Will Purism produce a mobile workstation?

Hi everyone, does anyone know if they have such a plan to make a laptop coming with server grade platform? Dell and HP already have such products, they use mobile Xeon so user can have more realiability without having to stick to desktop devices.
Since Purism refuse to use AMD, so Epic will not be used, but they can use mobile Xeon or Xeon-D, or even server grade ARM chips… What do you all think?

So just a very quick note, more for completeness…

We do not “refuse” to use AMD - actually I would love to use non-Intel CPUs, like AMD. The problem is though that the AMD CPUs and chipsets suffer the same problem as the Intel ones, i.e. they contain a huge bunch of proprietary binary only code including something similar to the Intel Management Engine (ME), called PSP. While the Intel stuff has been painfully reverse engineered and understood over the course many months and years, at least to a level where we can pretty confidently disable the Intel ME and remove most parts of its firmware, for current AMD CPUs this knowledge simply does not exist - at least not that I am or we are aware of. If you know of an AMD (mobile) CPU where we can disable the so called PSP or load it with an open firmware so that the main CPU boots and operates normally, then we can look into that.

And concerning ARM server grade CPUs, this market is complicated and the CPUs in it are not at all suited for anything like a laptop. In my server room in the basement I have a Cavium ARM64 based server. We use it to natively compile the ARM64 PureOS packages. A CPU with whopping 48 cores, wow! Good for server loads, i.e. lots of threads serving many clients, but the single core performance is, well, not so great. On the other hand you have another whopping number: 50W - this is the almost constant minimum power draw of this system, which goes up to 150W when you put it under load. And this is mostly the CPU. This isn’t something you can cram into a laptop case. From my (quite remote) observation the ARM server market is pretty stuck or even shrinking. The promises made a few years ago have not been kept, an ARM server is in most ways less efficient than comparable x86 servers. Today it is even quite hard to actually buy ARM based server boards - not impossible, there are some, but hard. And the few you find are also pretty expensive.

So I guess the short answer is, no, we are most definitely not looking into making a mobile ARM based workstation using some ARM server CPU. Concerning more powerful x86 laptops, well, I’ll keep this in mind but I would recommend not holding your breath for it… :slight_smile:



Thanks for the thorough explanation, Nicole. That’s just generally good to know.

I’m curious what your take on Power9 is. There’s of course the Talos II workstation (anything but mobile) and while everyone says the hardware is great quality, my general impression is it’s intimidating to setup and use. Have you considered making a non-mobile workstation with the Power9 architecture?

Also, what about just lower-spec/lower-end hardware? Chromebooks have proven that you can pack a lot of computer into a pretty minimal fanless package with certain ARM architectures. For people who love absolutely open hardware, don’t need a lot of power, and want great battery life, wouldn’t a RISC or ARM-based device that’s about like a Chromebook be a great option, especially in terms of security? (Chromebooks are widely regarded as decently secure)

That could be converged platform based on L5 can’t it? Purism may just revive old Asus dream of phone convertible to tablet or even laptop

Since Purism is already selling Xeon-based servers, the Xeon option may be more realistic in terms of fighting the closedness of Intel and AMD i.e. some of the design / knowledge / code / understanding already there.

My question to you would be: Is there the demand for it (at some assumed relatively high price-point)?

Speaking only for myself, I tend to think of desktops / laptops / phones / tablets as access devices. The important stuff happens elsewhere - so if the access device has a problem, I will use a different access device until the problem is resolved. So, yes, my ideal server has ECC and RAID and redundant PSU etc.

It depends on whether your focus is on reliability or performance.

It may be helpful to link to a specific Dell or HP product so that readers can see what you are referring to.

Thank you!
I only know there’s a BIOS setting to turn off PSP, which many people say it’s not fully disabled.
I remember there are some industrial ARM chips that support ECC UDIMM even RDIMM, with something like up to 16 cores, and do not use that much power.
IMHO, 150w for a laptop is still acceptable, there are already some gaming laptops use even more power if include the GPU.

Just search “xeon laptop”, there are plenty of examples. :wink:

With Ryzen getting more popular, the research seems to have picked up:

I do recommend the talk, it explains what the PSP actually does, and it’s much less than I expected.


Only the source code really tells you what the PSP actually does. :wink:

source code which you can compile and install. if you cannot - then only reverse-engineering (disassembling + tracing) would tell you what it actually does.

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