'World's first': AWS rival launches bare metal servers based on Chinese RISC-V CPU and costs only cents per hour to run — but will it live to regret using eMMC storage?

Scaleway Elastic Metal RV1 server
(Image credit: Scaleway)

European cloud provider Scaleway has launched the world's first range of RISC-V servers in the cloud, which it says is a “firm commitment to technological independence” in a market that is increasingly seeking sovereignty over semiconductor production.

RISC-V is a free and open instruction set architecture developed at the University of California at Berkeley that has the potential to revolutionize the semiconductor industry. Despite being a new architecture, RISC-V is already delivering high performance levels, making it a viable alternative to established architectures like x86 and ARM.

Scaleway's RISC-V servers feature Alibaba's T-Head TH1520 SoC, 16GB RAM, and 128GB eMMC storage. These Elastic Metal RV1 servers, priced at a budget-friendly €15.99 per month (or €0.042 per hour), come with a 100 Mbit/s Ethernet network card, and public IPv4 and IPv6 addresses included, and run on Debian, Ubuntu, or Alpine Linux.

eMMC storage

"We're delighted to be the first to offer RISC-V servers in the cloud, opening up new opportunities for our customers to meet growing demands for sovereignty, efficiency and sustainability. This innovation is a further step towards our vision of an independent and competitive European cloud", said Damien Lucas, CEO at Scaleway.

These servers are dense, with a 52U rack having the capacity to hold up to 672 EM-RV1s, and also energy-efficient, consuming between 0.96W and 1.9W per 1.8GHz core. The hand-crafted design features a laser-cut chassis, 3D-printed blades, and hand-soldered components.

Scaleway says these servers are the result of months of research and development at its Paris laboratories. However, the decision to use eMMC storage may prove to be a regrettable one. While cost-effective, eMMC storage is slower and less reliable than other types of storage, such as SSDs. This could potentially impact the server's performance and longevity.

Scaleway previously launched Arm servers in 2015 but later phased them out in favor of AMD and Intel-based servers. With the launch of these RISC-V servers, the company is evidently ready to again try something new in the cloud server market.

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.