SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook could start running--at least in part--on so-called wimpy server CPU cores by the second half of 2013. Long term, the company wants to move to a systems architecture that lets it upgrade CPUs independent of memory and networking components, buying processors on a subscription model.
The social networking giant will not reveal whether it will use ARM, MIPS-like or Atom-based CPUs first. But it does plan to adopt so-called wimpy cores over time to replace some of the workloads currently run on more traditional brawny cores such as Intel Xeon server processors.
“It will be a journey [for the wimpy cores] starting with less intensive CPU jobs [such as storage and I/O processing] and migrating to more CPU-intensive jobs,” said Frank Frankovsky, the director of hardware design and supply chain at Facebook in an interview with EE Times at the GigaOm Structure conference here. “I’m bullish on the whole category even though we will need multiple wimpy cores to replace one brawny core—the net performance per watt per dollar is good,” he said.
“We’re testing everything, and we don’t have any religion on processor architectures,” Frankovsy said.
Facebook published a white paper last year reporting on its tests that showed the MIPS-like Tilera multicore processors provided a 24 percent benefit in performance per watt per dollar when running memached jobs. Tilera is “the furthest along” of all the offerings, and they are “production ready today” with 64-bit support, he said.
Frankovsky noted several ARM SoCs and alternatives from both Intel and AMD are also “in the hunt.” This week Hewlett-Packard said it will use Intel dual-core Atom chips named Centerton in the first incarnation of its low power server called Gemini.
Facebook launched its OpenCompute project in April 2011 to get server makers to pay more attention to the unique needs of large scale data centers. “Our computing needs are different from where the vast majority of product development effort is today--that’s why we need to pull this community together to get people to design for the future,” he said.