In this rapidly growing Internet of Things environment, many things that we do every day, such as checking email accounts, posting onto social media sites, browsing web pages, and searching web indexes or portals—are not compute-intensive. They do however; have high I/O throughput and memory footprint requirements. IT architects working at this scale typically use cluster techniques to run massively parallel workloads that distribute data across many nodes, often in cloud environments.

ARM has been leading that new trend of low-power, high-density and parallel computing with hyper-scale micro-servers addressing the needs of such growing markets. ARM Cortex v8A is the 64 bits SoC architecture that majority of hardware server vendors have been utilizing in building their fabric of hyper-scale micro-servers. The challenge here is that  ARM processors have been built into large varieties and forms of micro-servers with variable aspects of system functionality . As a result of such variability in both CPU and system features; software system development has been costly especially as we take into consideration product development, quality and deployment requirements.

ARM Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specifications are part of ARM’s strategy to address such talked about variability. SBSA specifies hardware system architecture that server system software, such as operating systems, hypervisors and firmware can rely on. Hence, addressing CPU features and key aspects of system architecture. The primary goal here is to ensure enough standard system architecture to enable a suitably built single OS image to run on all hardware compliant to the specification. A driver-based model for advanced platform capabilities is still possible but beyond the scope of SBSA. In short, with SBSA, the software ecosystem will gain the following key capabilities:

  • Single OS image for all ARMv8-A based servers.
  • Application developers can target a single OS image for All ARMv8-A servers
  • OS / Firmware vendors have well defined platform target.

Another key benefit of SBSA is that it eliminates the need for software emulation of key system functionality critical to software performance like system boot, interrupts, timers, I/O, etc.

Standardization is a great tool for innovation providing consistent firmware and OS infrastructure for cross-platform portability. Hence allowing IT to choose from within a variety of ARM-based offerings that fit specific applications workloads and IT budget.

Citrix has been a member of the Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG) and has been engaged in a collaborative effort across ARM server and operating system vendors to reach that level of standardization of ARM v8A 64 bits server platforms. Such collaboration effort involved system designers, architects and technologist from AMD, Applied Micro, Broadcom, Canonical, Cavium, Citrix, Dell, HP, Linaro, Microsoft, Red Hat, SUSE and Texas Instruments

The SBSA is a foundational specification that will evolve over time; encompassing additional capabilities such as live migration of virtual machines between different ARMv8­A architecture based systems. Firmware, OS and virtualization companies like Citrix will use SBSA to target the logical progression of platforms to accelerate development and ensure cross platform portability.

Citrix has ported the Xen Project Hypervisor to the ARMv8A 64 bit architecture and has been actively engaging with ARM server ecosystem vendors for testing and verification of the Xen port on ARM. Citrix Apache CloudPlatform come with out of the box support for bare-metal provisioning of ARM micro-servers. Citrix has been engaged in various levels of testing and integration efforts with ARM micro-server vendors to ensure that our customers will have a complete stack of solutions for managing and orchestrating work loads for both physicalized and virtualized ARM servers based data centers and clouds.

For more information about SBSA, check the following link from available on ARM website:

About the Author:

Ahmed Sallam is a Citrix cross-functional VP and CTO leading technology and solutions strategy in new emerging era of smart devices, IoT, IoE, system virtualization, server physicalization and security. His focus is on new emerging end-to-end solutions ranging from devices to networks to clouds across Citrix lines of products. Ahmed drives Intellectual Property growth opportunities and monetization strategy fro Citrix as well. He works closely with software and hardware ecosystem partners integrating into Citrix open platforms. He served as CTO and VP of Product Strategy for Client Virtualization. Ahmed is a renowned expert across the industry well known for pioneering new models in computer system virtualization-based security and management delivering flexible, well-managed and secure computer experience with high safety assurances. Ahmed holds 25 issued patents and has more than 40 published and pending patent applications.

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