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What hardware/software do you think is running Apples' new server farm

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm curious what the great minds here think is running the new Apple farm down there in NC?
I'm hoping that it's A4 chips bunched on blades connected by Light Peak, running a super-duper version of OSX Server, but as usual I really haven't a clue.
post #2 of 23
Every single XServe that Apple never sold.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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post #3 of 23
Custom built hardware and custom OS.
JLL

95% percent of the boat is owned by Microsoft, but the 5% Apple controls happens to be the rudder!
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JLL

95% percent of the boat is owned by Microsoft, but the 5% Apple controls happens to be the rudder!
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post #4 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by squareback View Post

I'm curious what the great minds here think is running the new Apple farm down there in NC?
I'm hoping that it's A4 chips bunched on blades connected by Light Peak, running a super-duper version of OSX Server, but as usual I really haven't a clue.

Given how slow the iTunes store runs generally, I'd say it's all being run from Steve's iPhone. He just sits on a throne holding it while the employees surround him and worship. The just need a big data centre to fit all the worshippers in.

I actually think the idea of them using ARM chips in the server space is pretty sound:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08...m_server_chip/
http://www.semiaccurate.com/2010/08/...p-arm-servers/

In the server and mobile space, performance-per-watt is very important. This could obviously be linked with the discontinuation of the XServe. Apple sees this as important to marketing:

http://www.apple.com/xserve/performance.html

Measuring in ssj_ops/watt (super-steve-jobs operations per watt). If they can get their PA Semi engineers to design a server chip with enough cores that it can handle similar loads to a Xeon while consuming a fraction of the power and generating far less heat, that's a huge selling point. I doubt they'd be able to cool them passively but say they build a 16-32 1GHz core chip that consumes 250mW per core is < 10 W. Single thread performance would probably suck so they'd have to aim for 2GHz+ but multi-threaded performance would be fine.
post #5 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLL View Post

Custom built hardware and custom OS.

The software most likely to be custom developed is the application suite. The hardware? My guess is that is chosen for reliability and cost of ownership. There is no need for an application-specific OS. If Apple had a better OS in the wings, then it would have deployed it years ago.
post #6 of 23
i think it is definetly not xserves (they cheated us by dropping xserves), it should be a trade off between cycle computer and power, similar to big google farms. hope someone could give us a true light about this.

best
post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by squareback View Post

I'm curious what the great minds here think is running the new Apple farm down there in NC?

To a certain extent that depends upon exactly what they are doing with that farm!

My guess is either SUN or IBM server hardware with support from one of the big networking hardware companies.
Quote:
I'm hoping that it's A4 chips bunched on blades connected by Light Peak, running a super-duper version of OSX Server, but as usual I really haven't a clue.

Unless we are in the loop nobody has a clue.

As to the A4. I'd have to say now way as the integer performamce of those processors is pretty sucky and likely would not handle the server loads well. The other issue is that the data center was likely thought of well before the A4 was available.

Now note that ARM based servers are not a bad idea at all, there is actually a lot of interest in such in the industry. The proble is Apples A4 is derived from ARMs A8 architecture which is single core. To really do ARM justice you would need a lot of cores per die. That implies at the very least ARM A9 and a custom engineered chip. Apple isn't about to design a chip for only server duty. Even if Apple built a dual core A9 derived chip for iPad they would still not have enough cores. The problem for a massive data center like this is that you still need significant computational density to make good use of that space.

So what I'm saying in effect is that there isn't an ARM solution suitable for this datacenter. That doesn't mean ARM based devices can't do server hardware today just that I don't know of a shipping implementation for this data center. The fact is ARM is embedded in a lot of networking hardware already, just not high oerformance platforms.

Speaking of which it is about time for Apple to introduce a real ARM based home server. Something that sips power while idle yet is snappy enough to cover most home server needs.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

The software most likely to be custom developed is the application suite. The hardware? My guess is that is chosen for reliability and cost of ownership. There is no need for an application-specific OS. If Apple had a better OS in the wings, then it would have deployed it years ago.

Amazon runs on hardware custom built by Foxconn and it wouldn't be unlikely for Apple to do the same.

