Arrow of time
Arrow of time physical ARM-powered cloud

Share Tweet Share is a French hosting company offering the usual range of services from simple web hosting for 1 € / mo … is a French hosting company offering the usual range of services from simple web hosting for 1 € / mo to dedicated servers, but with a twist I haven't seen before: their offer of dedicated servers is incredibly affordable! See this example: for 6 € / mo you can get yourself a dedicated VIA Nano x86 CPU powered server completely for your own usage. These CPU's performance is comparable to those of Intel Atom, so the prices are extremely attractive.

They are also testing a line of dedicated machines based on a quad-core ARM CPU which should be even more efficient, and which they have offered for completely free public testing on-demand in 15-minutes intervals! I have made use of this opportunity and ran some benchmarks on the provided "C1" test configuration. I have used the OpenSSL's "speed" benchmark, the bonnie++ disk benchmark and my own pretty much ad-hoc pysysbench.

The hardware is Marvell ARMADA XP and the ARM machines run Linux (of course). You can inspect their dmesg and cpuinfo data yourself. While I was testing the machine, I also tried to inspect and change the CPU's frequency, but it appears that the cpufreq driver is not available for this specific product (not that it matters directly for the machine's end-users since they are not paying for the electricity, but let's not be wasteful).

Since I've recently benchmarked a modern Atom Z3775 CPU, I'm including the single-core OpenSSL results from that benchmark for comparison here:

CPU Xeon E3-1230 v3 Xeon E5405 Atom Z3775 ARMADA XP
Norm. freq. 3.3 GHz 2 GHz 1.46 GHz 1.3 GHz
Turbo freq. 3.7 GHz 2 GHz 2.39 GHz 1.3 GHz
RAM freq. DDR3-1600 FBDIMM-800 DDR3-1066 DDR3-?
RC4 865 MB/s 213 MB/s 212 MB/s 107 MB/s
SHA256 275 MB/s 60 MB/s 43 MB/s 50 MB/s
AES-128-CBC 164 MB/s 106 MB/s 94 MB/s 54 MB/s
RSA2048 987 s, 31090 v 73 s, 2906 v 36 s, 1303 v 29 s, 935 v

The results are a bit underwhelming. This is a 32-bit ARM CPU with 2 GB of RAM, but it's operating on a fairly slow frequency of 1.3 GHz and the results reflect this. However, it seems like the CPU's efficiency per MHz is very close to that of the latest Intel Atoms. It looks like if the ARM could be doubled in frequency, it could even surpass the Atom.

Here are the 4-core OpenSSL results:

Benchmark ARMADA XP 4-core
RC4 427 MB/s
SHA256 201 MB/s
AES-128-CBC 219 MB/s
RSA2048 115 s, 3734 v

The test setup boots and uses a network block device (NBD, think iSCSI-lite) for storage, so the bonnie++ benchmark results are fairly low:

Version  1.97       ------Sequential Output------ --Sequential Input- --Random-
Concurrency   1     -Per Chr- --Block-- -Rewrite- -Per Chr- --Block-- --Seeks--
Machine        Size K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP K/sec %CP  /sec %CP
c1-10-1-10-51    4G   111  98 76118  89 35709  28   574  99 85026  22  1589  92
Latency             80619us     355ms     348ms   15835us   13792us   41985us
Version  1.97       ------Sequential Create------ --------Random Create--------
c1-10-1-10-51       -Create-- --Read--- -Delete-- -Create-- --Read--- -Delete--
              files  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP  /sec %CP
                 16  7813  80 +++++ +++  9626  62  7939  78 +++++ +++ 10896  71
Latency               413us    1794us    1959us     455us      63us     491us

The PySysBench results are here:

Running 8 benchmarks on 4 threads for 10 seconds each (NCPU=4)
Running benchmark: Warmup-Ignore ...    score: 197.0 average: 49.2
Running benchmark: Hash-SHA256 ...      score: 196.7 average: 49.2
Running benchmark: Hash-SHA512 ...      score: 94.1 average: 23.5
Running benchmark: Zlib-Compress ...    score: 13.8 average: 3.4
Running benchmark: Zlib-DeCompress ...  score: 120.7 average: 30.2
Running benchmark: Socket-OneSock ...   score: 71.9 average: 18.0
Running benchmark: Socket-Syscalls ...  score: 90.8 average: 22.7
Running benchmark: Socket-OnePipe ...   score: 77.9 average: 19.5
Total score: 665.8

You can compare these results with those of other systems here.

In conclusion - do you need this?

Running virtual private servers "in the cloud" has the benefit of hardware isolation which is important on at least two levels: firstly, the virtual machines can be moved around in case of base hardware failures, so that the client experiences very low downtimes. It is not so clear that large-scale physical hosting operations can be as agile. Secondly, if the storage is attached directly to provided physical systems (which is NOT the case with the test servers, but might be the case in other offers by, it looks like it's non-redundant and requires some special handling with regards to backing it up. OTOH, this might be a benefit if you specifically do not want to share storage with other users (for whatever reasons - security is probably not among them since the hardware is still under remote control). But I'm excited a service such as this exists.

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