back to article A rumble in Amazon's jungle: AWS now rents out homegrown 64-bit Arm server processors

Amazon has designed its own 64-bit Arm server processors, dubbed Graviton, and is right now renting them out on AWS. Just in time for its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, the internet titan today revealed its A1 family of EC2 instances, ranging from the a1.medium with 1 vCPU, 2GB of RAM, and up to 3.5Gbps EBS and …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    It appears Epyc, Graviton, Cavium's ThunderX2, and other competitors, are, here and there, chipping away at that Intel market share. Pun intended. ®

    I didn't think that joke was armful, core puns please...

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    The world is slowly turning ARM and I think it's about time too.

    ARM is powering all kinds of things and even 10 years ago we had handheld games machines with ARM running Linux and pumping out 3D graphics at Ghz while running off a pair of AA's (e.g. Gamepark Holdings GP2X but also things like the Nintendo DS do the same without the Linux!).

    ARM is more than a capable architecture of anything you want to do. The only restrictions are like the restrictions of old... if you absolutely MUST have x86/64 architecture because your software is only available for it, then you cooked your own goose long ago. But even Office is available for Android etc. nowadays.

    I would happily run ARM everywhere. The only problem is the "second class citizen" factor - Windows on ARM is nothing like Windows on x86/64. If they were equivalent, it would be a very different board game.

    Saying that, I've been tinkering with RPi's a lot lately (I was an early adopter, but there were lots of problems with the early models and their networking/USB when you pushed them hard). I could happily see myself using an RPi for everything I do, if the right software existed. I ran a Linux desktop for many years, I could happily do it again on the RPi. And £30 for a machine like that isn't to be sniffed at. The only real problem is lack of RAM but there are clones that have more RAM if you need it.

    It's literally getting to the point now where for daily use people are using ARM (tablets, phones, even the iPhone itself, etc.) and only going to x86 for "real work" which is usually just basic browsing or remoting in anyway (and ARM Chromebooks are the next logical step for them). If Amazon are able to bring ARM into the datacentre, others will and it won't be long before you can buy ARM dedicated servers as easily as x86 ones. The only thing missing is the software offering.

    Honestly... if the world went boom tomorrow, I think ARM would take over overnight. Cheap, "open", low-power, widely available, all the programming tools in place, powerful, etc.

    Is there any reason that an ARM couldn't sit in a standard motherboard socket and access just the same resources as a "standard" machine (BIOS upgrade aside as presumably that's x86 code)? There's nothing to stop them getting to the same speeds, interfacing with the same hardware, working with standard kit.

    Sell me an ARM-based desktop today with, say, PCIe and a serious nVidia graphics card in it, and I'll be digging out my wallet.

    1. Dabbb

      Putting aside your, frankly irrational and unwarranted, love for ARM architecture there's magnitude more reasons to use Intel servers than ARM, Intel Atom if your major concern is power. Do you see lots of them around ? Me neither. ARM destined to fill same niche, something no one asked for or needs.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        I have 10+ ARM powered devices in my house, and I don't even try to buy them.

        Two smartphones (not iPhone).

        One GP2X (I used to develop for it).

        One tablet.

        One RPi.

        One TomTom (defunct)

        CCTV NVR

        ...

        With the exception of the GP2X, these are hardly far from consumer items. I deployed 50 Intel Atoms a few years ago - they worked fine for office tasks, no problem at all. A lot of people who have Intel Atom don't even know they do.

        P.S. Intel Atoms suck for low-power usage. I know of precisely one "RPi-competitor" board that they brought out to try to capture that bit of the market, and it's very unpopular. Even Mini/Nano-ITX with laptop chips did a better job 10 years ago.

        Power = heat. Heat = cooling. Cooling = expensive. A rack full of ARM chips in the proper layout will reduce costs and, so long as it runs PHP and Wordpress, that's a vast, vast potential saving right that just for a bog-standard hosting provider. And, yes, you can get Intel Atom dedicated servers. Check out OVH/Kimsufi (same people, first/second-hand kit - it's second-hand because someone used them for years already).

        Maybe not your use-case, but I'd happily pay for an ARM-powered PC with PCIe, SATA, etc. connectivity and Linux.

        Not to mention things like Spectre and Meltdown. I think you miss that some of the most powerful chips that people use today are from ARM. Most people never max out their CPUs and when they do, Intel stuff just dials down to ridiculous speeds nowadays (Intel are still selling machines which are clocked at 1GHz as "4GHZ" machines... they can maintain 4GHz for only seconds under normal cooling arrangements). But their phones and other gadgets are doing tons in software and ramp up past those speeds just for playing with silly graphics filters.

        While you were sleeping, ARM owns the mobile phone market, tablet market, is already inside the Chromebook / mini-book market, the games console market, has Microsoft making Windows for it, basically has the IoT market to itself, and is now edging into the server market quite happily.

        1. Dabbb

          "I have 10+ ARM powered devices in my house, and I don't even try to buy them."

          Do you know the only few common thing among all of them ?

