Cavium, System Makers Unveil ARM-Based Servers, Boards

As Computex 2015 gets under way, server makers like Asus and Gigabyte announce they are using Cavium's ThunderX SoCs in new systems.

data center

Asus and Gigabyte Technology are among several server makers that are embracing Cavium's ARM-based ThunderX chips for new systems.

Cavium is announcing a range of new partnerships with such vendors as Pegatron and Wiwynn as the company looks to broaden the adoption of the low-power ARM architecture in the data center. The announcements were made as the Computex 2015 show got under way in Taiwan.

Cavium and Applied Micro—with its X-Gene systems-on-a-chip (SoCs)—last year were the first chip makers to launch 64-bit ARM-based server processors, and have led the way in trying to grow the market and chip away at Intel's dominance in the data center.

Officials with ARM and its various chip partners for several years have been talking about moving the ARM architecture—which currently powers most of the world's smartphones and tablets—up the ladder and into servers, arguing that the low-power and low-cost designs would be a good fit for scale-out cloud environments that run lots of small workloads.

A number of chip makers have signed on to the challenge, including Advanced Micro Devices and Qualcomm, and Hewlett-Packard is using Applied Micro's silicon in one of its Moonshot server modules. In addition, Dell officials have said they can offer ARM-based servers on demand, and other OEMs—such as supercomputer maker Cray—are looking into the ARM architecture for powering some of their systems.

Industry analysts have said enterprises want an alternative to Intel and x86 for their servers to help drive competition and protect against supply chain issues. However, the success of ARM is still unclear, and the architecture will have competition to become the second source in the data center from the likes of IBM's OpenPower effort and, to a lesser extent, Imagination Technology and its MIPS offerings.

Cavium and Applied Micro are both looking to use the Computex show to push their visions. Cavium will be demonstrating 64-bit ThunderX chips based on the ARMv8-A design at the event with its new partners, including running such workloads as Hadoop, MySQL and OpenStack on single-core, dual-core and clustered systems.

Applied Micro will host a forum to talk about its X-Gene technology and offer demonstrations, including running CentOS 7.1 on X-Gene 2-powered systems. Applied Micro has seen some wins lately, such as online payment company PayPal deploying X-Gene-based servers and the CloudLab Project at the University of Utah using Moonshot systems powered by Applied Micro's SoCs.

Cavium officials said they are seeing increasing interest in their processors.

"With two-socket capability, great power efficiency and built-in hardware acceleration, customer demand for our high-performance ThunderX ARM processors continues to grow," Gopal Hegde, vice president and general manager of Cavium's Datacenter Processor Group, said in a statement.

Asus officials announced new dense and energy-efficient rack servers and server boards based on the 48-core ThunderX SoCs and aimed at a broad range of customers, from high-performance computing (HPC) organizations to enterprises and small and midsize businesses (SMBs). The systems will be available in the fourth quarter.

Gigabyte is unveiling the dual-socket MT70-HD0 server board and 2U (3.5-inch) rackmount H270-T70 system, both powered by Cavium's ARM-based SoCs. The company has begun initial shipments of the systems.

"We have already developed and released ARM-based products oriented toward lightweight workloads and storage applications," Alex Liu, technical marketing executive at Gigabyte, said in a statement. "But now … we are adding the industry's first cache-coherent two-socket ARM platform to our portfolio using Cavium ThunderX processors, enabling a solution suitable for data center-grade workloads."

Pegatron is building a family of workload-optimized servers powered by the ThunderX chips and aimed at HPC, data center and cloud environments. The systems—which, according to Pegatron officials, will be available this quarter—will be used for hyperscale workloads like HPC and big data. Wiwynn also is announcing workload-optimized server platforms based on ThunderX and aimed at data center and cloud environments.