Will ARM Servers Help HP’s Bottom Line?

October 17, 2014 by admin  
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The maker of expensive printer ink HP expects new lower-power servers made with technology from ARM Holdings to make inroads in niche data centres over the next year. If vice president of server engineering Tom Bradicich is right, then it could give Intel a good kicking in its bottom line.

Bradicich said that penetration is low at the moment because the ARM chip was starting from nothing but the take-up is pretty encouraging. HP this week launched new servers made with chips designed by Applied Micro Circuits with intellectual property licensed from ARM. ARM’s supporters, which now include HP say some data centres can be made more cost effective and energy efficient by using them instead of Intel’s server chips.

Bradicich said HP’s new 64-bit ARM-based servers were ideal for handling specialized data-centre workloads like search and scientific analysis. Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Utah plan to use HP’s new servers for scientific analysis and high-performance computing, while PayPal plans to use another version of the servers.

With AMD and other chipmakers working on their own ARM server chips, variety is a key factor for customers that have long depended on Intel, Bradicich said.

Intel has launched its own line of “Atom” low-power server chips to counter the ARM threat. HP offers servers made with Atom chips but said they are not selling that well.

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RedHat Ups Game With Fedora 21

October 10, 2014 by admin  
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RedHat has announced the Fedora 21 Alpha release for Fedora developers and any brave users that want to help test it.

Fedora is the leading edge – some might say bleeding edge – distribution of Linux that is sponsored by Red Hat. That’s where Red Hat and other developers do new development work that eventually appears in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and other Red Hat based Linux distributions, including Centos, Scientific Linux and Mageia, among others. Therefore, what Fedora does might also appear elsewhere eventually.

The Fedora project said the release of Fedora 21 Alpha is meant for testing in order to help it identify and resolve bugs, adding, “Fedora prides itself on bringing cutting-edge technologies to users of open source software around the world, and this release continues that tradition.”

Specifically, Fedora 21 will produce three software products, all built on the same Fedora 21 base, and these will each be a subset of the entire release.

Fedora 21 Cloud will include images for use in private cloud environments like Openstack, as well as AMIs for use on Amazon, and a new image streamlined for running Docker containers called Fedora Atomic Host.

Fedora 21 Server will offer data centre users “a common base platform that is meant to run featured application stacks” for use as a web server, file server, database server, or as a base for offering infrastructure as a service, including advanced server management features.

Fedora 21 Workstation will be “a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and PC hardware” for use by developers and other desktop users, and will feature the latest Gnome 3.14 desktop environment.

Those interested in testing the Fedora 21 Alpha release can visit the Fedora project website.

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MediaTek Goes IoT

October 6, 2014 by admin  
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SoC designer MediaTek has launched a new push to develop technologies used in wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Dubbed MediaTek Labs, the new organisation will offer tools for developers such as software and hardware development kits (SDKs and HDKs), but it will also offer other forms of support, i.e. tech support and marketing.

MediaTek LinkIt dev platform

The MediaTek LinkIt platform promises to offer a full-service approach for developers keen to enter the space. It allows developers familiar with MediaTek’s Arduino implementation to quickly migrate to the new platform

For the time being the platform is limited to the MediaTek Aster MT2502A processor. The company says it is the world’s smallest commercially available SoC. The chip can work with MediaTek’s WiFi and GPS companion chipsets.

The company is calling on developers to join the MediaTek Labs initiative and in case you are interested you can check out the details on the new MediaTek Labs website.

MediaTek Aster spec

Now for some juicy hardware. The Aster MT2502A is an ARM7 EJ-S part clocked at 260MHz. The dev board features 4MB of RAM and 16MB of flash. GPS and WiFi capability can be added using the MT3332 and MT5931 chips. The platform supports microSD, Bluetooth (including BLE), along with GSM and GPRS communications.

The Aster is clearly not an SoC for feature packed wearables with high resolution screens, but it could be used in more down to earth applications such as fitness trackers.

MediaTek says it will offer three platforms based on two wearable solutions. The One Application Use (OAU) platform is for fitness trackers and simple Bluetooth devices. The Simple Application Platform (SAU) is intended for smart watches, wristbands and more elaborate fitness trackers.

SAU is the focus segment for the Aster chipset and it should offer 5 to 7 days of battery life.

MediaTek Rich Application Platform

The Rich Application Platform (RAU) is for Android Wear and it will offer a lot more functionality out of the box, including camera support, 3D graphics, as well as Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS in the same package.

This platform sounds a bit more interesting, but details are sketchy. For some reason many media outlets erroneously described the first Aster chip as MediaTek’s only smartwatch chip, but it is clearly not intended for the Rich Application Platform.

We have yet to see what sort of silicon MediaTek can conjure up for high-end wearables, but this is what it has in mind. The platform is designed for high-end smartwatches and glasses. It will feature multicore processors clocked at 1GHz or more. The platform also includes Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, GPS, WiFi, sensors and a proper TFT screen. Battery life is described as short, two to three days, which sounds a bit better than what the current generation of smartwatches can deliver.