What I meant by custom OS is some kind of Linux/Unix optimized for the task.
JLL

95% percent of the boat is owned by Microsoft, but the 5% Apple controls happens to be the rudder!
Reply
JLL

95% percent of the boat is owned by Microsoft, but the 5% Apple controls happens to be the rudder!
Reply
post #9 of 23
I've been noticing some significant iTunes slow ups my self. I'm wondering what the cause is.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Given how slow the iTunes store runs generally, I'd say it's all being run from Steve's iPhone. He just sits on a throne holding it while the employees surround him and worship. The just need a big data centre to fit all the worshippers in.

Steve isn't the only one using his iPhone while seated at the throne.
Quote:
I actually think the idea of them using ARM chips in the server space is pretty sound:

Actually ARM hardware is embedded in a lot of networking hardware so a jump to doing actual server work loads should be easy.
Quote:

In the server and mobile space, performance-per-watt is very important. This could obviously be linked with the discontinuation of the XServe. Apple sees this as important to marketing:

I doubt there is a link. Performance per watt is very important but you need a state of the art ARM core to get to acceptable performance levels. Then comes the issue of a suitable implementation. Most ARM based CPUs are focused on tasks other than server duty. Right now it is a chicken or the egg situation. People would likely implement a CPU if there was demand, there would be demand if there was an implementation. So we wait on a mystery company to deliver the hardware.
Quote:


Measuring in ssj_ops/watt (super-steve-jobs operations per watt). If they can get their PA Semi engineers to design a server chip with enough cores that it can handle similar loads to a Xeon while consuming a fraction of the power and generating far less heat, that's a huge selling point.

It certainly would be. I just don't think Apple will go after the market.
Quote:
I doubt they'd be able to cool them passively but say they build a 16-32 1GHz core chip that consumes 250mW per core is < 10 W. Single thread performance would probably suck so they'd have to aim for 2GHz+ but multi-threaded performance would be fine.

Single thread performance will suck with anything ARM based. A9 will help a lot but lets no kid ourselves.

What would be neat is a 1U ARM server where the boards are on edge. One should be able to line up 32 of them across the front of the cabinet. If each SoC has 2 cores that is 64 cores to a box. Or 128 for 4 core chips. Run each board at say ten watts and you should see very good performance at very low power. Make each board six inches long and you should be able to put RAM and a solid state disk on the board. So you end up with a complete server on a board that is one and a half inches high by six inches long. Very doable with ARM and cell phone technology. For good measure you could integrate an OpenCL compatible GPU for SIMD and other parallel needs.

This is basically an iPhone Type SoC retasked with I/O suitable for servers. The only difference here is that you would need an ethernet port built in, probably PCI-E to a real SSD controller and some DMA hardware. Honestly if I had the money I 'd start my own company it just seems like a no brainer and with the right generation ARM chip would give very good performance. Performance suitable for a number of server tasks.

As you can see this has caused me to run on but the concept is exciting.


Dave
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks Dave and Marvin for your thoughts.

And apologies I should have used ARM instead of A4 in my query.
post #11 of 23
Which in a way sucks but Apple can't reveal the play book until after the game is won. It would be nice to know who got their systems designed in to the farm. Oh by the way I do believe they are buying hardware from somebody else as their is no reason to risk building your own.

As to ARM based servers being in there, I simply don't know of a suitable product on the market with a track record. In any event I'm certain Apple will be looking at the power profile of any system they install. The cost to run the equipment is a very important aspect of any datacenter plan.
Quote:
Originally Posted by squareback View Post

Thanks Dave and Marvin for your thoughts.

And apologies I should have used ARM instead of A4 in my query.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Which in a way sucks but Apple can't reveal the play book until after the game is won. It would be nice to know who got their systems designed in to the farm. Oh by the way I do believe they are buying hardware from somebody else as their is no reason to risk building your own.

...

There is no risk. Apple hardware is among the most reliable on the market. Apple's operating system is UNIX, the premier OS for server applications. We have no evidence that Apple is not using its own hardware and software. What we have here is a discussion in which some of us speculate that it is possible that Apple is not using its own hardware and software. If not, then why not.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

There is no risk. Apple hardware is among the most reliable on the market.

There is huge risk, we are talking hardware that is vastly different than anything Apple makes. You don't build a half a million square feet box to hold XServes.
Quote:
Apple's operating system is UNIX, the premier OS for server applications.

Which almost nobody uses for server workloads.
Quote:
We have no evidence that Apple is not using its own hardware and software.

