Chinese search engine giant Baidu forges ARM servers

Marvell notches another design win after Dell and Codethink boxes


Chip maker Marvell has notched up its third public design win for an ARM server, this one at Baidu, one of the two big search engine giants in China.

Avi Liebermensch, manager of server products at the maker of ARM processors and other kinds of chips, tells El Reg that the Baidu server is based on the company's Armada XP MV78460. This is the same quad-core processor that Dell chose for its "Copper" ARM sled servers announced last May and purchased by unspecified customers of its Data Center Solutions bespoke server business unit. The Baserock slab ARM server from Codethink also uses this Marvell processor as its main engine.

Baidu has deployed an ARM server for cheap and dense storage

Baidu has deployed an ARM server for cheap and dense storage with local processing

Liebermensch was not at liberty to give a lot of details on the Baidu machines, and China is celebrating its New Year right now so people in Beijing are not around to answer calls. But Marvell did sneak us a picture and gave us some insight into the machine that Baidu has worked with Marvell and an unspecified ODM to create.

As you can see, the Baidu ARM box has six sleds that slide into a 2U chassis, and Liebermensch says that this box has a total of 24 drives and supports a maximum of 96TB. That almost certainly means it uses 4TB SATA drives. The Dell copper sled crammed four of these Marvell Armada XP processors, four SATA drives, and a baby Ethernet switch linking the four processors to each other and to the outside world for the Copper sleds, and it could be that the Baidu box is built by Dell or is a knockoff of the Copper design.

The processor count on the Baidu server sled was not divulged. What Liebermensch did say is that Marvell had grabbed a storage controller that can handle SAS or SATA drives over a PCI-Express controller built into the chip and an Ethernet switch that implements two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and six Gigabit Ethernet ports. This sounds like the Baidu box has a slightly different network and storage setup than the Dell Copper box.

Block diagram of Marvell's Armada XP 78460 chip

Block diagram of Marvell's Armada XP MV78460 chip

The Armada XP MV78460 uses Marvell "Sheeva" PJ4B cores, which are a variant of the 32-bit ARMv7-MP design that has the 40-bit memory addressing added to it. That means each socket can address up to 16GB of main memory, in this case, which is more than enough for a lot of workloads.

Baidu has opted for a version of the chip running at 1.6GHz, just like Dell. The Armada XP chip has a crossbar interconnect that links all of the elements of the SoC together, which might be out there on a much larger motherboard if this was not an SoC. Each Sheeva CPU has a floating point unit and is linked over a coherency fabric to a 2MB on-die L2 cache. The memory controller has ECC scrubbing and runs at up to 1.6GHz, matching the clock speed if you want.

There are four PCI-Express 2.0 controllers on the chip, as well as controllers to drive two SATA peripheral ports and four Gigabit Ethernet ports. There is also a 4Gb/sec packet processor (handy for some things, not so much for others) and a security engine for encrypting and decrypting data. All in a 15 watt thermal envelope.

It is not clear which "Cheetah" switch module that Baidu has embedded on the sleds in the server, but it could be the same as the "Cheetah 3" 98DX5156 Layer 2/3 network switching that Codethink is using in its Baserock Slab, an eight-node system that comes in a 1U chassis that is based on the same processor from Marvell.

What Baidu was looking for in this particular server was to get computing power right next to the storage, not to create a JBOD that then hooks into an external server. Given this, it is reasonable to assume that the Baidu box has four Armada XP chips nodes talking to four drives on each sled.

The servers run Ubuntu Server 12.10, which is the Linux from Canonical and which is the second release to formally support ARM servers. Marvel has also cooked up a systems management tool for Baidu that speaks IMPI 2.0 that can work with its existing control freakage.

Marvell is very excited, calling this the first real deployment of ARM in the data center, and says that Baidu is not just experimenting with machines, but actually installing these machines to run some of its "cold storage" software, known internally as Pan, after months of development and testing.

When pressed about how many machines Baidu had installed, Marvell would not say. That would irk its customer during the holiday. But what Marvell could divulge is that the setup had a 25 per cent lower total cost of ownership compared to previous x86-based servers used by Baidu for the same purpose. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Demand for PC and smartphone chips drops 'like a rock' says CEO of China’s top chipmaker
    Markets outside China are doing better, but at home vendors have huge component stockpiles

    Demand for chips needed to make smartphones and PCs has dropped "like a rock" – but mostly in China, according to Zhao Haijun, the CEO of China's largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

    Speaking on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call last Friday, Zhao said smartphone makers currently have five months inventory to hand, so are working through that stockpile before ordering new product. Sales of PCs, consumer electronics and appliances are also in trouble, the CEO said, leaving some markets oversupplied with product for now. But unmet demand remains for silicon used for Wi-Fi 6, power conversion, green energy products, and analog-to-digital conversion.

    Zhao partly attributed sales slumps to the Ukraine war which has made the Russian market off limits to many vendors and effectively taken Ukraine's 44 million citizens out of the global market for non-essential purchases.

    Continue reading
  • Colocation consolidation: Analysts look at what's driving the feeding frenzy
    Sometimes a half-sized shipping container at the base of a cell tower is all you need

    Analysis Colocation facilities aren't just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

    But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that's driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

    "You can only provide those value-added services if you're big enough," Forrester research director Glenn O'Donnell said.

    Continue reading
  • D-Wave deploys first US-based Advantage quantum system
    For those that want to keep their data in the homeland

    Quantum computing outfit D-Wave Systems has announced availability of an Advantage quantum computer accessible via the cloud but physically located in the US, a key move for selling quantum services to American customers.

    D-Wave reported that the newly deployed system is the first of its Advantage line of quantum computers available via its Leap quantum cloud service that is physically located in the US, rather than operating out of D-Wave’s facilities in British Columbia.

    The new system is based at the University of Southern California, as part of the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center hosted at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a factor that may encourage US organizations interested in evaluating quantum computing that are likely to want the assurance of accessing facilities based in the same country.

    Continue reading
  • Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants
    US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act

    The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022