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nVidia Finally Goes 20nm

October 3, 2014 by admin  
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For much of the year we were under the impression that the second generation Maxwell will end up as a 20nm chip.

First-generation Maxwell ended up being branded as Geforce GTX 750 and GTX 750 TI and the second generation Maxwell launched a few days ago as the GTX 980 and Geforce GTX 970, with both cards based on the 28nm GM204 GPU.

This is actually quite good news as it turns out that Nvidia managed to optimize power and performance of the chip and make it one of the most efficient chips manufactured in 28nm.

Nvidia 20nm chips coming in 2015

Still, people keep asking about the transition to 20nm and it turns out that the first 20nm chip from Nvidia in 20nm will be a mobile SoC.

The first Nvidia 20nm chip will be a mobile part, most likely Erista a successor of Parker (Tegra K1).

Our sources didn’t mention the exact codename, but it turns out that Nvidia wants to launch a mobile chip first and then it plans to expand into 20nm with graphics.

Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics to report.

AMD 20nm SoC in 2015

AMD is doing the same thing as its first 20nm chip, codenamed Nolan, is an entry level APU targeting tablet and detachable markets.

There is a strong possibility that Apple and Qualcomm simply bought a lot of 20nm capacity for their mobile modem chips and what was left was simply too expensive to make economic sense for big GPUs.
20nm will drive the voltage down while it will allow higher clocks, more transistors per square millimeter and it will overall enable better chips.

Just remember Nvidia world’s first quad-core Tegra 3 in 40nm was rather hot and making a quad core in 28nm enabled higher performance and significantly better battery life. The same was true of other mobile chips of the era.

We expect similar leap from going down to 20nm in 2015 and Erista might be the first chip to make it to 20nm. A Maxwell derived architecture 20nm will deliver even more efficiency. Needless to say AMD plans to launch 20nm GPUs next year as well.

It looks like Nvidia’s 16nm FinFET Parker processor, based on the Denver CPU architecture and Maxwell graphics won’t appear before 2016.

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HTC To Make the Next Google Nexus Tablet

October 1, 2014 by admin  
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Google Inc has chosen HTC Corp to develop and deliver its upcoming 9-inch Nexus tablet, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Google had been mulling HTC as a potential Nexus tablet partner since last year and HTC engineers have been flying to the Googleplex in Mountain View in recent months to work on the project, the report said.

Google’s decision to pick HTC reflects its long-term strategy of building a broad base of partners from device to device to prevent any one manufacturer from gaining a monopoly, the report said.

That may also be one of the reasons why Google chose HTC over bigger rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, maker of the Nexus 10 tablet.

Google and HTC declined to comment on the report.

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Is AMD’s FreeSync Coming In 2015?

September 29, 2014 by admin  
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Last week in San Francisco we spent some time with Richard Huddy, AMD’s Chief gaming scientist to get a glimpse what is going on in the world of AMD graphics. Of course we touched on Mantle, AMD’s future in graphics and FreeSync, the company’s alternative to Nvidia G-Sync.

Now a week later AMD is ready to announce that MStar, Novatek and Realtek scaler manufactures are getting ready with DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync and AMD’s Project FreeSync. They should be done by end of the year with monitors shipping in Q1 2015.

FreeSync will prevent frame tearing as the graphic card often pushes more (or fewer) frames than the monitor can draw and this lack of synchronisation creates quite annoying frame tears.

FreeSync will allow Radeon gamers to synchronize display refresh rates and GPU frame rates to enable tearing and stutter-free gaming along with low input latency. We still do not have the specs or names of the new monitors, but we can confirm that they will use robust DisplayPort receivers from MStar, Novatek and Realtek in 144Hz panels with QHD 2560×1440 and UHD 3840×2160 panels up to 60 Hz.

It took Nvidia quite some time to get G-Sync monitors off the ground and we expect to see the first 4K G-Sync monitors shipping shortly, while QHD 2560×1440 ones have been available for a few months. Since these are gaming monitors with a 144Hz refresh rate they don’t come cheap, but they are nice to look at and should accompany a high end graphic card such as Geforce GTX 980 or a few of them.

Radeon lovers will get FreeSync, but monitors will take a bit more time since AMD promises Project FreeSync-ready monitors through a media review program in 1Q 15 and doesn’t actually tells us much about retail / etail availability.

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Will HP Dump Snapfish?

September 26, 2014 by admin  
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Hewlett-Packard Co is taking a look at putting its web-based photo sharing service Snapfish on the block, and has held discussions with multiple private equity and industry buyers, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Snapfish, which HP bought for more than $300 million in 2005 and currently sits within its printing and personal systems group, is considered non-core for the company, the person said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

A spokesman for HP declined to comment.

Last year, HP replaced the printing and personal business’ long-time head Todd Bradley with former Lenovo executive Dion Weisler. Bradley has since left the technology company, to join Tibco Software Inc as its president.

Some of the parties that have been eyeing Snapfish have also expressed interest in buying another online photo-sharing services provider, Shutterfly Inc, the person said.

Shutterfly hired Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners over the summer to find a buyer, and is expected wrap up its process in the next several weeks, people familiar with the matter have said previously.

