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AMD touts ARM based server processor specifications

Claims it's a tipping point
Fri Feb 07 2014, 16:03
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CHIP DESIGNER AMD has spilled some more details about its first ARM based server processor.

AMD announced the 64-bit ARM architecture processor last month at the Open Computing Forum in San Jose, and today it released the full specifications at an event in London at which The INQUIRER was in attendance. 

The Opteron A1100 processor codenamed Seattle is an ARM Cortex A57 core running at 2GHz with support for up to 128GB of RAM and eight hard drives.

The key message was that servers using AMD's ARM processors will be fully interoperable with existing x86 processors but will require a fraction of the space and power. AMD said that a typical server will be slightly larger than a mobile phone, not including data storage devices.

The processor has been designed to respond to demand due to the exponential rise in data traffic caused by a combination of factors, including tablet computing, third world adoption of mobile technology to access the internet for the first time and the increase in cloud computing including server intensive applications such as facial recognition.

ARM CMO Ian Drew said that the increasing need for server infrastructure is at a tipping point and that by 2017 there will be one byte of data traffic per month for every grain of sand in the world.

Powering data centres takes a large amount of electrical power, with some requiring their own dedicated substations. AMD's low power ARM chip is designd to reduce the overall power demands of server farms that use it.

While both AMD and ARM acknowledged that ARM servers might not be the right fit for every situation, they were keen to emphasise that there is no reason that a particular array can't be configured using a mix of x86 and ARM servers.

The increase in the need for cold storage, such as photographs that are rarely accessed, emphasises that a low power alternative needed to be found. Facebook recently debuted its own approach to the cold storage problem using arrays of Blu-ray disc drives.

Unlike traditional server equipment, Opteron A111 processor systems can be configured by plugging them into conventional power supplies and inputs, or accessed remotely after installing them into racks. They run a traditional Linux operating system based on Fedora, sponsored by Red Hat.

The new AMD ARM servers are designed to pack the largest amount of processing into the smallest possible space and use the smallest amount of power, which will in turn reduce the need to expend even more energy on cooling equipment. µ


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