|By Hollis Tibbetts||
|August 6, 2014 07:15 AM EDT||
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They're called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general.
What Is a Microserver...and What Isn't
Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some years to come - growing to over 20% of the server market by 2016 according to Oppenheimer ("Cloudy With A Chance of ARM" Oppenheimer Equity Research Industry Report).
According to Chris Piedmonte, CEO of Suvola Corporation - a software and services company focused on creating preconfigured and scalable Microserver appliances for deploying large-scale enterprise applications, "the Microserver market is poised to grow by leaps and bounds - because companies can leverage this kind of technology to deploy systems that offer 400% better cost-performance at half the total cost of ownership. These organizations will also benefit from the superior reliability, reduced space and power requirements, and lower cost of entry provided by Microserver platforms".
This technology might be poised to grown, but today, these Microservers aren't mainstream at all - having well under 1% of the server market. Few people know about them. And there is a fair amount of confusion in the marketplace. There isn't even agreement on what to call them: different people call them different things - Microserver, ARM Server, ARM-based Server and who knows what else.
To further confuse the issue, there are a number of products out there in the market that are called "Microservers" that aren't Microservers at all - for example the HP ProLiant MicroServer or the HP Moonshoot chassis. These products are smaller and use less power than traditional servers, but they are just a slightly different flavor of standard Intel/AMD server that we are all familiar with. Useful, but not at all revolutionary - and with a name that causes unfortunate confusion in the marketplace.
Specifically, a Microserver is a server that is based on "system-on-a-chip" (SoC) technology - where the CPU, memory and system I/O and such are all one single chip - not multiple components on a system board (or even multiple boards).
What Makes ARM Servers Revolutionary?
ARM Servers are an entirely new generation of server computing - and they will make serious inroads into the enterprise in the next few years. A serious innovation - revolutionary, not evolutionary.
These new ARM Server computing platforms are an entire system - multiple CPU cores, memory controllers, input/output controllers for SATA, USB, PCIe and others, high-speed network interconnect switches, etc. - all on a SINGLE chip measuring only one square inch. This is hyperscale integration technology at work.
To help put this into context, you can fit 72 quad-core ARM Servers into the space used by a single traditional server board.
Today's traditional server racks are typically packed with boards based on Intel XEON or AMD Opteron chips and are made up of a myriad of discrete components. They're expensive, powerful, power-hungry, use up a considerable amount of space, and can quickly heat up a room to the point where you might think you're in a sauna.
In contrast, the ARM Servers with their SoC design are small, very energy efficient, reliable, scalable - and incredibly well-suited for a wide variety of mainstream computing tasks dealing with large numbers of users, data and applications (like Web services, data crunching, media streaming, etc.). The SoC approach of putting an entire system on a chip, results in a computer that can operate on as little as 1.5 watts of power.
Add in memory and a solid-state "disk drive" and you could have an entire server that runs on under 10 watts of power. For example, Calxeda's ECX-1000 quad-core ARM Server node with built-in Ethernet and SATA controllers, and 4GB of memory uses 5 watts at full power. In comparison, my iPhone charger is 7 watts and the power supply for the PC on my desk is 650 watts (perhaps that explains the $428 electric bill I got last month).
Realistically, these ARM Servers use about 1/10th the power, and occupy considerably less than 1/10th the space of traditional rack-mounted servers (for systems of equivalent computing power). And at an acquisition price of about half of what a traditional system costs.
And they are designed to scale - the Calxeda ECX-1000 ARM Servers are packaged up into "Energy Cards" - composed of four quad-core chips and 16 SATA ports. They are designed with scalability in mind - they embed an 80 gigabit per second interconnect switch, which allows you to easily connect potentially thousands of nodes without all the cabling inherent in traditional rack-mounted systems (a large Intel-based system could have upwards of 2,000 cables). This also provides for extreme performance - node to node communication occurs on the order of 200 nanoseconds.
You can have four complete ARM Servers on a board that is only ten inches long and uses only about 20 watts of power at full speed - that's revolutionary.
How Do ARM Servers Translate into Business Benefits?
When you account for reduced computing center operations costs, lower acquisition costs, increased reliability due to simpler construction / fewer parts, and less administrative cost as a result of fewer cables and components, we're talking about systems that could easily cost 70% less to own and operate.
If you toss in the cost to actually BUILD the computing center and not just "operate it", then the cost advantage is even larger. That's compelling - especially to larger companies that spend millions of dollars a year building and operating computing centers. Facebook, for example, has been spending about half a billion (yes, with a "b") dollars a year lately building and equipping their computing centers. Mobile devices are driving massive spending in this area - and in many cases, these are applications which are ideal for ARM Server architectures.
Why Don't I See More ARM Servers?
So - if all this is true, why do Microservers have such a negligible market share of the Server market?
My enthusiasm for ARM Servers is in their potential. This is still an early-stage technology and Microserver hardware really has only been available since the last half of 2012. I doubt any companies are going to trade in all their traditional rack servers for Microservers this month. The "eco-system" for ARM Servers isn't fully developed yet. And ARM Servers aren't the answer to every computing problem - the hardware has some limitations (it's 32 bit, at least for now). And it's a platform better suited for some classes of computing than others. Oh, and although it runs various flavors of Linux, it doesn't run Windows - whether that is a disadvantage depends on your individual perspective.
Microservers in Your Future?
Irrespective of these temporary shortcomings, make no mistake - this is a revolutionary shift in the way that server systems will be (and should be) designed. Although you personally may never own one of these systems, within the next couple of years, you will make use of ARM Servers all the time - as they have the potential to shrink the cost of Cloud Computing, "Big Data", media streaming and any kind of Web computing services to a fraction of the cost of what they are today.