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Ericsson Acquires Fabrix Systems

September 25, 2014 by admin  
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The distinctions between TV and mobile services continues to merge and in many cases that occurs in the cloud.

That’s the logic behind Ericsson’s planned $95 million acquisition of Fabrix Systems, which sells a cloud-based platform for delivering DVR (digital video recorder), video on demand and other services.

The acquisition is intended to help service providers deliver what Ericsson calls TV Anywhere, for viewing on multiple devices with high-quality and relevant content for each user. Cable operators, telecommunications carriers and other service providers are seeing rapid growth in video streaming and want to reach consumers on multiple screens. That content increasingly is hosted in cloud data centers and delivered via Internet Protocol networks.

Fabrix, which has 103 employees in the U.S. and Israel, sells an integrated platform for media storage, processing and delivery. Ericsson said the acquisition will make new services possible on Ericsson MediaFirst and Mediaroom as well as other TV platforms.

Stockholm-based Ericsson expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter. Fabrix Systems will become part of Ericsson’s Business Unit Support Solutions.

Other players usually associated with data networks are also moving into the once-specialized realm of TV. At last year’s CES, Cisco Systems introduced Videoscape Unity, a system for providing unified video services across multiple screens, and at this year’s show it unveiled Videoscape Cloud, an OpenStack-based video delivery platform that can be run on service providers’ cloud infrastructure instead of on specialized hardware.

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Intel Debuts A Slew Of Core M Chips

September 18, 2014 by admin  
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Intel’s new Core M chips — which bring PC-like performance to slim design tablets — will initially be in many Windows 8.1 tablets, but no Android devices are yet on the radar.

The chips will be in five to seven detachable tablets and hybrids by year end, and the number of devices could balloon to 20 next year, said Andy Cummins, mobile platform marketing manager at Intel.

Core M chips, announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin on Friday, are the first based on the new Broadwell architecture. The processors will pave the way for a new class of thin, large-screen tablets with long battery life, and also crank up performance to run full PC applications, Intel executives said in interviews.

“It’s about getting PC-type performance in this small design,” Cummins said. “[Core M] is much more optimized for thin, fanless systems.”

Tablets with Core M could be priced as low as US$699, but the initial batch of detachable tablets introduced at IFA are priced much higher. Lenovo’s 11.6-inch ThinkPad Helix 2 starts at $999, Dell’s 13.3-inch Latitude 13 7000 starts at $1,199, and Hewlett-Packard’s 13.3-inch Envy X2 starts at $1,049.99. The products are expected to ship in September or October.

Core M was also shown in paper-thin prototype tablets running Windows and Android at the Computex trade show in June. PC makers have not expressed interest in building Android tablets with Core M, but the OS can be adapted for the chips, Cummins said.

The dual-core chips draw as little as 4.5 watts, making it the lowest-power Core processor ever made by Intel. The clock speeds start at 800MHz when running in tablet mode, and scales up to 2.6GHz when running PC applications.

The power and performance characteristics make Core M relevant primarily for tablets. The chips are not designed for use in full-fledged PCs, Cummins said.

“If you are interested in the highest-performing parts, Core M probably isn’t the exact right choice. But if you are interested in that mix of tablet form factor, detachable/superthin form factor, this is where the Core M comes into play,” Cummins said.

For full-fledged laptops, users could opt for the upcoming fifth-generation Core processor, also based on Broadwell, Cummins said. Those chips are faster and will draw 15 watts of power or more, and be in laptops and desktops early next year.

New features in Core M curbed power consumption, and Intel is claiming performance gains compared to chips based on the older Haswell architecture. Tablets could offer around two more hours of battery life with Core M.

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FreeSync Only For New AMD Chips

September 16, 2014 by admin  
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AMD has explained that its new FreeSync technology will only work in new silicon.

FreeSync is AMD’s initiative to enable variable-refresh display technology for smoother in-game animation and was supposed to give Nvidia’s G-Sync technology a good kicking.

G-Sync has already resulted in some top production gaming monitors like the Asus ROG Swift PG278Q.

However AMD said that the only the newest GPU silicon from AMD will support FreeSync displays. Specifically, the Hawaii GPU that drives the Radeon R9 290 and 290X will be compatible with FreeSync monitors, as will the Tonga GPU in the Radeon R9 285.

The Bonaire chip that powers the Radeon R7 260X and HD 7790 cards could support FreeSync, but that is not certain yet.

Now that would be OK if the current Radeon lineup is populated by a mix of newer and older GPU technology. What AMD is saying is that there are some brand-new graphics cards selling today that will not support FreeSync monitors when they arrive.

The list of products that won’t work with FreeSync includes anything based on the older revision of the GCN architecture used in chips like Tahiti and Pitcairn.

So if you have splashed out on the the Radeon R9 280, 280X, 270, and 270X hoping that it will be FreeSync-capable you will be out of luck. Nor will any older Radeons in the HD 7000 and 8000 series.

Nvidia’s G-Sync works with GeForce graphics cards based on the Kepler architecture, which include a broad swath of current and past products dating back to the GeForce GTX 600 series.

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