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Energy-efficient processors based on the Arm architecture may be more widely used after Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced Arm-based cloud-computing resources for developers the week of Dec. 2, 2018.
The prospects of the Arm, owned by Softbank, growing beyond consumer devices such as smartphones and becoming a force in enterprise computing represents a challenge to Intel, whose processors are wide used inside servers operating in a cloud and corporate data centers.
Intel has the second-largest group by revenue, making up 32 percent of Intel’s revenue in Q3, and is growing faster than the company’s still-larger business of making chips for computers and other devices.
These chips reduce the total cost of ownership of the servers, which can in turn benefit customers. Matt Garman, AWS’ vice president for computer services, told CNBC in an interview at the AWS regarding Invent Conference in Las Vegas this week.
Early feedback has been positive. It has only been a few days since Amazon announced the chips.
“I’ve seen Fortune 1000 big enterprises coming to us, saying, ‘Holy cow, this is interesting for some Internet of Things uses cases.” Don MacAskill, CEO of one of AWS’ early customers, SmugMug, had been asking him for Arm-based chips on the Amazon cloud for six years, according to Garman.
There are many tools for AWS developers and some of them, like the Lamda “serverless” computing service, could run on the Arm servers in the future, even if most of Amazon’s applications continue to use the popular x86 architecture that the Intel chips have used for a long time, says Garman.
Additionally, AWS said it will begin to offer servers that customers can install in their own data centers, for applications that cannot be run in the public cloud. From the AWS website, customers will be able to choose from a variety of EC2 computing instances that can be run, and from there, AWS will be able to deliver the right servers to meet the needs of the company.
Garman said, the plan is to allow customers to request instances that use the Arm chips. AWS could widen the distribution of Arm through the server product well beyond its own corporate boundaries.
Any instance that we have it the goal, whether it’s Nvidia GPUs, whether it’s Arm, whether it’s Intel, as part of that service.
At this time, the AWS instances using the Arm processors are not performing as well as comparable instances that rely on Intel chips, according to tests one person ran.
Still, the availability of Arm from the biggest cloud provider represents a win for Arm.
“Aws’ embrace gives Arm the shot of credibility to expand its footprint into more cloud players and workloads,” wrote industry analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy in a message to CNBC on Friday.
In the future, AWS could release new instances based on more powerful Arm-based chips. The existing instances use Arm’s Cortex-A72 system. It was introduced in 2015.
Arm is working on new processor technology that would enable greater performance, according to CEO Simon Segars.
Additionally, other cloud providers may start to release instances using technology from Arm, which was obtained by Softbank for $32 billion in 2016.
“Microsoft had shown in the past the use of Arm processors in their infrastructure. They haven’t had that commercially available, but they’ve shown what it can do,” according to Segars.
There are several large companies competing in the market for cloud infrastructure.
“If there’s a way to offer the processing capability at lower cost, then I would think everybody that play in that space would want to take advantage of it,” Segars says.
By Jeanette Smith
CNBC: Amazon bet on Arm could weaken Intel’s hold on data centers, which make up one-third of its business
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