          The are not compatible between each other, there's no drivers for SoC and you can't install other OS to them. Not an issue for any Intel x86/64 devices.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          And for the record, the two more-powerful consoles on the market today are x86, NOT ARM (the Switch is Tegra, both the XB1 and PS4 are AMD x86). I'll believe ARM is ready for gaming prime time when it's used to run an intensive 4K game like the big boys.

      2. naive

        >> ARM destined to fill same niche, something no one asked for or needs.

        The world needs competition to Intel for over 15 years now. After the WinTel imperium broke down all the alternative CPU designs in the 90's and early 2000's, Intel enjoyed a virtual monopoly for over 15 years now.

        The results of this failing market are visible. Jacked up prices, insecure cpu's and no alternative for speed except more equally slow cores. It is good feasible alternatives like AMD Ryzen and now 64bit ARM came, Now we will see more progress in CPU features than in the last 15 years. Maybe one day we will see the mainstream software suppliers will jump on the boat as well, since until now their pricing schemes only benefit Intel, who still offers the best OOMPH per core/socket, on which software licenses are based.

        1. Crypto Monad

          > The world needs competition to Intel for over 15 years now.

          There has been a resurgence of rumours of Apple moving to ARM too.

          Apple have done this twice before: Motorola to PPC, and PPC to Intel. Of course, you are best placed to do this if you own the OS and have good influence over the application ecosystem.

          I don't see Dell and HP pushing ARM while they are so reliant on Microsoft; and all Microsoft's ARM products to date have been so awful, you'd think they did it on purpose just to keep Intel happy.

          But Apple could tip it. Once people are happy with ARM on a laptop, an ARM Mac Mini could be the breakthrough into desktop and/or small server environments.

          The other big selling point ARM have is the trustworthiness (of lack of it) in Intel chips.

        2. Dabbb

          "The world needs competition to Intel for over 15 years now."

          SPARC, MIPS, PowerPC are exactly the competition you're looking for for Intel server chips. And ?

      3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        You are kidding about Intel Atom aren't you?

        I have tried using Intel's 'low power' chips occasionally (by low power Intel mean low performance not electricity consumption). Every single time I got burned. Intel prefers to have their FABs crank out top end high margin products. They see every cheap CPU (cheap compared to other Intel CPUs) they make is a lost sale of a more expensive CPU. They put bugger all effort into the small side and it shows up as hardware that promptly becomes non-functional and unsupported.

        If you are stuck with a few ancient x86 binaries try them on ARM with QEMU. It is often sufficient and has an excellent service life. If that doesn't get the job done, go for a normal mass market Intel or AMD device. Economies of scale get the price of a complete system close to Intel's low power efforts and the service life will be two or three times greater.

        1. Dabbb

          Re: You are kidding about Intel Atom aren't you?

          Atom is exactly what Graviton should be compared to, from other article

          "It does poorly benchmarking our website fully deployed on it: Nginx + PHP + MediaWiki, and everything else involved. This is your 'real world' test. All 16 cores can't match even 5 cores of our Xeon E5-2697 v4."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The world is slowly turning ARM and I think it's about time too."

      I would have agreed until a year or two back. Nowadays it's just another superpower behemoth. The next generation of ARM cores will raise the question, do you want your secret hardware backdoor to be American Intel or Chinese ARM?

      Roll on RISC V and friends, I say.

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        "do you want your secret hardware backdoor to be American Intel or Chinese ARM?"

        Surely you can have both -- along with Russia, North Korea, Iran, Israel, Google, Microsoft and God knows who else.

        OTOH, Why any of those entities would think spying on me is a productive use of their resources is beyond me.

  3. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Boffin

    Gravitons

    "What goes up...better doggone well stay up"

    - Morgan Gravitonics company slogan.

  4. TheGreatCabbage

    I'd like a server to handle just a few hundred simple requests per day, so this seems great for the job.

  5. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    Fantastic news.

    A few years late, but better late than never.

    Now if only I hadn’t decided to make my AWS usage cheaper by buying reserved instances :-(

  6. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    Re: arm Vs atom Vs celeron

    What do people think of the J1900?

    Been umming and ahhing about getting a fanless one for use as a home server.

    It's got the virtualization extensions, so I can max out the ram, put qubes on it and go a bit crazy.

    Any obvious alternatives I should be made aware of?

    1. AlexRethink

      Re: arm Vs atom Vs celeron

      Oh man I can actually answer this!

      I've got the Asrock Q1900 version, and had some really weird driver problems with Ubuntu 16.04, where you'd come back to a completely frozen display and system that required a restart. Even an RMA didn't solve them. Eventually switched to Windows 10 and the problems went away ....

      And the BIOS menu is complete trash - absolute hot garbage.

      But the chip seems to work well, and the system runs well. It's a bit slow transcoding Plex and whatnot, but it does what I need it to. I've not tried virtualization or anything yet, so can't speak for that.

  7. dnicholas Bronze badge

    Have Intel shares? Time to sell

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