Canonical Brings Ubuntu OpenStack, Ceph to ARM Servers

Telco and enterprise customers are looking for an alternative source of silicon beyond Intel for their data center systems, according to Canonical officials.

data center

ARM officials took a step forward in their effort to build the software ecosystem around its efforts in the data center when Canonical announced that its Ubuntu OpenStack and Ceph offerings are now commercially available on servers powered by ARM's 64-bit chip architecture.

Officials with both companies made the announcement Oct. 17, giving ARM more support in its strategy to become the primary alternative to Intel's x86-based processors in data center systems. Canonical officials said there is increasing demand from users of its open-source Ubuntu cloud and storage software for more options in the data center hardware they're running. The Ubuntu Linux operating system already runs on the ARM architecture.

"We have seen our [telecommunications] and enterprise customers start to radically depart from traditional server design to innovative platform architectures for scale-out compute and storage," Mark Baker, product manager for OpenStack at Canonical, said in a statement. "In partnering with ARM, we bring more innovation and platform choice to the marketplace.”

Baker said the "next generation of scale-out applications are causing our customers to completely revisit compute and storage architectures with a focus on scale and automation. The ARM and Canonical ecosystems offer more choice in data center solutions with a range of products that can be optimized to run standard server software and the next generation of applications."

The focus of the new Ubuntu effort will be on scale-out computing environments in the data center and cloud. The two companies will work with Ubuntu certified system-on-a-chip (SoC) companies, OEMs and original-design manufacturers (ODMs) to encourage the development of production-grade servers, storage platforms and networking gear that run on the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture and are offered with Ubuntu Advantage support, officials said.

In a statement, Lakshmi Mandyam, senior marketing director of ARM's server program, said the chip designer wanted to make sure to have "the best OpenStack and Ceph storage solutions and enterprise-grade support available. The commercial availability of Ubuntu OpenStack and Ceph is another milestone that demonstrates open-source software on ARM is ready for deployment now. The ARM and Canonical ecosystems can now simply write once and deploy anywhere on ARM-based servers."

ARM executives for several years have been talking about bringing the company's low-power chip designs, which can be found in the bulk of smartphones and tablets on the market, into data centers, an area dominated by Intel. More than 90 percent of all servers in use run on Intel processors. However, the rise of cloud and scale-out environments has fueled the rising demand for greater energy efficiency, and industry analysts have noted organizations want to have a second source for processors to help drive innovation, reduce costs and protect them against problems in the supply chain.

ARM designs low-power SoCs and licenses those designs to chip manufacturers. A number of partners, including Applied Micro and Cavium, already have server processors on the market, and others—including Qualcomm—are in the process of developing them. There has been little penetration into the server space by ARM chips, due in large part to the continued development of the software ecosystem around the architecture. However, with the help of the Linaro organization and other vendors, software support is growing. And in an interview at ARM's TechCon conference last year, Mandyam said there was a lot of progress being made in chip and software development behind the scenes and in interest from system makers.

"I'm comfortable with where we are at this point," Mandyam said last year. "There are a lot of proofs-of-concept going on with ARM."

The announcement by Canonical and ARM comes a week before the chip designer kicks off this year's TechCon 2016 show in Santa Clara, California.

ARM officials have said they are confident that adoption will start to ramp starting next year. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, Lenovo and supercomputer maker Cray are among the OEMs that are testing ARM-based chips in servers.