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ARM server status update / reality check

Discussion in 'All non-AMD/Intel CPUs' started by pxc, Mar 11, 2016.

  1. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    We're just what, 12 months from ARM microservers taking over 20% of the server market? Yeah...

    Worldwide Server Market Revenues Increase 5.2% in the Fourth Quarter as Demand in China Once Again Drives the Market Forward, According to IDC

    tl;dr
    x86 server sales up YoY by 8% and 4% by revenue and units
    non-x86 server revenue down, despite IBM's growth from POWER (suggesting Oracle and every other non-x86 server tanked hard)
    ARM server sales fell year over year, from so small it's hard to measure to somehow even less, and the biggest ARM server player is the practically dead HP Project Moonshot.

    This is not a trajectory for ARM's server success.
     
  2. FLECOM

    FLECOM Modder(ator) & [H]ardest Folder Evar Staff Member

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    they are expensive no? new and expensive = death...

    meanwhile for me Rpi's are taking over a lot of what I used to do with x86 boxes... they are great for asterisk and other simple small business duties that can be achieved with linux... thing is a lot (and i mean a LOT) of stuff is either still married to M$ software or just not worth the migration to ARM for most people... maybe the facebook and amazons of the world can afford the investment to lower power consumption but most companies don't really concern themselves with what their server infrastructure is using as far as power

    more money to be saved in low power desktops... but again, Microsoft reigns supreme... so getting low power x86 stuff I think is going to kill any need for ARM in that department
     
  3. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, so far there's no quantifiable power savings once you make the hardware grow-up. Who knew that gobs of cache clocked at 3+ GHz uses the same amount of power on any architecture?

    Pi is only an industry because they hit the right price/performance/power point first. The popularity does not signify there's a growing need for ARM in the server room, but simply recognizes the fact that tweakers like a challenge and x86 is too easy/expensive/high power.

    Any alternative CPU architecture could have done that :D

    You'll find that your average company tech department has exactly the opposite values concerning what powers their server rooms.
     
    athenian200 likes this.
  4. athenian200

    athenian200 Gawd

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    Not only that, but Intel's Bay Trail stuff is pretty competitive with ARM in terms of power consumption. The reason we haven't seen a huge performance bump since Sandy Bridge is because Intel's main focus is now on competing with ARM on power consumption and feature integration. They're approaching being on par with them even in smartphones, only issue is that companies already invested in ARM designs and don't want to port everything back over to x86. They also like all the customization they get to do with ARM, whereas Intel likes to design once and ship several copies of the same thing.
    I'm sort of a tweaker, but I ended up getting a x86-based SoC for a low-power application after debating with myself about getting a Hummingboard or a Raspberry Pi. It was pre-assembled and half the price of the Hummingboard, with guaranteed compatibility and a better fanless cooling design. It was so much better than any ARM system due to backwards compatibility and graphics acceleration alone. Even Intel's worst IGP offerings are better than the VideoCore IV nowadays. Besides, when I really want a challenge, it's more fun to build your own Z80 motherboard from scratch and implement VGA graphics and SD cards by hand. Best thing about a Z80 is it's backwards compatible with the 8080, which means you can play around with legacy software without even doing emulation.

    In any case, I really think the argument for ARM servers is weak... I mean, if your server is low-power, Intel has that covered too. No need to port stuff over to ARM. Everyone that did this, either did it back when Intel didn't offer what they needed in terms of power consumption, or they needed a level of hardware customization for specific workloads they couldn't get on x86.

    I think ARM's niche is in embedded. An embedded server is still just another embedded application that can get away with lower power. Server market is tied up by Intel and IBM... if people wanted a non-Intel architecture, they'd probably go with IBM's POWER servers.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  5. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, they still sell Z80 dev boards. I used a Rabbit in a class about ten years back :S

    Mind you, there are signs of SOME demand for Arm in servers, but nobody has announced a design win yet. We'll have to see how much Qualcomm aimed the design of Kryo at servers, and if they can actually beat Intel.

    Google Looking To Tap Qualcomm To Replace Intel As Chip Supplier For Its Data Centers: Report

    It would be an impressive win if they get Google interested. But even if they do, Google is a bit of an island - nearly everything they use on a daily basis is both FAIRLY NEW and custom code. This makes porting between architectures easier, because you still have access to the brain trust that created the code.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
  6. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    That's the best showing so-far of the Xeon competitors, if your load is massively-threaded and integer-heavy.

