didn't return my emails asking for price info but I later found an article from the register quoting arround $10K per slab. IMO that is just too much for what they are offering.

Thanks. That's interesting - they were on FLOSS Weekly talking about being more cost effective than x86. I can get really nice 64-core 1U AMD systems for under $5K, and those are 64-bit superscalar branch predictive CPU cores running at twice the clock. Inter-VM networking is faster than 10GbE so now I don't get how they could claim it. Power costs won't make up that difference in the machine's useful lifetime.

Re:Serious Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41776867)

Now try building a full Linux distribution for ARM on that. That's what the Slab is for, they said so in the interview.

Re:Serious Player (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41776895)

Hi, I gave that interview ;) I actually said that cost effectiveness is not what people are looking at ARM servers for. I think the main thing that people are looking at ARM for is density and power. In terms of *building ARM systems*, which is what we built the server for, its about 1/3rd of the cost of using qemu on x86.

Hope that's clearer!

Rob Taylor

Windows server for ARM? (1)

dubbreak (623656) | about 2 years ago | (#41779907)

I've read conflicting reports on MS releasing a server OS for ARM. No short term plans for it (as of a year ago) to other claims it is inevitable/upcoming. AMD is going to be creating 64bit ARM chips (32bit vs 64bit was supposedly an issue with offering windows server for ARM.. though I'm not sure I buy that).

For most server stuff Linux is great (or BSD), but I have one application (as in purpose/use) where little ARM based servers running a windows OS would be perfect. Affordable, power efficient, small, but with enough processing power to do the task at hand. We're finally seeing some micro/pico itx arm boards, but the prices suck for performance and they don't have enough sata ports and no PCI slots etc. At this point I think I'm still better off with a little atom based board for most server duties.
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