On Monday, big progress was made in Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard’s (HPQ) quest to build new, low-power corporate computer servers that run on chips from ARM Holdings (ARMH), not Intel (INTC). These are the same processors that power your smartphone and tablet.
ARM-based servers are powerful, but they use less energy than most servers today using Intel chips. They should one day help data centers handle ever bigger loads of data while costing less, using less energy and less space than today’s servers.
Both Dell and HP made announcements about ARM servers as part of the ARM TechCon show happening this week in Santa Clara, Calif.
The idea isn’t new. Dell has been working on ARM-based servers for years. As has a company called Calxeda. But they haven’t been hugely popular because today’s ARM chips can’t run most corporate software. That’s why Intel’s chips have been so popular.
In geek-speak: the chips are 32-bit systems but the software needs 64-bits to run. 64-bit servers are faster and more powerful. So the 64-bit ARM server has been the Holy Grail of low-power servers.
Today, Dell demonstrated a 64-bit ARM server running a version of the Linux operating system, Dell told Business Insider via email.
Dell is among a handful of vendors planning to have a 64-bit ARM chip available in 2014. This demo means that Dell’s server is, so far, on time, market research analyst Charles King, president of Pund-It, told Business Insider.
Meanwhile, HP today also (finally) released a new version of its low-power Moonshot servers using ARM chips from Calexda, HP exec John Gromala told CRN’s Joseph Kovar.
HP originally created Moonshot in 2011, built on Calxeda ARM chips, but then, for reasons of its own, HP didn’t allow customers to buy them. The low-power Moonshot servers it did put on sale have been using Intel’s low-power Atom chips.
So customers can finally buy Dell’s Moonshot ARM servers, but they are still 32-bit, the same problem as all the other ARM servers available for purchase today.
In the meantime, Intel hasn’t been idle in fending off the threat from ARM. Intel released a 64-bit low-power Atom chip for servers almost a year ago. It still has the advantage in that most of the software available, from operating systems to databases, isn’t ready to work on ARM yet, King points out.
Once the new servers arrive, software vendors will probably jump on board. Big enterprise software company Red Hat has already been working with all the vendors to make its software available ARM servers, 32-bit and 64-bit.