Feeds

Facebook's monster PHP engine ready to muscle into ARM server chips

It's not just Google mulling a shift to Intel's arch rival

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Facebook has taken further steps in its quest to run production workloads on ARM-powered servers.

The smoking gun for this dramatic shift was a post by Facebook on the Hip Hop Virtual Machine blog on Thursday that indicated the team is implementing ARM processor support in its translation engine, which turns Facebook's PHP code into 64-bit x86 instructions to execute on compute nodes. The HHVM is Facebook's fundamental unit for running its mammoth PHP-based social network.

"It's also been crucial in our efforts to get hhvm running on ARM processors by isolating and reducing the amount of architecture-specific code we need to reimplement," Facebook wrote. "Watch for an upcoming post devoted to our ARM port for more details!"

The post came on the same day that Bloomberg claimed Google was planning a shift to ARM-driven servers – a move that severely threatens chip king Intel, and would be equivalent to a massive influx of steroids into the burgeoning ARM ecosystem.

Another smoking gun for Facebook's shift is a job posting on the company's site for an ARM server software engineer.

"Facebook is seeking an experienced Software Engineer to help us port the world’s best PHP run-time on servers based on ARM processor," the company wrote. "We aim to evaluate further improving the efficiency of our web tier by porting HipHopVM to new server hardware platforms based on power-efficient ARM."

The social networking giant has also contributed a server design to its Open Compute Project scheme named "Group Hug" that allows for swappable CPUs, enabling it to efficiently flip Intel for ARM.

This is a sign of accelerated research by the company into ARM server development, given that it told your humble hack in September 2012 that it was actively evaluating ARM and Tilera chips in its data centers.

At the time Facebook was asked if it was planning a broad shift to non-x86 chips for production workloads. "It's not a question of if; it's a question of when," said Facebook system engineer Amir Michael.

Though Facebook is keen to evaluate ARM chips in production, admittedly this shift will take a long time to play out.

"We definitely feel it's going to take at least two to three years before the ARM ecosystem as well as ARM mature to a point where we can actually deploy it [in production]," Facebook technology strategist and former AMD chap Vijay Rao said at the Linaro Connect Conference at the end of October.

We'll delve further into why both Facebook and Google are keen on ARM in an upcoming analysis piece, and discuss how and why they'll deploy their software on non-x86 chips.

At the time of writing, Facebook had not responded to a request for more information on the PHP translator work. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
BOFH: WHERE did this 'fax-enabled' printer UPGRADE come from?
Don't worry about that cable, it's part of the config
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.