Let’s just get this straight. Next week at ARM’s tech development event in Santa Clara, Calif., there’s going to be a lot of talk about getting cell phone chips into servers. The bet here is that using ARM-based chips in servers, as opposed to the traditional x86 processors that Intel and AMD make, will be more energy efficient and better match the processing needs of many of todays applications.
Last week, Calxeda kicked it off with news of its product roadmap, and Dell followed with its own announcement of an ARM-based server designed for Hadoop. HP, Dell, Penguin Computing, Boston Ltd., Cavium and Marvell also are all officially on the ARM server train. On Monday, AMD is expected to announce that it’s taking an ARM license.
There will be ARM-based chips in production environments by the end of this year, but those will only be 32-bit and capable of addressing smaller amounts of memory. Still, Dell, Calxeda and others argue that 32-bit processing is good enough for Hadoop and a few other specific data center workloads.
However, to really break ground in the server world, you need a chip capable of 64-bit processing that is widespread across the enterprise market. Which is why it’s significant that on Thursday, ARM, Red Hat and Applied Micro Circuits Corp. said they were getting together to develop a 64-bit server design platform. Applied Micro, a server maker, is announcing the Applied Micro X-Gene Server on a Chip aimed at the big data and cloud server market.
Red Hat will be responsible for building support within the Fedora community for the new 64-bit ARMv8 architecture, in hopes of making this dream a reality in time for the actual launch of 64-bit capable ARM cores next year. The company’s support is important, as has been Canonical’s previous support, because you need software capable of running on ARM-based chips. It would be nice if VMware were to step up and say that it wanted to support ARM in the data center, but so far that hasn’t happened.
In the coming week I expect to see more news highlighting the much-needed development of the ARM-server ecosystem. Stay tuned to see more ways the chips from your cell phones will invade data center.