back to article Heads up: Fujitsu tips its hand to reveal exascale Arm supercomputer processor – the A64FX

Fujitsu has unfurled the blueprints for its homegrown high-performance Arm-based processors dubbed A64FX, the brains of its Post-K supercomputer. The designs were shown on Tuesday at a gathering of semiconductor engineers in Silicon Valley. The Post-K is a 1,000 peta-FLOPS monster – an exascale machine – that will supersede …

  1. tip pc Silver badge

    That’s one smart phone right there. Can it run Android?

    1. Chika

      ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

      I wonder where I put my old Acorn A4?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

        "I wonder where I put my old Acorn A4?"

        Under a few Chromebooks?

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

        I'm amazed I didn't know of the A4. Wikipedia doesn't seem to mention it, or not obviously.

        http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/Computers/A4.html

        http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/22807/Acorn-A4-Laptop/

        Has no-one made a Raspberry Pi into a "laptop"? I found that the barrier to using an ARM tablet with a decent USB keyboard, USB hub, mouse etc as a "laptop" is the abysmally unfinished nature of Android and fact it's optimised for a small screen. Sometimes you can have two windows, some applications can print (the Brother print driver seems to work without the cloud), some applications support external storage. You need a third party file manager. A decent keyboard with AltGr, \ beside Z and non-USA English support and mapping needs a third party program.

        Even my ancient Sony Ericsson phone had HDMI, USB2Go etc and with Android 4.x sort of worked with an HD screen, USB HDD, mouse and keyboard.

        The cheap Tablet hardware is out there to make an ARM Laptop, but now LESS useful as makers drop separate charger port, 3.5mm jack, HDMI connector, SD card slot etc. Also unless you can root it an put on Linux, the Android OS is too consumption & phone orientated to use as a laptop. Hence Chrome, but if I got a free Chrome thing, It would be given away if I couldn't put Linux on instead. Chrome purely exists as Google Services client, though some offline use possible.

        The problem is that even Linux Laptop usage is still a minority sport helped by WINE. Sadly for people creating content, both x86 and Windows have dominated for too long. Apple can easiest do an ARM laptop, because they have a history of dropping CPUs (68000 family, Power PC, 32bit x86), they seem to be going 64bit only on the x86-64 cpu with blocking even 32bit applications.

        IBM PC and Windows 9x (rather than multiplatform NT from 3.1 to 5.x --Win2K,XP Server 2003) have really held back the industry.

        1. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

          Has no-one made a Raspberry Pi into a "laptop"?

          Yes...

          https://thepihut.com/products/pi-top-v2-raspberry-pi-laptop-green?variant=484475240465

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

            Has no-one made a Raspberry Pi into a "laptop"?

            Yes, and thie PiTop is a very interesting device. But the Pi is not the way to go due to Broadcom effectively canning development. The current chips are are now quite a way behind those being put into phones.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

          > Apple can easiest do an ARM laptop, because they have a history of dropping CPUs ...

          Rumor is there are ARM64 builds of macOS floating around, if you're in the right teams.

        3. Neil Spellings
          Coat

          Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

          Kind of cheating but....

          http://www.cjemicros.co.uk/micros/products/lapi.shtml

      3. Neil Spellings

        Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

        Shame the A4 never saw the light..I designed a very nice dual-mode Parallel port/floppy disc interface for it (long before USB came along plus Acorn insisted on propitiatory floppy drives, and the was no room for both ports on the case). Ahhhh those were the days....

        1. onefang

          Re: ARM dreams of being in a laptop?

          There is also this ARM based laptop - https://www.olimex.com/Products/DIY-Laptop/ runs Linux or Android.

  2. ByeLaw101

    ...BUT can you run Crysis!

    oh wait.. erm, yes you can...ok

    1. Phil Kingston

      Makes me feel old. No love for Doom any more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ... what about those of us who remember "does it run flight simulator"!

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Happy

          They feel really old now, thanks for the reminder !

      2. Long John Brass
        Joke

        Makes me feel old. No love for Doom any more.

        Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these things :)

        1. Equals42

          Re: Makes me feel old. No love for Doom any more.

          It was quake servers at one point too.

  3. fedoraman

    Why no ARM servers?

    I still don't understand why no-one is making ARM-based servers. Can anyone explain this to me, please?

