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

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Seagate brings out 6TB HDD, did not need NO STEENKIN' SHINGLES
Or helium filling either, according to reports
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.