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May 27, 2021updated 07 Dec 2021 9:59am

Oracle move confirms Arm-based cloud servers as emerging battleground

By GlobalData Technology

The launch of Arm-based instances on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) will help Oracle extend its reach to new market segments, including the Arm app developer community. Longer-term, however, Arm-based servers are likely to play a much greater role as a destination for cloud workloads, coexisting in cloud data centers with x86 alternatives. Oracle should expect to face increased competition from key rivals, including Microsoft Azure, Alibaba, and Google, as they add Arm-based cloud services to their existing portfolios.

Oracle’s new OCI Ampere A1 Compute platform is its first Arm-based compute offering. The platform, which based on Ampere Computing’s Altra CPU design, enables Oracle customers to deploy Arm-optimized applications on containers, bare metal servers, and virtual machines (VMs) in the Oracle public cloud, or within their own data centers in Dedicated Cloud@Customer Regions.

The key benefits of this new offering include increased flexibility for cloud customers, competitive pricing, and higher levels of performance. From a flexibility perspective, A1 customers are able to reserve VM instances ranging from 1 to 80 cores with 1GB to 64GB of memory per core, or as a bare-metal service with 160 cores and 1TB of memory. Meanwhile, the $0.01 per core per hour pricing is one of the lowest in the industry and is approximately 30% lower than AWS Graviton2-based instances, which also leverage Arm designs.

Higher performance compared with x86 processors results from Ampere’s use of a single threaded core, along with sustained 3.0Ghz maximum frequency. This means that performance-per-core scales well as the core count increases, helping ensure customers get exactly what they pay for. The isolation of individual cores from one another also helps ensure predictable performance.

Oracle is positioning OCI Ampere A1 Compute as a compute platform for a breadth of workloads, from general-purpose compute such as web servers, application servers and containers, to more demanding, compute-intensive ones, including scientific applications, AI/ML inferencing, media transcoding, and running high performance computing (HPC) stacks.

Strong Arm can help Oracle growth

This applicability to a breadth of workloads will help Oracle as it attempts to grow market share among Arm app developers and extend the reach of OCI to new market segments. Oracle is also promoting three distinct offerings to help get developers started on OCI. These include Oracle Cloud Free Tier, which provides developers with US$300 of free credits for 30 days. To further encourage the use of its new Arm-based instances, Oracle will collaborate with technology and open source partners, and with organizations such as the Continuous Delivery Foundation, an open source, vendor-neutral community for sustaining the fastest growing CI/CD open source projects.

Notwithstanding AWS’s Graviton2 service offering, Oracle remains one of first major international cloud providers to add Arm-based instances to its portfolio. In the short term, this could give Oracle a competitive advantage over its rivals, especially if it works with partner organizations to target new developer communities. In the longer term however, Oracle will face increased competition as the market sees the launch of new Arm-based cloud service offerings. China’s Alibaba Cloud and Tencent are both investing in Arm-based hardware for their cloud services,

while Microsoft is reportedly building its own ARM-based processors for Azure servers. Arm-based instances therefore look set to become a new competitive battleground in the fight for cloud workloads.