Bamboo intends to rethink data centers with its ARM servers

on 07/17/2020, by Serge LEBLAL, Infrastructure, 772 words

Very popular on mobile terminals, ARM processors are moving upmarket to conquer the server market. Latest initiative, after Seamicro, HP Moonshot or Ampere, that of Bamboo Systems with its B1000N server.

Bamboo intends to rethink data centers with its ARM servers

For several years – the introduction of Seamicro’s high density servers in 2009 in fact – ARM chips have been trying to break into the server market. Limitation of the 32-bit instruction set exceeds by efforts of the British supplier, who has normally invested in the Linux ecosystem (OS, compiler and software), the future looks bright for ARM chips, which can now count on Apple to shake up the micro market. For the servers, the task is much more difficult. Founded in 2015 Cambridge, the start-up Bamboo Systems, formerly known as Kaleao, was started by ARM alumni, including Manchester University researcher John Goodacre, who served 17 years at the chip supplier , to precisely renew the architecture of the servers.

Today dominated by the x86-64 platform (Intel Xeon and AMD Epyc), this segment now weighs close to $ 85 billion and is dominated by past technologies, explained Tony Craythorne, CEO of Bamboo, during a virtual IT Press Tour. Consumption is more important in data centers and a new IT wave dominates everything [l’architecture ARM], except the datacenter. If Apple passes ARM, it will be a real catalyst for the market. This press briefing was organized before Apple’s announcements at WWDC 2020, which explains this projection. Still, the server and microphone market are very distant in terms of performance and prices. The gateways exist since the Xeon and Epyc chips share their basic microarchitecture with Core and Ryzen processors, but with more instructions and more cores. The number of transistors is also much higher, as are the PCI lines and memory addressing capacities.

With PANDA, Bamboo is banking on parallelism

Bamboo is doing its best to shake up this landscape with its PANDA platform (Parallel ARM Mode Designed Architecture), which would be 10 to 20% more efficient than a classic design. We will not go into detail on the technical choices of Bamboo, since we already dealt with this subject last December. Let’s just remember that the start-up builds clusters of machines on cards where the infrastructure is shared between the elements of the processor. The bottom line, says John Goodacre, is that a Bamboo system can deliver the same amount of web traffic in 10x less server space by consuming 5x less energy. A Bamboo hardware rack equals 10 racks from our competitors, underlines Mr. Goodacre. We have filed patents on our system architecture and what we plan to do in the future. The idea is once again to offer servers that are more energy efficient and cheaper than the x86 models for the needs of hyperscale data centers, especially in the cloud domain.

Bambo has taken care of the consumption of its server platform to distinguish itself from x86 models. (DR credit)

Today, Bamboo markets the serverB1000N (1 2 blades, each with four server cards). These are based on an ARM NXP LX2160A chip with 16 Cortex-A72 cores with a maximum frequency of 2.2 GHz. A B1008N chassis includes for example 128 cores, 512 GB of DRAM (with 16 channels of DDR4 memory) and 64 TB of storage NVMe. For the price of this model, we reach $ 10,000 HT, or the price of a PowerEdge R740XD server at Dell with an Intel Xeon Gold 6240L.

Two B1000N models are now available from Bamboo Systemes, the B1004N and B1008N. (Crdit DR)

One more brick on the ARM server wall

Supercomputers and cloud service providers have also relied on ARM chips, which are less efficient than the Intel Xeon or AMD Epyc series, but much more energy efficient. Chinese Huawei, faced with the American embargo on software and components, is also developing a range of servers and a line of storage arrays based on its ARM64 chips. Kunpeng 920 combines its Linux EulerOS distribution. But it is not yet known whether Huawei will be able to impose what neither SeaMicro, nor Dell, nor HPE (Moonshot) and neither Lenovo with Nextscale were successful with their ARM servers (32 and 64 bits). The situation is however changing with the initiatives of Amazon (Graviton 2) and the start-ups Ampere and Nuvia which are also pushing ARM on the servers.

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