SAN JOSE, Calif. – Baidu has become the first big data center to adopt an ARM server. China’s Internet search giant will use a custom storage server powered by the 32-bit Armada XP from Marvell.
The news marks the first foot in the door for an ARM server SoC in what is a market dominated by x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. The ARM-based alternatives claim they will cost less and use significantly less power.
Most observers say the current 32-bit chips available from Marvell and startup Calxeda will have limited opportunities, given most software is based on 64-bit code. As many as nine companies, including AMD, Applied Micro, Cavium, Nvidia, Samsung and Qualcomm are planning 64-bit ARM server SoCs that will ship mainly starting in 2014.
The Baidu Pan storage server is a 2U-sized system packing 24 2.5-inch hard disk drives offering a total of 96 TBytes storage as well as two 10G and six gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Marvell won design wins for the overall server processor as well as drive controllers and an Ethernet switch in the system, said to be made by Wiwynn, a Taiwan manufacturer focused on data center systems, spun out of Wistron.
Marvell also designed server management software compliant with the IPMI 2.0 specification for the storage server. It claims the system consumers 25 percent less power than an x86-based design.
“This was a collaborative design with the ODM and Baidu,” said Ramesh Sivakolundu, general manager of cloud services and infrastructure at Marvell. “The market for cloud storage is significant, and there is a good play for 32-bit chips there--the level of interest is very good."
Seems like Baidu was more interested in the storage technology from Marvell and got a bundle with the processor included. But this is significant that they would deploy them in their datacenters and adopt ARM.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.