ARM servers to arrive this year
By Nicole Kobie
Posted on 30 May 2012 at 14:49
ARM has promised servers running chips it designed will ship this year, with Dell among the front-running manufacturers.
Dell revealed its ARM server, called Copper, has shipped to select partners, though it isn't yet being made "generally available". The aim is to boost the software ecosystem for ARM by seeding key developers such as Canonical and Cloudera with Copper hardware.
Dell said the ARM-based server market was at an "inflection point, marked by increasing customer interest in testing and developing applications".
We think now the key software pieces are in place to allow 32-bit ARM-based servers to ship this year
Such support means ARM servers will start shipping to customers within six months, according to Ian Ferguson, ARM's director of server, systems and ecosystems. “We think now the key software pieces are in place to allow 32-bit ARM-based servers to ship this year,” he told PC Pro. "I think with Dell coming out and talking in a bit more detail publicly about what it’s doing is validation that we’re at the cusp – there's much more work to do, but the key building blocks are in place.”
ARM servers will initially remain limited to very specific applications and use cases, notably the cloud - an ideal place for ARM chips, given the company's focus on energy efficient designs.
“There are many years of x86 legacy in terms of general purpose servers that sit inside a general enterprise," he said. "There’s a lot of code there that will be a barrier to general-purpose ARM servers going in there."
Indeed, Dell's project, as well as one announced by HP last year, focus on cloud and web services. Much of the key software - such as Ubuntu, Hadoop and Java compilers - already supports ARM, but more work remains - especially on extending software support, optimising it, and moving to 64-bit.
"If you look at the new world of cloud, there’s all sorts of unstructured databases and open source CRM systems," he said. "Going and getting that software first running on ARM and then getting it running optimally on ARM, I would say it’s those sorts of things this ecosystem programme from Dell will enable.”
"This is an important step in what’s going to be a very long journey – you’re not going to suddenly see eight million units shipping next week,” he added. “But I think it’s an important validation that the path we’re on makes sense.”
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