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why no ARM servers?

      There are some ARM servers but the biggest barrier has been the lack of a common boot framework which makes them less suitable as drop-in replacements: x86 boxes can be swapped in and out but this is not true for ARM.

      This leads to the chicken and egg situation of no one manufacturing in volume because the lack of demand and no demand because of the lack of supply. For most data centres the CPU is not the most important cost. This means that ARMs are used where things like power draw are key.

      Things will change as the eco-system changes and the workloads become more suitable to ARM's hardware optimisations.

      1. /dev/null

        Re: Why no ARM servers?

        Common boot framework? You mean like ARM's Server Base Boot Requirements spec?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Why no ARM servers?

          Right. Most ARM systems weren't built with modular, replaceable components in mind which is how servers normally operate (hot swapping, automatic failover, etc.). Most ARM systems today are SoCs full of trade secret sauce (because Qualcomm, Mediatrk, etc. are at each other's throats). Portable ARM systems are a whole different kettle of fish from server ARM systems. What you describe is relatively new and will need time to reach a broad-enough consensus.

    2. CrispyD

      Re: Why no ARM servers?

      Applications and virtualisation. Porting a whole virtual server farm to a new architecture would be painful.

      1. TiddlyPom

        Re: Why no ARM servers?

        This is where open source applications have the benefit. If you have the source code (assuming it is pretty much architecture independent) then shifting platform becomes little more than a recompile. As a trivial example, I have developed Java applications on x86 then run them on ARM (on a Raspberry Pi). I have also written Qt C/C++ applications on x86 and recompiled them for ARM. KVM/QEMU virtualization works fine on ARM (but obviously depends on the features of the particular ARM chip).

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Why no ARM servers?

          This is where open source applications have the benefit. If you have the source code (assuming it is pretty much architecture independent)

          The open source claim is a red herring here; open source has its own benefits but architecture independence isn't one. More important is whether the source code contains optimisations for the architecture and how good the compiler is at optimising. For example, I've seen benchmarks where Intel's compiler produces significant improvements on x86 over gcc.

          Still, LLVM and other initiatives have brought general improvements for all and we're reaching a point where compilers can always produce better results than people: optimisations can generally be formalised which makes them a good subject for automation.

          But, as others have noted, it's not just about optimised code: drivers for storage and networking have to work just as well and this is easier on "industry standard" x86 than for any particular custom ARM SoC. Fortunately, things are improving here, too.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Why no ARM servers?

            "For example, I've seen benchmarks where Intel's compiler produces significant improvements on x86 over gcc."

            Almost all of this is down to the Intel compiler using undocumented cheats vs the GCC one playing strictly by the rules. Remember when MS used to pull that with undocumented APIs?

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Why no ARM servers?

            "drivers for storage and networking have to work just as well "

            For some values of "work".

            The vast majority of proprietary drivers are barely functional pieces of utter crap only built and tested on one or two versions of windows.

            Companies won't publish APIs in case they get sued for patent infringements and they won't release source code because they usually obtained it from somewhere else without getting ownership of the copyright.

        2. Justin Clift

          Re: Why no ARM servers?

          > As a trivial example, I have developed Java applications on x86 then run them on ARM (on a Raspberry Pi). I have also written Qt C/C++ applications on x86 and recompiled them for ARM.

          Go (the language) will have ARMv8 support in the next release (1.11). Been testing it already in production deployment with the recent betas, and it works well.

    3. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    4. Herring`

      Re: Why no ARM servers?

      I remember talking to an HPC chap a couple of years back. I asked the question why people weren't interested in the better FLOPS/Watt that you could get from ARM. His response was that the (proprietary) software that he used was licensed per core and that that cost vastly outweighed the savings in power/cooling/hardware.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        Re: Why no ARM servers?

        > ... licensed per core...

        Interesting. Though this should not matter for the majority of compute clusters used in research.

        1. Herring`

          Re: Why no ARM servers?

          There are quite a few clusters used commercially - particularly finance for stochastic projections and all that. Those companies aren't interested in messing around. They just want to be able to plug in 10,000 cores and run their models. (The poor fools)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why no ARM servers?

      > I still don't understand why no-one is making ARM-based servers.

