Chinese e-commerce and cloud giant Alibaba announced it has joined the Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG), a group of over 200 engineers working on consolidating and optimising open source software for the ARM architecture.
Linaro runs a number of different ARM-based initiatives aimed at cultivating software standards for ARM chips for networking, mobile platforms, servers and the connected home. It mainly targets upstream development but also aims to coordinate work that helps reduce “costly low level fragmentation.”
More recently the organisation launched a working group focused specifically on developing software standards for ARMv8-A 64-bit silicon, architecture a number of server vendors and ODMs have started adopting in their portfolios in a bid to test the ARM-based cloud server market.
Alibaba, which operates six cloud datacentres – mostly in China – and recently expanded to the US, said it will collaborate with a range of companies within LEG to optimise the ARMv8-A software platforms.
“Alibaba Group’s infrastructure carries the world’s largest e-commerce ecosystem, in addition to China’s leading cloud services,” said Shuanlin Liu, chief architect of Alibaba Infrastructure Service.
“We need the best technical solutions as we step into the DT (data technology) era. Hence, we’re investing heavily in the innovation of a wide range of technologies, including the ARM architecture. We will continue to work closely with partners to accelerate the development and growth of the ecosystem,” Liu said.
Alibaba said the move may help it deliver cloud services that have been workload-optimised right down to the chip, and help lower the TCO; lower energy usage and higher density are two leading characteristics driving interest in ARM for cloud datacentres. But due in part to x86′s dominance in the datacentre there is a conspicuous lack of ARM-based software standards and workloads, which is what LEG
“As one of the world’s largest cloud operators, Alibaba is continually pushing technology boundaries to efficiently deploy new services at a massive scale,” said Lakshmi Mandyam, director, server systems and ecosystems, ARM. “Their collaboration with the ARM ecosystem will accelerate and expand open source software choices for companies wishing to deploy ARMv8-A based servers. We welcome Alibaba’s participation in Linaro and the new dimension it will bring to an already vibrant community.”
The past couple of years have seen a number of large cloud service providers flirt with the prospect of switching to ARM architecture within their datacentres, most notably Amazon. The latest move signals Alibaba is interested in moving in that direction, or at least signal to vendors it’s willing to do so, but it may be a while before we see the cloud giant roll out the ARM-based servers within its datacentres.