A couple of year’s back I managed to compile and run FreeBSD/Apache/BIND on an ARM-based Raspberry Pi. It was fun, but I have to admit it’s been left on the shelf ever since. A solution waiting for a problem.
Since then the ARM has been a specific target for FreeBSD 11. Do you really need FreeBSD on your smartphone? However much I like BSD, the Linux-based Android does well enough. But wait…
ARM has a 64-bit turbo-nutter-bastard version waiting in the wings, for server use. The ARMv8 is scalable to at least 48 cores per socket and intended to go like the clappers in SMP applications. FreeBSD has long been considered to have the edge over the Linux kernel when it comes to SMP. This is getting interesting.
A team including Semihalf has now got FreeBSD 11 stable running on a twin-CPU monster using the Cavium ThunderX ARM chips, each of which has 48-cores. For details see their blog. With a lot of serious web applications running FreeBSD in preference to the freewheeling Linux, there could be a very ready market for this kind of box.
I would be in danger of being extremely jealous, as my budget for playing with ARM chips doesn’t stretch much past the Raspberry Pi. However, in the 1980’s Atari Research gave me an ATW transputer box with 128 discrete CPUs to help implement an OS on, so I’m still 32-cores ahead. There wasn’t much of a market for the ATW back then, but Cavium could be on to a winner with the approach nearly thirty years later.
Does anyone know what happened to the big transputer box prototype that was knocking around the Cambridge office? When the ATW/Abaq was released it was greatly scaled down with no more than 13 transputers, and lacked the glass case with all the flashing lights.