If you watched Apple’s “One More Thing” launch event yesterday it would be hard not to be blown away by what they have achieved in silicon with the launch of the M1 chip, and the impact it will have across their range of laptop and desktop products. The Verge have a useful summary of the event here, or watch the broadcast in full here.

So what does what goes on inside a Macbook have to do with SoftIron, software defined storage, or our approach to appliance design?

 

Game Changing Performance

Apple’s new products are based on the M1 Chip – a design that is, like our own HyperDrive, ARM based. An integrated SOC (system on chip) design, it is enabling Apple to deliver game changing performance across a number of parameters when compared to previous Intel based, less integrated architectures.

For Apple this performance is measured in stats like;

  • 2.8x faster CPU
  • 5x faster graphics processing
  • Hugely improved battery performance – a result of the low power integrated chip design
  • The elimination of a cooling fan in some instances – a result of lower operating temperatures.
  • Greater levels of security
  • Maintaining a similar price point to previous models keeping them competitive in the broader market

Sound familiar? Apple have distilled the essence of the specific tasks that their laptops and desktops are asked to do, and optimized the design of the hardware, the OS (Big Sur) and even many of the apps. to leapfrog the rest of the industry across multiple dimensions.

It’s an approach that they have taken numerous times over the years – their integrated neural engine for example. Apple has for a long time been the device of choice for image and video editors. They’ve designed their solution from top to bottom, including designing their Final Cut Pro and Pixelmator Pro to take advantage of AI offload hardware. This makes a significant  difference compared to those who build for generalized workload optimization, rather than solving task specific problems.

Consider the current state of play in our own Industry by comparison.

 

When Hardware Really Matters

Data centers are awash today with generic, inefficient designs – each based on a combination of widely available sub assemblies, based on an even smaller set of designs and architectures. At a time when data, and the infrastructure to deliver, manipulate and store it, is exploding the industry is failing to adequately respond.

Now, of course, the level of SOC and vertical integration that Apple has achieved is way beyond that in our own designs so far, but compare this to where the rest of the data center industry is today. It gives us a glimpse of what is possible when you decide that the hardware really matters in the overall design.

 

Is SoftIron the “Apple of the Data Center”?

It’s a nice idea, and maybe it’s a little early to draw that comparison(!), but I’d like to think there are definitely some parallels in our approach to redefining our market:

  • Doing things differently. Thinking about the task first and designing from the ground up to solve it
  • Not taking the easy route – focusing on what might seem small changes and enhancements that could have dramatic impact for customers
  • Taking a holistic approach to the development of our business, encompassing not only innovation in the products themselves, but also in the way that we organize our business and how we bring them to market to support our customers on their own turf, on their own terms.

This week’s announcement cast a light on what task specific can achieve when you put your mind to it. We’re excited to be the ones to carry that baton into the data center.

Oh, and one more thing. Guess what my next laptop’s going to be…!

To find out more about our own “task specific” approach click here, or get in touch for a chat.