Pine/ARM mATX motherboard product?
#1
Wouldn't it be great if there were a component based market for custom PC building based around ARM?

Perhaps Pine64 could help this goal by releasing a n mATX motherboard with RAM slots, multiple SATA ports, etc

Some ARM based motherboards do exist but they all have integrated SOCs. I don't know how we can get to the point where there is a socket standard for the chips and you can just buy something to suit your budget and slot it into the motherboard.

I guess if the socket idea is too far, would be good to see Pine64 develop a multi-core power computing integrated motherboard that could work as a desktop replacement.

Would be interested to hear people's thoughts around this idea

Ashley
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#2
I would really love to know what Pine can do with a desktop or workstation configuration. However, if you're looking for something available right now, I would refer you to [url=http://www.socionext.com/en/products/assp/SynQuacer/Edge/]
Prices remain ridiculously high in the ARM market outside SBC and laptop configurations. For developers, financially, it makes more sense to buy an ARM laptop, cross-compile on an x86 workstation, hire an ARM VPS instance, or work on a stack of SBCs.

I think it will be a very long time before we see ARM socketed CPUs. I think we are much more likely to continue to see APUs and SOCs soldered to motherboards or released as compute modules for attachment (solder) inclusion in embedded devices. Until Apple completes their shift to an all-ARM company (expected around 2022; the shift has already begun) ARM and RISC-V will likely remain locked in their current niches.

ARM laptops are on the rise, though. Apple really is shifting to an all-ARM CPU base. So, maybe others will follow suit.

We certainly first have to wait for an ARM manufacturer to release a non-SOC, non-APU, general purpose CPU without the current limitations on RAM and IO bus access. It is likely that we will only ever see socketed ARM CPUs in the current configurations of Pine64 SoPine or PadI and Raspberry Pi Compute Module.

Personally, I think it much more likely that desktops will continue to be dominated by Intel and AMD and that both companies will more and more release APU systems with an increasing number of RISC-V cores and decreasing number of x86 cores. The AMD Zen2 architecture already contains several pipeline-specific RISC-V cores.
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#3
This popped up on Phoronix. I wonder if they will offer a workstation on a standardized ATX-type motherboard?

I wonder if Pine64 might be interested in doing this if Nuvia does not?

https://nuviainc.com/blog/performancedeliveredanewway

I wonder when/if this Phoenix (Orion?) SoC will enter the market.
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#4
Thanks for the response, that's really interesting. It really is astounding how power-efficient ARM based chips are.

I didn't realise people had starting making progress towards these kind of boards. I'm guessing you wouldn't be able to plug a graphics card into the PCI-e slots at this time, as presumably the drivers wouldn't be compiled for ARM?

I'd love to have a silent desktop that I could do my data analysis work on.

Ashley
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#5
(08-22-2020, 01:06 AM)ashleymills Wrote: Thanks for the response, that's really interesting. It really is astounding how power-efficient ARM based chips are.
There is huge potential in datacenters because of that. The always sell you their services as "running on green energy" but what they don't say how power guzzling typical servers are. Its really mindboggling. People blame airlines for climate change, but when looking at the CO2 footprint and overall energy use, then datacenters are actually much worse globally.

(08-22-2020, 01:06 AM)ashleymills Wrote: I didn't realise people had starting making progress towards these kind of boards. I'm guessing you wouldn't be able to plug a graphics card into the PCI-e slots at this time, as presumably the drivers wouldn't be compiled for ARM?
At least AMD GPUs have open source drivers via the Linux Kernel/Mesa. The upcoming Intel stand alone GPUs also. Hence some potential hardware issues aside, both should run on ARM boards running Linux. For Nvidia cards there is the open-source Nouveau driver, but it isn't working very well due to the way Nvidia locks down their GPUs.