      ARM servers do exist, though they seem to be just now starting to hit the market.

      https://www.gigabyte.com/Press/News/1622

      https://www.servethehome.com/cavium-thunderx2-review-benchmarks-real-arm-server-option

      You can rent ARM based cloud servers online already:

      https://www.scaleway.com

      With those Scaleway servers, the ARM64 (ARMv8) ones are very good, and stable in operation (from personal experience).

      The ARMv7 ones though are generally underpowered, and have a reputation for being a bit unstable. Ok for playing around with though.

      Workstations look to be arriving as well:

      https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/gigabyte-announces-thunderxstation-industrys-first-armv8-workstation-based-on-caviums-thunderx2-processor-300616517.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why no ARM servers?

        Also:

        https://www.phoenicselectronics.com/gigabyte.html

        No pricing though. :(

    6. chasil

      Re: Why no ARM servers?

      ARM 64-bit support only emerged in 2011, and it's vastly different from the 32-bit ISA (I understand it's much more like MIPS).

      This also came late to x86 with the Opteron in 2003.

      MIPS owned supercomputing in the 90s starting with the 1991 release of the 64-bit R4000.

      The ARM 32-bit ISA had design decisions that limited performance. I would say that Sophie's ISA was perfect for an '80s Acorn, but not so much for a Cray.

      https://www.jwhitham.org//2016/02/risc-instruction-sets-i-have-known-and.html

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Happy

    Drool!!!

    I would be VERY interested to see how that machine runs our parallel and distributed algorithms for terapixel images (and beyond?). Just one of those chips would completely thrash our current (elderly) Opteron-based compute server. We do live in interesting times!

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So the A64FX is officially at 7nm engraving

    Meanwhile, Intel's flagship i9 7980 Extreme Edition is still loitering at the 14nm scale.

    Double.

    Hey Intel, you might want to take your finger out and get back into the game ?

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: So the A64FX is officially at 7nm engraving

      To be fair, Intel's 10nm process is about the same size & density that other manufacturers are claiming for their 7nm processes. But yes, they have lost their technological lead in fab processes (there was a time that they were about 1.5 nodes ahead of everyone else).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the A64FX is officially at 7nm engraving

      It's interesting that the package only appears to need 594 pins.

      I'm guessing that it would need to provide a similar number of data lines to comparable amd64 chips to really be a viable alternative, so I wonder if the reduced pin count reflects lower or more easily managed power requirements.

      1. }{amis}{
        Coat

        Re: So the A64FX is officially at 7nm engraving

        Probably if you look at the pin out of a modern CPU package the bulk of the pins are ground's for interference suppression the less power you are pulling the easier it is to resolve these issues so the fewer pins needed to do the job.

  6. joeldillon

    'Folks who have done 32 and 64-bit Arm assembly programming' will know it's not quite true that instructions are fixed width - Thumb-2 is a mix of 16 and 32 bit instructions, in particular. :)

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    40 megawatts? Does it come with its own nuclear reactor?

    What?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      Well, at a mere 40MW you could run the backup generator off one of the smaller* Wartsila Diesel engines. You could even use the waste cooling water from the computer to keep the engine ready for a warm start.

      The UPS must be a bit big though. Perhaps a new venture for Tesla; really big UPSes.

      *For some value of smaller, the biggest one is over 100MW IIRC.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Bah!

        Some supercomputing sites (eg CSCS) don't have all their systems on UPS. The storage, head & submit nodes etc are on UPS, the other systems will die if the electricity supply gets "bored".

  8. JULYYT

    WHERE CAN I BUY IT?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ARM64 on Fujitsu enterprise systems?

    Looking under the hood of A4FX, it seems as it was built by the same shop that is responsible for the Fujitsu SPARC64 processors, this indicates a lot in common in their specifications. The K-Computer predecessor uses SPARC64-VIIIfx chips which helped to kick-off SPARC64-X processors on Fujitsu enterprise field. Two years ago, Reg told a story about the transition of SPARC64 to ARM in Fujitsu https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/07/fujitsu_arm_supercomputer_delay/, it was almost a year before Oracle finally killed Solaris and SPARC, and now, it's clear that A4FX side show is the last nail in the coffin of SPARC. The only question is what is the future of ARM64 on Fujitsu enterprise systems and whether ORACLE knows about it.

    Anonymous coward.

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