May 30, 2022 By IBM Instana Team 3 min read

AArch64 (sometimes referred to as ARM64) is a CPU architecture developed by ARM Ltd., and a 64-bit extension of the pre-existing ARM architecture, starting from ARMv8-A. ARM architectures are primarily known for their energy efficiency and low power consumption. For that reason, virtually all mobile phones and tablets today use ARM architecture-based CPUs.

With the growing need to decrease power consumption on servers, data centers and desktop computers worldwide, there’s a slow but steady shift towards ARM-based systems altogether.

Although AArch64 and x64—Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)—are both 64-bit CPU architectures, their inner basics are vastly different. Programs compiled for one platform won’t work on the other (except with some magic) and vice versa. That means software not only needs to be recompiled, but it often requires extensive optimization for either platform.

AArch64 daily life

Today, 64-bit ARM chips are reasonably widespread in mobile devices like tablets or mobile phones. The same is true for set-top boxes, single board computers (SBCs)—like the Raspberry Pi—and many other devices common in our daily life. On the other hand, desktop computers and servers running ARM CPUs are still rare, though the breakthrough may be just around the corner now.

With companies like Facebook testing massive AArch64-based server deployments and Apple moving to its own Apple Silicon branded M1 processors, the low power consumption and computational efficiency is the top argument. We’re close to seeing a large shift in deployments away from power-hungry x64-based servers and toward low-energy, large core-count ARM64 systems.

That said, if you already use one of the new Apple machines, there’s a good chance you already work on an AArch64 architecture on a day-by-day basis. Conversely, that means you should be able to use software built directly for that platform. While Apple provides a transparency layer to enable a lot of the old software to work on newer Macs, the performance penalty is visible.

It also means that if you use Google or Facebook on a daily basis, you’re probably already working on an ARM system, even though it just happens to occur in the data centers.

The world will be AArch64

If your system runs in a data center or you run your own operational platform, sooner or later, you’ll be confronted with the decision of whether to use ARM instead of x64-based CPUs, either for cost efficiency or power consumption reasons. If you host on AWS, you already have the chance to select ARM-based EC instances. Others either already provide similar options or will follow soon.

Migrating systems to ARM is twofold, though, with your own services only being half of the work. While migrating your own applications and services is certainly the most important element, being able to run all the supporting, third-party services on the new environment is important, too. These services include the following:

  • Resource managers: Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry, Red Hat® OpenShift® Platform, etc.
  • Networking layers or tools: Traefik, NGINX, Istio, Networking Ambassador, etc.
  • Databases: PostgreSQL, MySQL, etc.
  • Programming languages: Either based on runtime environments like Java or compiled natively for AArch64, like Golang or C and C++.
  • Observability tools and system or application monitoring: Like IBM Instana.

The last reason is especially important if you run a highly dynamic, microservices-based setup of independent applications. In this case, automation is an integral part of the always up-to-date health and performance state of your system.

Instana support for monitoring on AArch64

At IBM Instana®, we love to be at the edge of technology. Being implemented mainly in Java, and thanks to the Java teams at companies like Oracle and Microsoft, we’re now fully enabled on any ARM64 platform. Furthermore, Instana provides a ready-to-run Docker image straight from Docker Hub and the agent service, as well as sensors that are fully ARM64 compatible. It just works as you’d expect.

It provides you with all the convenience, automatic discovery and on-the-fly instrumentation of services you know and love.

If you have a MacBook, Mac mini with an M1 chip or a server running on an AArch64 chipset, we’d love to see you try it out and let us know about your experience. Not only if you love the Instana platform, but also if you find features that don’t work.

If you don’t yet have an Instana account, but you’d love to try out Instana in your environment, just sign up for the free Instana trial, download your agent and get started right away to get your full-stack visibility in less than five minutes.

Get started with IBM Instana
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