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.”
ARM Officials Head to Red Hat Summit to Talk Servers
A growing number of Linux distributions are throwing their support behind 64-bit ARM processors. Free distributions like Debian 8, Fedora and OpenSUSE support the architecture, and Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE are working in that direction. Red Hat last year launched an early access program for partners—there are more than 40 members now. On June 22 officials announced it was making its Red Hat Linux Server for ARM Development Preview 7.1 available to all members of the partner program and their end users as an unsupported development platform.
It gives the organizations a common, standards-based OS for existing 64-bit ARMv8 hardware, according to Red Hat.
“Beyond this release, we plan to continue collaborating with our partner ISVs and OEMs, end users, and the broader open source community to enhance and refine the platform to ultimately work with the next generation of ARM-based designs,” Red Hat said in a statement.
ARM also is making progress with Java, Underhill said. There currently is an OpenJDK project to support 64-bit ARM, and in March 2014, the OpenJDK ARM effort was demonstrated running on a system powered by Applied Micro’s X-Gene SoCs. In March, it was up streamed, according to ARM officials. In addition, Oracle last year ran its first demonstrations of ARMv8 Java at the Java One and ARM TechCon shows, and support for the ARMv8 architecture is now available in a public beta, Underhill said.
ARM officials also point to several projects underway using 64-bit ARM-based systems. For example, the University of Utah this year announced it was adopting HP Moonshot servers powered by Applied Micro X-Gene SoCs to create a cloud environment—dubbed CloudLab—to run various workloads for researchers across the country. In addition, DataCentered also is using Applied Micro-based Moonshot to build an OpenStack-based cloud.
PayPal, in its use of HP Moonshot m400 systems for real-time data analysis, found that acquisition and power consumption fell significantly over traditional data center equipment, while node density-per-rack increased more than 10 times.
ARM also is using Moonshot systems for its Linux and tool chain development, a move that reduced build time from 10 weeks to two days, Underhill said.