AWS is pioneering the trend to make telco clouds more flexible
The digital transformation of telcos is slowly changing the nature of the cloud infrastructure, according to a new report by analyst TrendForce. The relatively clunky and monolithic x86 chip is being replaced by ARM processors, which are better suited to the instruments, such as artificial intelligence, needed to mobilise the traditional telco’s stiff silos of information and the high performance computing power which could jump start the old monoliths.
The need for new types of flexible data centre is slowly changing the way cloud infrastructure is built, according to the report. TrendForce Research (TRR) says the top cloud service providers have introduced ARM-based servers and it’s a trend the researchers expect to intensify, propelling ARM’s penetration rate in data centre servers to 22 per cent by 2025.
ARM’s Neoverse Platform plan will be one of the key drivers of penetration because it created a product line that’s ideal for ultra-large-scale data centres and edge computing infrastructures. But TrendForce believes that it will still be difficult for ARM-based servers to compete with x86-based servers before 2025. A lot could happen in three years however.
Imperious cloud market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) has influenced this trend, with ARM-based processing units now comprising 15 per cent of its total installed base of servers. By the end of 2022 the proportion will have changed to 20 per cent, according to TRR.
AWS will be an influencer for telco cloud providers that follow in its wake, says the research. It will force “other major cloud service providers to keep up by initiating their own projects at various foundries. If testing is successful, [AWS’s] projects are expected to start mass introduction in 2025,” according to the research.
A number of factors have made ARM attractive to the cloud builders, who have until now instinctively bought Intel and made the x86 chip the standard unit for data centre. ARM chips have three advantages for cloud builders, according TRR’s analysis.
Firstly, the modern diverse and rapidly changing workloads better characteristic of the cloud are better supported by ARM chips, which can create a more flexible and adaptive computing culture. Intel is relatively monolithic and its chips are becoming the IBM mainframe of the cloud. The key is in the scale of disaggregation of functions.
Secondly, ARM-based processors are more customisable, so they can be adapted for niche markets with a more flexible ecosystem. As telcos explore the creation of 5G services that people will actually pay for, they will need to experiment a lot and creativity brings variety.
Thirdly, the physical footprint of ARM-powered systems is relatively small which, according to the TRR analysis, is a far better building block for the nature of the infrastructure that modern telcos need. Their private clouds will use mini data centres, in which ARM-based processors will serve their purposes better
Recent geopolitical events including war in Ukraine and a wave of state sponsored hacking, have emphasised the need for national data sovereignty and cybersecurity, said the TrendForce Research. The development of very local and small ‘edge’ data centres has better long-term consequences if ARM-based processors are used as they consume less power and need less space, it concluded.