SUSE officials are throwing their support behind ARM-based servers, saying that version 12 of SUSE Enterprise Linux will run on systems powered by chips from the likes of Applied Micro, Cavium and Advanced Micro Devices.
The company announced the support and a partner program July 14 at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Germany, saying its latest distribution will be supported on ARM-based servers from such OEMs as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, E4 Computer Engineering and SoftIron.
The move is the latest indication of the growing interest in servers based on the low-power ARM system-on-a-chip (SOC) architecture, which powers the bulk of the smartphones and tablets in the market. ARM officials for several years have been talking about bringing its technology to servers, and with the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture available, chips from Applied Micro (X-Gene) and Cavium (ThunderX) are on the market, with more on the way from AMD, Marvell Technology and others.
SUSE officials said they don't expect ARM to topple Intel from the top of the server space, but the ARM architecture—and the growing interest among component and system makers—makes supporting it a smart move. An interesting part is that multiple vendors are using the same core technology that they are licensing from ARM, according to David Byte, senior technical strategist with SUSE.
"This provides a common base for the OS vendors, like SUSE, to build support in their kernel," Byte wrote in a post on the company blog. "The important part is the special sauce they add to the die. By putting accelerators for network, encryption, or any other function that makes sense close to the CPU cores, they enable lower latency and higher performance characteristics to be achieved. If you think about this in terms of specialization for specific use cases, the value proposition offered comes into focus fairly quickly."
In addition, the ARM architecture offers low power consumption per core, which combined with everything else, makes it attractive to organizations that are building large, scale-out and cloud computing environments, he wrote.
SUSE not only is putting ARM server support into SUSE Linux Enterprise 12, but also is adding the necessary binaries to its openSUSE build server to enable software makers to target the platform as a build target and more quickly get products to market.
"To be clear, we aren't just telling our partners that it is okay to come play in our sandbox with some neat toys; rather we are inviting our partners to join us in the workshop to produce real products that leverage the latest silicon from any one of the several major players in the space in conjunction with our enterprise Linux product," Byte wrote.
ARM officials have said that open-source software—including Linux distributions—is a key part of the ecosystem around the 64-bit ARM effort. Lakshmi Mandyam, director of server systems and ecosystems for ARM, said in a statement that "greater choice of architectures and software platforms will open up the server market and make it far more competitive and innovative."
SUSE's support for the ARM architecture follows the efforts by Red Hat, which has been working with the chip designer and its partners for a couple of years. Red Hat last year launched a partner program with such vendors as Applied Micro, AMD, Broadcom, Dell and HP, and ARM had an enhanced presence at the Red Hat Summit in June.
Cavium and Applied Micro announced some moves this week at the ISC, including partnerships for Applied Micro with system makers Cirrascale and E4, and for Cavium support for such technologies as flash memory and InfiniBand connectivity in its ThunderX SoCs.