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Packet.net strong-ARMs cloud for $0.005 per core per hour

96-core servers packing 2 Cavium ThunderX CPUs yours for the crunching

Cavium ThunderX board

Packet.net, a bare-metal cloud aimed at developers, has flicked the switch on cloud-running servers powered by a pair of Cavium's 48-core ARMv8-A ThunderX processors.

CEO Zachary Smith told The Register that the company's cooked up the cloud for a few reasons. Price is one: Packet will offer ARM cores at a tenth of the price it charges for Intel cores, at US$0.50 per hour per server, or $0.005 per core per hour. Smith thinks that will be a head-turner by itself.

He also thinks developers will appreciate the chance to try native Docker on many-cored machines and appreciate the opportunity an ARM-powered cloud represents as they pursue 100 per cent portable software. He believes open source folk will see the arrival of an ARM-powered cloud as incentive to accelerate cross-platform versions of their pet projects.

Even ARM will benefit, he says, because having a working cloud on the market will give both it and licensees more reason to innovate for the data centre.

ARM's recent purchaser, SoftBank, recently tipped some money into Packet.net, but Smith swears he's had a long-term ambition to offer an ARM-powered cloud, if only because he enjoys having multiple ARM server CPU vendors willing to do deals. That kind of competition is not currently possible in the x86 world, at least until AMD returns to servers in 2017.

Smith also feels that ARM clouds are inevitable, probably thanks to telcos looking to offer cores to rent at the edge of their networks. The CEO feels that telcos will build edge clouds because they're sick of over-the-top players having all the fun and profits: this time telcos want to build a revenue-generating platform beyond mere carriage.

For now, Packet's ARM cloud offers 64-bit Ubuntu 16.04, but promises that CoreOS, FreeBSD and CentOS are in the pipeline. Four different ARM server configurations are also in the works.

The cloud will have an API, a portal, and will also be accessible from DevOps favourites likes Terraform and Ansible. Four of the company's bit barns – in Parsippany New Jersey, Sunnyvale California, Amsterdam and Tokyo – will offer the service as of Tuesday.

"We want to offer a super-cheap, 'you would be stupid not to try it' offering," Smith told The Register. "If we can get the open source ecosystem rebooted, I think Intel's grip on the data centre will be shattered." ®

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