    For float-heavy rendering the performance is the same as an Intel 6c/12t Haswell at 2.4 GHz. Not exactly one of the most expensive Xeons, so this thing will have a tough time gaining ground. You can also cut costs and go with the 4c/8t parts for 95w and get the same performance.

    Power consumption estimates are similar as well: around around 95w estimated for the 48-core ThunderX full-tilt.

    ARM Servers: Cavium Is A Contender With ThunderX

    Their extravagant claims are so-far busted:

    Unless you're running compression all day, this doesn't hold-up. And if you are, then it's only 20% better (slower than Xeon 8 core at 120w).

    So this core had better be cheaper to make, because it's not better at anything. Even the Atom Avoton would match it easy, if Intel could be bothered to make a 32/64-core version :D

    Of course it would be nice to have a full review instead of this "sneak peek."
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  7. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    The real key is that x86 has years and years and years of compiler optimizations piled up.

    It'll take awhile to catch up just in that area alone.
     
  8. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    Google talking about "porting" software to POWER arch:

    “For good software developers enabling Power is just modifying a flag in a config file and off they go,” said Maire Mahony, an engineering manager in Google’s platform group that is responsible for its data center hardware and a director of the Open Power Foundation.


    I've been saying this for awhile.

    When you target a non-retarded OS it's quite easy to move between architectures.
     
  9. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    ...If you build custom software, and If what you do doesn't require custom hardware to get it's job done at a reasonable pace.

    Otherwise, you're tied to where the drivers roam. Luckily Nvidia supports Power for HPC :D
     
  10. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    That version of the quote completely missed the context of what work had to be done to enable that, and what it actually means:

    Inside The Future Google Rackspace Power9 System

    What Google is talking about is a platform based on Power9 (not out yet and not due until 2017... and btw POWER8 was very late and underwhelming, certainly not a model of power efficiency either, to put expectation in perspective) and a new efficient power delivery high density servers (also not out yet and still in the planning stage). This is what ARM and other alternative MPU hype does to people. It makes the imaginary "real". :p
     
  11. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    I recognize Google's example was POWER and not ARM but I needed some thread to put my snark in and this one was best suited. :)
     
  12. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    But you know better than that. Aside from Netware boxes, Power VASTLY predates x86 servers/compute. So it's no surprise it's on the short list of desirable architectures, and has full support from Nvidia.

    By comparison, Arm on server/compute is like a third world country, raw and lacking basic infrastructure. Going to take huge mountains of money to fix that problem.

    I mean, Nvidia opened CUDA on arm 64 two years ago, but that still requires the effort to integrate it into each platform's development environment. That's why Cavium is so far the only one to announce support.
     
  13. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    I'm not really sure that Google will be having much of anything to do with NVIDIA or HPC for their POWER-based servers.

    But my point there is that if your software wasn't written in a closed ecosystem, it's trivial to port to another ISA, whether that is ARM or POWER.
     
  14. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    Related:
    IDC: Intel server CPU unit share in 2015 was 99.2%. That's not 99.2% of x86/x86-64 server CPUs, but 99.2% of ALL server CPUs (~22.1 million units). That's up from 93.0% Intel had in 2010. Ouch.

    Gradual Change in Server Microprocessor Market; IDC Expects Competition and Evolving Workloads to Change Supply Ecosystem in 2017 | Business Wire

    Worldwide x86 and ARM Server-Class Microprocessor Forecast, 2016–2020 (summary only unless you pay)

    This is what the ARM server revolution looks like. lol
     
  15. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    This brings us more clarity on that ThunderX Serve The Home crapfest of a "preview."

    Intel Lines Up ThunderX ARM Against Xeons

    Since Cavium won't publish benchmarks, Intel has happily helped them out. Not sure how trustworthy they are, but no worse than any other marketing literature.

    Biggest insights:

    Those ThunderX chips burn some serious power, at 130w @ 2 GHz, and 160w @ 2.5! This is sourced from David Kanter, and then backed-up by Intel's single-socket 180w whole system estimate. That's WAY ABOVE the 90-100w I thought these beauties were burning at 2.0!

