Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Michelle Drolet, Cloud Ventures, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: IoT Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

IoT Expo: Article

ARM Server to Transform Cloud and Big Data to the Internet of Things

New Microserver computing platform offers compelling benefits for the right applications

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).

ARM Server Microserver

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.

More Stories By Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis has established himself as a successful software marketing and technology expert. His various strategy, marketing and technology articles are read nearly 50,000 times a month. He is currently Director for Global Marketing Operations for Dell Software Group.

Hollis has developed substantial expertise in middleware, SaaS, Cloud, data management and distributed application technologies, with over 20 years experience in marketing, technical, product management, product marketing and business development roles at leading companies in such as Pervasive, Aruna (acquired by Progress Software), Sybase (now SAP), webMethods (now Software AG), M7 Corporation (acquired by BEA/Oracle), OnDisplay (acquired by Vignette) and KIVA Software (acquired by Netscape). He has established himself as an industry expert, having authored a large number of technology white papers, as well as published media articles and book contributions.

Hollis is a regularly featured blogger at ebizQ, a venue focused on enterprise technologies, with over 100,000 subscribers. He is also an author on Social Media Today "The World's Best Thinkers on Social Media", and maintains a blog focused on creating great software: Software Marketing 2013.
He tweets actively as @SoftwareHollis

Additional information is available at HollisTibbetts.com

All opinions expressed in the author's articles are his own personal opinions vs. those of his employer.

Cloud Expo Breaking News
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BUMI, a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Manhattan-based BUMI (Backup My Info!) is a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery. Founded in 2002, the company’s Here, There and Everywhere data backup and recovery solutions are utilized by more than 500 businesses. BUMI clients include professional service organizations such as banking, financial, insurance, accounting, hedge funds and law firms. The company is known for its relentless passion for customer service and support, and has won numerous awards, including Customer Service Provider of the Year and 10 Best Companies to Work For.
Chief Security Officers (CSO), CIOs and IT Directors are all concerned with providing a secure environment from which their business can innovate and customers can safely consume without the fear of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. To be successful in today's hyper-connected world, the enterprise needs to leverage the capabilities of the web and be ready to innovate without fear of DDoS attacks, concerns about application security and other threats. Organizations face great risk from increasingly frequent and sophisticated attempts to render web properties unavailable, and steal intellectual property or personally identifiable information. Layered security best practices extend security beyond the data center, delivering DDoS protection and maintaining site performance in the face of fast-changing threats.
From data center to cloud to the network. In his session at 3rd SDDC Expo, Raul Martynek, CEO of Net Access, will identify the challenges facing both data center providers and enterprise IT as they relate to cross-platform automation. He will then provide insight into designing, building, securing and managing the technology as an integrated service offering. Topics covered include: High-density data center design Network (and SDN) integration and automation Cloud (and hosting) infrastructure considerations Monitoring and security Management approaches Self-service and automation
In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, David Holmes, Vice President at OutSystems, will demonstrate the immense power that lives at the intersection of mobile apps and cloud application platforms. Attendees will participate in a live demonstration – an enterprise mobile app will be built and changed before their eyes – on their own devices. David Holmes brings over 20 years of high-tech marketing leadership to OutSystems. Prior to joining OutSystems, he was VP of Global Marketing for Damballa, a leading provider of network security solutions. Previously, he was SVP of Global Marketing for Jacada where his branding and positioning expertise helped drive the company from start-up days to a $55 million initial public offering on Nasdaq.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 14th Cloud Expo, Marc Jones, Vice President of Product Innovation for SoftLayer, will explain how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
Are you interested in accelerating innovation, simplifying deployments, reducing complexity, and lowering development costs? The cloud is changing the face of application development and deployment, with enterprise-grade infrastructure and platform services making it possible for you to build and rapidly scale enterprise applications. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Gene Eun, Sr. Director, Oracle Cloud at Oracle, will discuss the latest solutions and strategies for application developers and enterprise IT organizations to leverage Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) to build and deploy modern business applications in the cloud.
Hybrid cloud refers to the federation of a public and private cloud environment for the purpose of extending the elastic and flexibility of compute, storage and network capabilities, in an on-demand, pay-as-you go basis. The hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities. Hybrid cloud environments involve complex management challenges. First, organizations struggle to maintain control over the resources that lie outside of their managed IT scope. They also need greater infrastructure visibility to help reduce maintenance costs and ensure that their company data and resources are properly handled and secured.
As more applications and services move "to the cloud" (public or on-premise), cloud environments are increasingly adopting and building out traditional enterprise features. This in turn is enabling and encouraging cloud adoption from enterprise users. In many ways the definition is blurring as features like continuous operation, geo-distribution or on-demand capacity become the norm. At NuoDB we're involved in both building enterprise software and using enterprise cloud capabilities. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc., will cover experiences from building, deploying and using enterprise services and suggest some ways to approach moving enterprise applications into a cloud model.
Understanding the future of Big Data is crucial in the early stages of decision making around Big Data architectures. In the enterprise, what stands out is the need to integrate Hadoop smoothly into your existing data warehouse architecture, while taking advantage of existing skills and investments. In his General Session at 14th Cloud Expo, Marty Gubar, Director of Product Management at Oracle, will present a strategy for enabling integrated data management using both Hadoop and relational technologies. In particular, he'll look at how SQL, long the standard for the data warehouse, is increasingly being used on Hadoop. The real prize, though, is Smart SQL processing, seamlessly integrating the data warehouse and Hadoop into a single, Big Data Management System.
The time has come for humanity’s first interstellar trek to Terranuvem, the cloud planet, and Chief Engineer Cyrus Agarwal has been chosen to ready a ship for the voyage. He must make the right architectural choices to transform the ship for the long journey and be prepared for the unknown. He will be tested and overcome challenges during the mission. Join Cyrus and the crew of the Stratus at Oracle VP Rex Wang’s Day 2 Keynote at 14th Cloud Expo for a unique, sci-fi movie experience while learning key success factors for your own journey to cloud.