Upstart switch-maker Arista Networks, founded by serial entrepreneur Andy Bechtolsheim, is at it again, mashing up new kinds of iron to tackle problems in the data center. This time, Arista is bundling an atomic clock, a baby x86 server, flash memory, and field programmable gate arrays into its Ethernet switches to create what …
Not much of a sparc there.
I'd guess that x86 cpu isn't really there to be used. If it were I'd've expected one of those things with on-chip 10GbE wired into the switching fabric. But then you'd have to learn to write big endian code. Oh woe. Probably TDP is an issue here, or even an availability problem, but still.
Re: Not much of a sparc there.
You may need general-purpose CPU of some portable architecture to bootstrap your OS and then manage the FPGA. Without general purpose OS you might not be able to use this ultra-cool FPGA. There are also jobs which are unsuitable for FPGA due to bottlenecks somewhere else, like I/O, so general purpose OS can do some work here, too.
Most likely not for atomic clocks
Although you _can_ connect an atomic clock, and rubidium atomic clocks are now _very_ cheap, it's more likely they will just get some sort of central time source, like a cheap GPS disciplined oscillator and use some coax to distribute it. That way you can easily get into the sub 100 ns range when it comes to synchronizing bits of equipment. It probably doesn't matter if the latency is 500 ns or 600 ns, as long as its the _same_ for all people.
So having a sync input makes sense in such situations, even if they will probably never be connected to high accuracy clocks.
Of course you can always set the time by your wristwatch
"...like a photon turd moving through a glass goose."
Magic, sheer magic.
Shakespeare would be pleased with that.