    And the power management is just as broken as is is on XGene 2. Haven't these people ever heard of reducing vampire load? Servers aren't heavily loaded most of the time, but they need to be ON ALL OF THE TIME. And it's not Gigabyte's fault, as Intel sourced a Xeon server from them too (just to make sure).

    Power consumption will drop to more competitive levels with 16/14nm, but since this is a big chip, they will have all the same fun everyone else already had getting big chips ramped-up on this problematic node.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  16. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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  17. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    From that article:

    HP's Moonshot is still the top ARM server chip, according to all the prior IDC releases that have mentioned ARM vendors, including the most recent one from around a week ago. Worldwide Server Market Revenues Decline by 3.6% in the First Quarter, Curbed by Hyperscale Slowdown, According to IDC

    If Thunder-X has gained any traction, it's unmeasurable. The truth is that no ARM vendor has gained traction. ARM servers peaked a few quarters ago to barely measurable and have fallen for 3 straight quarters since. x86 servers had normal rates of growth in the same time period.

    Thunder-X didn't do too well in AT's testing: ARM Challenging Intel in the Server Market: An Overview The one potential benefit that Johan suggested for these type of ARM server chips has long been plugged with 20-45W Xeons released since.

    I don't have anything against the author of that article, but those types of articles are pieced together from press releases and press packages. Great for generating content for his site, but is not objective reporting.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
  18. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, it's the same old story every time. Sparc couldn't stop x86 plus Linux. Even though it was "open," nobody except Sun and Fujitsu put any serious effort into core designs.

    And PowerPC looked like a serious effort to retake the Workstation and small server market...except that Motorola didn't really design it's chips for that market, and IBM was too busy putting PowerPC into everything BESIDES workstations. The 970 and G3 were lost opportunities.

    It's so easy to get distracted, because competing with Intel head-on WITHOUT x86 is near impossible. And it's still hard when you HAVE an x86 license.

    Both Motorola and IBM had to coordinate and put everything they has into PowerPC to stop Intel's monster Pentium Pro in the 1990s, but none of them wanted to. It's not going to magically change 20 years later.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  19. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    Well if I recall SPARC (or other RISC alternatives) was the market leader for awhile but once x86 + Linux came on the server market it undercut the prices of the competition tremendously. And then eventually Intel's single-threaded performance was too good to turn down.

    It's hard to compete with Intel because (w/ the consumer market) they have such great economies of scale, allowing them to sell server chips so cheaply.

    x86 + Linux was definitely "good enough" but a crapton cheaper, so eventually it became impossible to argue against adopting it.

    Meanwhile, is it just me or is ARM (the company) completely uninterested in anything other than small mobile devices? I mean they don't even want to have anything to do with opportunities like Chromebooks, etc.
     
  20. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Nothing is stopping ARM from being used in Chromebooks, it's just a lack of performance competitive with Bay Trail once you can feed tons of power to the chip. Might as well get the real deal :D

    ARM designs their chips for high efficiency, which means the target design frequency of the chip is intentionally lower than they could make it. It means they miss out on design wins in larger devices like Chromebooks, but I don't think it worries them.

    They know that Chromebooks are a waste of time and effort: a land of low-margin Linux boxes fishing for people tired of Windows, and some sales in schools.

    And yeah, I was referring to Sparc in the mid 90s, after they won the internet server market by default. SGI MIPS imploding, HP PA RISC disappearing in preparation for Itanic, DEC Alpha late to the party, then imploding, and PowerPC having to build Workstation/Server credibility from the ground-up. That left only one high-end chip marker able to make moves.

    Then when Intel surprised everyone with the Pentium Pro right about the same time Linux became solid, the internet forgot who Sun was overnight. They're lucky they made Java a standard before their hardware cratered, or else they wouldn't have survived beyond 2001.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  21. jwcalla

    jwcalla 2[H]4U

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    Everything ARM is low-margin. And it's not like they sell the chips, just license the designs. So it would be money in the bank for them.
     