Keep your eye on this little technology - it's going to be big.
Note: The author of this article works for Dell. The opinions stated are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudian, Inc., the leading provider of hybrid cloud storage solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudian is a Foster City, Calif.-based software company specializing in cloud storage. Cloudian HyperStore® is an S3-compatible cloud object storage platform that enables service providers and enterprises to bui...
Oct. 30, 2014 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,738
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
Oct. 30, 2014 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,996
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurri...
Oct. 29, 2014 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,497
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce t...
Oct. 29, 2014 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,035
Samsung promises to be one of the 800-pound gorillas of the IoT, if its success in recent years with Android devices and other consumer electronics is any guide. Showing its willingness to be a big IoT player, the company recently acquired SmartThings, a recent startup that's developed an open smarthome appliation that currently supports 1,000 devices and 8,000 apps. SmartThings will now work under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovation Center (OIC). SmartThings Founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson...
Oct. 29, 2014 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,792
What process has your provider undertaken to ensure that the cloud tenant will receive predictable performance and service? What was involved in the planning? Who owns and operates the data center? What technology is being used? How is it being supported? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Dave Weisbrot, Cloud Business Manager for QTS, will provide the attendees a look into what it takes to stand up and stand behind a highly available certified cloud IaaS.
Oct. 29, 2014 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,503
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research'...
Oct. 28, 2014 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,586
I'll be hosting an SAP HANA Cloud webinar at 11am eastern time, Wednesday, October 29. You can sign up now. Featured speakers will be Allan Adler, Managing Partner, Channel Cloud Consulting, and Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP. Attendees will learn about • Cloud economics, hybrid cloud strategy, market size and opportunity • Introduction to SAP HANA Cloud Platform and how to: - Build new next-generation applications - Extend on-premise solutions non-disruptively throu...
Oct. 28, 2014 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,356
Join both SAP and Channel Cloud Consulting for our webcast and uncover how you can extend your reach to capture a piece of the US$17 billion cloud application services market with SAP. Learn about SAPs market-leading SAP HANA Cloud Platform and an exciting opportunity to join SAPs growing ecosystem of Application Development partners. When: October 29, 11:00am EST Speakers: Allan Adler, Managing Partner, Channel Cloud Consulting Thorsten Leiduck, Vice President ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP
Oct. 28, 2014 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,304
Application Performance Management (APM) has been bred with all the right elements to give us the insights we need to see the health of our applications. Similar to your most trusted watch dog, it alerts us to anomalies when events occur, providing awareness to the environment that only they can observe. As enterprises embrace the DevOps philosophy, and the coalescence of the Development and Operations continues, I foresee the conditions ripening to foster innovative methods of making applicati...
Oct. 28, 2014 08:15 PM EDT Reads: 5,165
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM is holding a Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5, 10:30 am to 5:30 pm at 15th Cloud Expo. 15th Cloud Expo, co-located with @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit is taking place Nov. 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The labs, for developers of all levels, will highlight the ease of use of Bluemix, its services and functionality and provide short-term introductory projects that developers can complete betw...
Oct. 28, 2014 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,495
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, da...
Oct. 28, 2014 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,923
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation...
Oct. 28, 2014 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,040
How do you know when a technology has become mainstream? A good clue may be when politicians start talking about it on the campaign trail and with mainstream media. David Cameron, the UK prime minister, was the latest, indicating that the world was now on “fast-forward” with the Internet of Things (IoT) ushering in the new industrial revolution. No mention of IoT targeted at the masses would be complete without the clichéd example of the communicating fridge. While it is easy to get caught up in...
Oct. 28, 2014 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,217
In my recent article, “Software Quality Metrics for your Continuous Delivery Pipeline – Part III – Logging,” I wrote about the good parts and the not-so-good parts of logging and concluded that logging usually fails to deliver what it is so often mistakenly used for: as a mechanism for analyzing application failures in production. In response to the heated debates on reddit.com/r/devops and reddit.com/r/programing, I want to demonstrate the wealth of out-of-the-box insights you could obtain from...
Oct. 27, 2014 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,506
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: ...
Oct. 27, 2014 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,227
This year like last year, XebiaLabs polled Fortune 1000 companies in banking, manufacturing, healthcare, government and IT, interviewing DevOps teams and everyone from QA to C-level suites. More than 1,000 people were asked to share their perspectives on software delivery trends. Last year the survey found that application deployments fail up to 30% of the time and that 75% of managers believe their deployment process deserves a failing grade. This year, the survey revealed little change in at...
Oct. 27, 2014 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 4,753
Can a postmortem review help foster a curiosity for innovative possibilities to make application performance better? Blue-sky thinkers may not want to deal with the myriad of details on how to manage the events being generated operationally, but could learn something from this exercise. Consider the major system failures in your organization over the last 12 to 18 months. What if you had a system or process in place to capture those failures and mitigate them from a proactive standpoint prevent...
Oct. 27, 2014 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,982
Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology and the resulting Internet of Things are leading us inexorably toward everything-as-a-service (XaaS). As more things get connected, the range of service opportunities expands. And as those services are presented online, they become available for use, re-use and re-purposing. At first thought, the idea of more connected devices suggests simply that there will be more devices around, and as such, more products for manufacturers to make and sell. That’s true, bu...
Oct. 27, 2014 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 7,178
General Electric (GE) has been a household name for more than a century, thanks in large part to its role in making households easier to run. Starting with the light bulb invented by its founder, Thomas Edison, GE has been selling devices (“things”) to consumers throughout its 122-year history. Last week, GE announced that it is officially leaving that job to others. While the lighting division will stay, GE will now turn its attention to selling industrial machinery and analytics as a service t...
Oct. 27, 2014 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,322