Arm server vendor Kaleao, which The Register covered way back in 2016, has re-emerged with a new name – Bamboo – and what it reckons is a fresh approach to building servers.
The company will target microservices with its new B1008N units, a 1U chassis capable of holding one or two blades each packing four servers. Each blade offers dual 40Gb QSFP uplink ports but the whole rig doesn't offer much more: one of Bamboo's beliefs is that all the legacy ports in x86 servers are built for comfort, not speed. Individual servers pack an NXP Layerscape LX2160A with 16 Cortex-A72 CPU cores running at up to 2.2GHz. A full B1008N chassis can therefore pack 128 cores, 16 DDR4 memory channels to 512GB DRAM and get data moving at 24GB/s to 64TB of NVMe storage.
The servers are designed to be used in parallel, hence the moniker PANDA – Parallel Arm Node Designed Architecture. PANDA also hands off I/O and other work not directly related to running applications to a co-processor.
CEO Tony Craythorne thinks that's a big deal because both x86 servers and previous attempts at Arm servers assume that the CPU will dedicate a thread to all housekeeping chores. He thinks going parallel will differentiate Arm servers and help them escape what he cheerfully admitted has been a "sales graveyard".
PANDA also makes it possible for microservices orchestrators to dish out work to individual cores, or even to detect that current requirements can be met without the services of one or more servers and therefore shut some down to save power. And power is very much Bamboo's play: Craythorne said the company measures its impact by comparing the kilowatt hours its products consume, rather than the speed at which its kit runs.
For now, however, Bamboo hasn't developed either reference architectures or struck partnerships with software vendors or open-source projects. Craythorne said that common open-source products such as Kubernetes Spray have been installed and operated without incident on pre-sale hardware, but that as customers put its kit to work the company will bottle their experiences and share them with others.
But he also said that launching a product of this nature means "we don't know what we don't know."
We'll find out if the company knows something useful from Q3 onwards when the B1008N goes on sale in the USA and Europe at "under $9,995" in an unspecified specification said to cost half of a comparable x86 box. ®