Like ARM Chips? Try ‘Em As a Service

This server from Scalable Infomatics uses the Calxeda ARM processor, which you can test using a new cloud service from Boston Ltd.

Want to test your application on a low-powered ARM server, but don’t actually want to invest in a test run of the infrastructure? Then try Boston Ltd.’s ARM-as-a-Service (AaaS) cloud offering.

Last July, Boston began shipping its Viridis server, based on the Calxeda EnergyCore, a system-on-a-chip designed around ARM’s Cortex-A9 architecture. Now, Boston has teamed up with Ellexus, a software developer whose Breeze tool will help to profile and troubleshoot applications on an HPC cluster.

“The Boston cloud is the ultimate resource for application and software developers looking to port their software on to ARM,” Boston’s head of HPC, David Power, wrote in a statement. “Our platform provides all the tools to facilitate porting software to ARM in one easy to use cloud offering. There are also a range of training videos and professional services available for users looking to fast-track their migration to ARM.”

In theory, ARM servers offer dramatic power savings over their X86-based counterparts, including the commonly used Intel Xeon. (Intel has announced a low-power version of the Xeon, the “Centerton,” to address this shortcoming.) Although the industry is waiting for 64-bit ARM chips to be manufactured and sold into servers this year and the next, one of the issues right now is the software infrastructure: ensuring that mission-critical applications and run on the chips when they’re available. At this point, only Linux looks to be able to take advantage of ARM when those chips come to market.

Boston’s “ARM-as-a-Service” delivers dedicated physical quad-core nodes as opposed to virtual CPUs, Boston said. Users will be able to develop on single nodes or test scaling capabilities of applications across multiple nodes within the cluster. They will also be able to choose from varying levels of software and professional services to assist in their migration.

Specifically, Boston offers three tiers of service: dedicated access to the ARM server, with either Ubuntu or Fedora preinstalled; a second tool with the Breeze tool preinstalled; and a third tool, with includes access to all of the tools plus professional tools and training on how to use the porting and tracing software, including Breeze, which traces programs as they run in order to monitor file dependencies and environment settings, tracking the intricacies of scripted flows.

The Fedora Linux and Ubuntu distributions are pre-configured for ARM, with ARM builds of most popular utilities and compilers with a comprehensive repository of pre-built tools (including gcc, llvm, etc.), Boston said. Fedora declared its ARM intentions last month, with Cavium, which said it will begin shipping an ARM development kit.

What Boston is doing is taking another pain point out of the process – the need for physical, on-site hardware for ARM testing. Granted, some admins may feel more comfortable using hardware lying in front of them, rather than testing code in the cloud. But for those that don’t mind, Boston has your answer.


Image: Calxeda