I'd be extremely surprised to find out that they are using their own hardware , mainly because Apple has nothing suitable for the application. If you are talking software then yes some of the apps will be their own.
Quote:
What we have here is a discussion in which some of us speculate that it is possible that Apple is not using its own hardware and software. If not, then why not.

That has already been covered by many here but a big factor is risk. There is far less risk in building such a facility with hardware known to work. Beyound that Apple has NEVER built hardware suitable for such an installation.

In a nut shell the vast majority of the hardware in the building will be non Apple hardware. So really the discussion is about who won the contracts. There is likely several vendors involved.
post #14 of 23
Linux.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Linux.

NeXTSTEP. Apple has been developing it simultaneously with OS X "just in case".

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
Reply

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
Reply
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Linux.

Bingo. There's no telling what hardware they're using, but it doesn't matter.
post #17 of 23
It's worth noting that google is built on commodity pc hardware running linux, with some crazy fast networking gluing it together. When they need to scale, they buy more commodity PC hardware.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1337_5L4Xx0R View Post

It's worth noting that google is built on commodity pc hardware running linux, with some crazy fast networking gluing it together. When they need to scale, they buy more commodity PC hardware.

Google goes even farther than other companies, building its servers and the Linux OS that runs on them in house.

Here's an article about Google's servers. As you can see, it's pretty barebones- everything unnecessary is discarded, including the case. They buy motherboards, hard drives, and other parts in lots of tens of thousands to build these.

You can imagine that Google's server OS is similar.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

NeXTSTEP. Apple has been developing it simultaneously with OS X "just in case".

NeXTSTEP is OS X.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
post #20 of 23
However it has been well known for years that google has been desgining its own hardware. This is not a surprise, I'd be very surprised though to find out that Apple is designing its own hardware for its farm.
Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

Google goes even farther than other companies, building its servers and the Linux OS that runs on them in house.

I must say I like the computer mounted on a piece of tin approach. There is something to be said for beauty taking second place to utility. Maybe that was XServes problem, to pretty to use.

As to Linux it is no surprise that there is customization there, almost every Linux server has some customization. When you are Googles size the little extra effort to do an entire custom distro isn't that great.
Quote:
Here's an article about Google's servers. As you can see, it's pretty barebones- everything unnecessary is discarded, including the case.

Yep a very minimal solution if I've ever seen one. It highlights one thing though, the management of a lot of corporate data centers have been bamboozalled by the rack mount computer manufactures. All that fancy rack hardware and expensive support equipment replaced with tin, velcro and bolted on hardware. Plus no service contracts.
Quote:
They buy motherboards, hard drives, and other parts in lots of tens of thousands to build these.

Notably custom designed hardware.
Quote:

You can imagine that Google's server OS is similar.

What I have problems with is Apple actually going this route. Serving up music or videos will be different than doing search. Plus Apple doesn't have Googles expertise built over time. It would be interesting though to find out that Google is involved in this data center as a supplier. Maybe Apple will come clean in the future and give the world a peak. HaHaHA.
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

... Plus Apple doesn't have Googles expertise built over time. ...

Huh? Expertise in what? Whether you date Google's 1996 origins as a Stanford University class project or its 1998 origins as a company, Apple has at least 20 years on Google. As for e-commerce, Apple was doing it before Google was even thought of. NeXT--now a part of Apple--introduced WebObjects in 1995, a year before Google was even conceived. The takeaway message is that the Apple we know today has expertise coming from both Apple and NeXT both in its own operations and in the operations of its customers and clients dating back years before Google was conceived.
post #22 of 23
The software Apple acquired 15 years ago (now discontinued) has little bearing on their strengths today. Technology gets stale, fast.
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1337_5L4Xx0R View Post

The software Apple acquired 15 years ago (now discontinued) has little bearing on their strengths today. Technology gets stale, fast.

If you assume that Apple learned nothing from WebObjects, then you would be correct. If, as I, you assume that Apple learned at lot, then a very different conclusion is reached. This Mac buyer makes almost all of his personal purchases directly from Apple online. I purchased online in 1996. I purchase online now. Even when buying for my firm, I create my quotes from Apple online which go directly to my purchasing office. But to really see what Apple has learned, go to your nearest Apple Store. The Apple Store's POS system is mind-blowing. No one else has it--certainly not Google.
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