English open source cloud provider DataCentred is entering into uncharted territory, adding ARM-based servers to its OpenStack public cloud.
Developed together with system level software infrastructure specialist Codethink, the cloud will run on HP M400 ARM hardware (HP's famous Moonshot servers), but customers will have access to both Intel and ARM architectures.
Processors built using architecture licensed from U.K.-based ARM Holdings power most of the world's smartphones. But because they consume relatively little energy, there is now also a growing market for ARM servers.
Numerous companies have been working on adapting the architecture for servers, but production cloud deployments are very much in their infancy. The availability of a cloud powered by ARM servers is a step forward in the development of energy-efficient clouds.
Interest in ARM and other processor architectures demonstrates that there is an appetite in the market for alternatives to the domineering presence of Intel's x86 architecture in the data center server market.
Currently, there is a lot of momentum behind OpenPOWER, particularly around hyperscale and big data use cases. Born out of IBM’s POWER architecture, big service providers like Rackspace, IBM SoftLayer, and OVH are developing OpenPOWER clouds. Oracle has its SPARC chips, which can also be tied to OpenStack.
One of the first service providers to have launched cloud services built on ARM servers is Online.net, the web hosting arm of French telco Iliad. Online.net designed its own servers and its own cloud architecture for the service, which came online last October.
Some other examples of ARM adoption include Chinese search engine giant Baidu, which has a commercial deployment of ARM-based servers for cloud storage. Boston Limited has an ARM cloud called ARM-as-a-Service.
Although there has been work and discussion about marrying OpenStack and ARM for years, DataCentred believes it is the first to market a 64-bit ARM OpenStack public cloud. The company expects to roll out the cloud into production this year.
"This is probably the first example of Moonshot AArch64 running in Europe outside of HP's development labs, and certainly the first example of generally available Moonshot backed AArch64 instances in an OpenStack public cloud anywhere in the world,” DataCentred CEO Mike Kelly said in a press release. “We know that ARM themselves are pleased to hear of this development, as a real-world deployment. OpenStack is one of the big success stories for open source software and is likely to be the environment through which enterprise migrates, in a vendor-neutral way, to take advantage of elastic cloud compute."
DataCentred and Codethink have worked together since 2014 on multi-architecture OpenStack cloud service infrastructure for customers requiring access to specific architectures to run targeted workloads.
Chinese hardware giant Lenovo is developing an ARM server powered by Cavium’s 64-bit Thunder System on chip. Other major players include: Applied Micro, AMD, and Texas Instruments.