ARM Officials Head to Red Hat Summit to Talk Servers

At the show, the chip designer will point to the growing momentum around the hardware and software ecosystem for 64-bit ARM systems.

data center

ARM is going to have a significant presence at this year's Red Hat Summit, according to Jeff Underhill, director of server programs for the chip designer.

This will be the first year that ARM has its own booth at the show, which runs until June 26 in Boston. Underhill will spend much of that time meeting with hardware and software partners, analysts, journalists and potential customers about the company's efforts to build inroads into the global server market.

"We're at an interesting point in time," Underhill told eWEEK in an interview in Boston the day before the show started. "The ecosystem is continuing to keep momentum."

ARM officials have been talking for several years about taking the company's low-power system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture that is found in most smartphones and many tablets and moving it up into the data center, and challenging Intel's dominance. Industry analysts have said that organizations are looking for an alternative to Intel, for both competitive and supply chain reasons.

However, Intel isn't standing still, continuing to improve the performance and drive down the power consumption of its Xeon and Atom server chips. In addition, other groups are looking to become the top option to Intel in the data center. Among them is the OpenPower Group, which is pushing IBM's Power architecture.

ARM's Underhill noted the growth in the ecosystem around 64-bit ARM, and said that end users are finding the architecture is driving down total cost of ownership. TCO benefits will continue to drive adoption of ARM, he said.

The momentum is coming from both the hardware and software sides. With ARM's 64-bit architecture released, and vendors like Applied Micro and Cavium selling server chips (X-Gene and ThunderX, respectively), and Advanced Micro Devices and Qualcomm planning to come out with their own ARM-based server offerings, systems are beginning to come to market.

A growing number of OEMs—like Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo—and original design manufacturers (ODMs), including Foxconn and Inventec, have ARM-based systems on the market or are considering them. And now end users (PayPal, Sandia National Laboratory, and ARM itself) are beginning to bring ARM-based servers into their environments.

Just as important is the development of the software ecosystem around the servers and SoCs, from the operating systems and firmware to middleware and applications. Open-source software will be key to the effort by ARM and its hardware partners to get into the data center, and Underhill said the momentum is strong. Giant Chinese online company Alibaba Group signed on with the Linaro Group in April to help push software development for the 64-bit ARM platform.

The Linaro Group is an industry consortium that is driving software development for the ARM architecture.

"We knew from the first that it would not be easy coming into a new market," he said. "There is a lot of work ahead. … I'm pleased where we are right now."