Scaleway shows off its new RISC-V devices at Kubecon

Looking for feedback before pressing the production button

European cloud provider Scaleway showed off its new RISC-V servers at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's (CNCF's) Kubecon Europe 2024 event.

Scaleway engineer holding an experimental RISC-V server (pic: Richard Speed)

Scaleway's experimental RISC-V unit (click to enlarge) Pic: Richard Speed

The service was launched just under a month ago, but it was at Kubecon that we were able to get up close and personal with the experimental units.

Chief Product Officer, Adrienne Jan, told The Register: "We've deployed a little over 100," as the company gauges customer feedback to the service. Each unit contains seven physical servers.

As we noted at the launch several weeks back, for €15.99 (plus taxes) per month Scaleway will equip customers with a T-Head TH1520 SoC with 16GB RAM and 128GB of storage, however, the price does not include any service level agreement. That said, it saves customers from having to invest in RISC-V kit themselves.

As it was Kubecon, Scaleway wanted to discuss Kubernetes on the hardware, saying its Kubernetes Kosmos container orchestration platform now supports RISC-V containers powered by the Elastic Metal RV1 bare metal servers. The company also said Arm-based nodes had arrived in Kapsule, its managed Kubernetes service.

Scaleway has a few months left before it needs to decide if there is sufficient customer demand to press the button on scaling up the production of the servers. The current units are lovingly handcrafted, with 3D-printed enclosures. Great for prototyping. Not so good for loading up Scaleway's datacenters with units backed by the service level agreement required to move from experimentation to production.

How many months? "Probably three months," Jan told us. "We're making sure that we don't run into any big technical hurdles … we need to do a little bit of user interviews to figure out how our users are feeling about this. Are they using it also as an experiment?"

The experimental nature of the service would mean that any production use requires careful thought.

Scaleway is waiting to see if that experimentation turns into a desire to build production architectures on the hardware. If so, according to Jan, the hardware will be rolled out over its three regions.

Fabien Piuzzi, R&D engineer at Scaleway, who is part of the team responsible for putting the units together, told us the experimental units were built by hand — not so good for scaling up if needed — and that Scaleway's experiment was directed at developers and the RISC-V community at large.

Scaleway, he added, was working on the unit since September 2023.

According to Piuzzi, the bare metal nature of the service to date meant Scaleway didn't have much insight into the workloads customers were putting on the servers. Hence the need to survey users before deciding on the next steps: going to production and possibly setting up a managed service. ®

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