IP Expo: Boston Brings World’s First ARM Server To The UK

Calxeda ARM

Low-power Boston Viridis is ready for the data centre

Low-power ARM-based Viridis servers manufactured by Boston Limited have made their UK debut at the IP Expo 2012 in London.

Boston is the world’s first company to make servers based on ARM processor technology, commonly used in smartphones and tablets.

The Viridis is the first system to approach the much talked about concept of Hyperscale, involving very high density systems that are only possible with low heat, low power chips.

The flying ARM server pig

Boston Viridis is based on the Calxeda EnergyCore System-on-a-Chip (SoC) which provides “supercomputer performance” while delivering a 90 percent reduction in energy costs when compared with conventional servers. Since every SoC consumes as little as 5 Watts of power, the system needs little active cooling, lowering maintenance costs even further.

Provisioned within a 2U enclosure, each Viridis unit contains up to 12 quad-node Calxeda EnergyCards with built-in Layer-2 networking. The EnergyCard is a single PCB module containing four EnergyCore SoCs, each with 4GB DDR-3 registered ECC memory, four SATA connectors and management interfaces.

Providing up to 192 cores and 48 nodes per enclosure, this highly dense solution can put up to 900 servers into a single industry standard 42U rack.

“These building blocks of high end computing are set to radically change the economics of large scale data centres, sparking innovation in emerging fields such as cloud computing, data modelling and analysis – often called ‘Big Data’ – scientific research and media streaming,” said David Power, head of HPC at Boston.

In the Viridis, Ethernet switching is handled internally by 80Gb bandwidth on the EnergyCore fabric switch, thereby negating the need for additional switches that consume unnecessary power and add unwanted latency.

The servers are supported by Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS and Fedora v17+ distributions. They have been shown to run cloud management software from Openstack, Big Data tools Hadoop and Cassandra, applications built in Java, Ruby on Rails and Python.

Earlier this month, Boston and Russian software developers Eltech had managed to run x86 binaries on the Viridis platform, proving that in the future ARM servers could pose a serious threat to the Intel silicon in the data centre.

Boston claims that with specific applications, one 2U Viridis appliance can outperform a whole rack of standard x86 servers, yet at the same time consume one tenth of the power and occupy one tenth of the space.

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