  22. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Well, Cavium is not as bad as Intel's marketing would have you think. Big surprise there :D

    Investigating Cavium's ThunderX: The First ARM Server SoC With Ambition

    Looks like in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing, ThunderX is not so horrible at integer-heavy workloads, except in performance/watt. That could be forgivable at the price they charge, if they can just fix the horrible power management.

    I'm now a little more interested in how well they fix things in ThunderX 2. Too bad we'll have to wait two years for benchmarks.
     
  23. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    ^lol It's a hobbled together pierce of crap software-wise, power hungry as hell at just 2/3 its target frequency and isn't even competitive with current Xeons. It's half as efficient per watt as the Xeon-D. Nothing in that review suggests it's going to turn around ARM's infinitesimal and falling market share in servers. Especially this:
    Same price as E5, but slower and more power hungry. That should work out great. :p

    BTW, Johan also wrote the last article which tested Thunder-X that I linked above. Same turd sammich, just on different bread.
     
  24. defaultluser

    defaultluser [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah, they need to fix the damn efficiency and ludicrously high idle power.

    I give them credit for being the first to come anywhere close to real Xeon performance/dollar with a mostly viable RHEL platform, even if they completely forgot about performance/watt in the process. That's why my interest has elevated from "couldn't be bothered" to "slightly interested."
     
  25. pxc

    pxc Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    6 months later (Q4'15 sales in original post, Q2'16 in latest IDC and Gartner analyses), ARM in servers is still going nowhere.

    Worldwide Server Market Revenue Declines 0.4% in the Second Quarter, Awaiting Imminent Hyperscale Buildouts, According to IDC

    Gartner didn't even bother to mention tiny ARM server revenues: Gartner Says Worldwide Server Revenue Declined 0.8 Percent in the Second Quarter of 2016, While Shipments Increased 2 Percent
     
  26. juanrga

    juanrga Gawd

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  27. juanrga

    juanrga Gawd

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  28. niomosy

    niomosy Limp Gawd

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    Alternative architectures have worked well for Microsoft. Just look at Windows on Alpha, PowerPC, Itanium, and MIPS. Then there was Windows RT on ARM previously as well.
     
  29. juanrga

    juanrga Gawd

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    Apples and oranges...
     
  30. niomosy

    niomosy Limp Gawd

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    Not necessarily. If you look at the underlying reason of why those other architectures failed under Windows (software availability), the problem remains when Windows Server ARM comes out. You'll have a hardware platform that runs Windows with only a subset of all the Windows software available. For some, that might be enough. For others, they simply won't see the point in running Windows on multiple hardware platforms when they can simply standardize on an Intel/AMD platform and run with it.
     
  31. juanrga

    juanrga Gawd

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    Alpha, PowerPC, Itanium, and MIPS have failed or disapeared, independently of the software used: Microsoft, IBM, linux, or whatever. The problem with Windows RT wasn't on the ARM side and it seems seems is not repeating same mistakes with the new Windows 10 for PC.

    Microsoft already announced more than half of its datacenter will switch to ARM. And another two big datacenter announced using ARM as well. There is no software problem for those are making the announcements neither for those already using ARM (Paypal has been using ARM servers for a while). Legacy guys can continue relying on Xeon and Opteron.
     
  32. niomosy

    niomosy Limp Gawd

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    Reminds me of IBM trying to push Linux on POWER. Sure, they're running it and can probably get customers to run on their hardware but who else is going to jump on. Azure can help but if Microsoft is the only one really doing Windows Server on ARM, eventually the economics work out better to dwindle back to x86 again. The problem is that every time another CPU architecture comes along, Microsoft tries it out. And, no MIPS was still going pretty strong back with SGI, Tandem, and Cray all running MIPS processes when Microsoft bowed out. Same story for DEC with the Alphas handling Linux, VMS, and Digital UNIX. PowerPC is still around in the POWER processors. Microsoft could easily be running on that architecture if they chose to. They tend to bow out of alternative CPUs relatively easily.

    So good luck to Microsoft and trying out yet another CPU architecture. I'll sit back and see how this one goes as it just strikes me as another, "no, this time will be different!" Maybe it will. Maybe they've compiled enough lessons learned from past attempts. Only time will tell.
     
  33. Darakian

    Darakian [H]ardness Supreme

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    Frobozz, juanrga and Red Falcon like this.