Edit: as for the actual topic. These custom ARM server SOCs are sadly prohibitively expensive. As nice as it would be to get your hands as a "normal" consumer on these, I think approaches like the Clusterboard using multiple consumer grade cheap SOCs are more realistic for PINE64.
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#6
(08-22-2020, 02:05 AM)poVoq Wrote: Edit: as for the actual topic. These custom ARM server SOCs are sadly prohibitively expensive. As nice as it would be to get your hands as a "normal" consumer on these, I think approaches like the Clusterboard using multiple consumer grade cheap SOCs are more realistic for PINE64.

We're still in a space where people are designing for very specific specifications (with little or no competition, depending on said specs) or building fairly early generations of a more standardized It workload. The more ARM server vendors say "we can run the same workload as Intel/AMD/Power for half the price" and provably show compatibility (this should absolutely be doable now for lots of heavily-ported mature OSS server applications, but a bit harder for closed-source commercial products), show great uptime specs, and scalability, the market will grow toward them over time, especially large hosting companies and if the I/O is strong, companies who work in big data) - but I still think the killer app for ARM, the thing that will make a big dent now, is scalability. Put out a line of ARM CPUs that can scale from IoT to massively parallel computing, with similar/same base code and people will want to move to your platform. The world's largest supercomputer is now running on Fujitsu's A64FX CPUs - that's right, ARM! It is absolutely doable and I am convinced there is a middle ground where modular design, open hardware specs and demand will bring us some pretty nifty consumer and small business machines. I'd say it's only a matter of time before smaller chipmakers start building more cores and faster I/O backends into these devices. Fujitsu is looking to sell smaller, less expensive machines with their A64FX chips, though I'd happily pay several hundred bucks one day if PINE can throw together something simple but powerful with similar features to the current SBCs, just with notably more power to them.
------
it doesn't get happy
it doesn't get sad
it just runs programs
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#7
I was just reading about the new ThunderX3 -- "coming soon" from Marvell. (up to) 396 threads is appealing. :-)

I was also just reading about Alibaba's new RISC-V SoC. Also not available, yet, but they're claiming performance on par with last year's amd64 chips at a fraction of the power. That will get a lot of attention. I don't think Amazon's ARM server chip can claim that. Not based on the Phoronix tests of a few months ago, anyway.

Wasn't there something in the Pine64 news channel about an interest in doing RISC-V SBCs when they become available? I know Si-FIVE has them available, though not in any real numbers, I guess; and soon Alibaba.

It's a good time to be interested in compute chips.
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#8
Do we know why the current industry isn't manufacturing socketed ARM CPUs and motherboards, and/or why current ARM desktop machines are prohibitively expensive? A good deal of the x86 space is socketed and modular while ARM consists almost solely of soldered SoCs and parts not reusable elsewhere. Why would this be?
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#9
(08-25-2020, 04:08 PM)branon Wrote: Do we know why the current industry isn't manufacturing socketed ARM CPUs and motherboards, and/or why current ARM desktop machines are prohibitively expensive? A good deal of the x86 space is socketed and modular while ARM consists almost solely of soldered SoCs and parts not reusable elsewhere. Why would this be?

Presumably it's good ol' supply and demand.

Chips have to be made in large quantities (if you want them to be inexpensive).  The current large-volume markets are:
  • desktop PCs and laptops -- mostly x86, with lots of customers who need configurability, hence sockets and so on (though I think laptops all use soldered CPUs these days (?))
  • phones, tablets -- almost entirely ARM, but also entirely soldered SoC (it's hard to fit a socketed CPU in a phone)
  • set-top boxes -- also ARM SoCs (the RasPi started out with a set-top box SoC, IIRC)
  • servers -- x86, but moving toward ARM
ARM-based desktop motherboards are a niche thing -- the folks reading this forum would probably like to buy them, but that's a tiny volume compared to anything in that list.

I think the best hope for socketed ARM motherboards will be the server space.  We just need to hope those will trickle down to smaller/cheaper systems.
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