Red Hat Aims for Linux Standards for ARM Servers

by Jeffrey Burt

The company launches a partner program with ARM, AMD and others to develop a common platform for servers powered by ARM-based chips.

Red Hat officials are looking to fuel the push of ARM's chip architecture into the data center through a partner program designed to encourage chip companies, hardware manufacturers and software makers to create a single platform for 64-bit ARM systems.

The Linux software vendor's Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program was launched July 30 with such partners as ARM, Advanced Micro Devices, Applied Micro, Broadcom, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Also among the partners is Cavium, Linaro and American Megatrends.

The program was unveiled the same day that AMD announced a developer kit for its ARM-based Opteron A1100 "Seattle" system-on-a-chip (SoC). AMD is one of a number of chip makers—with others including Cavium, Applied Micro and Marvell Technology—that are looking to push the ARM architecture into the data center with hopes of chipping away at Intel's dominance in the server chip processor market.

Officials with ARM, whose low-power SoC architecture runs on most tablets and smartphones, are targeting the server space with its ARMv8-A design. Systems powered by ARM-based SoCs—ARM designs the chips, then licenses those designs to chip manufacturers—are expected to start hitting the market later this year and gain momentum going into 2015.

Initial ARM interest was in low-power, dense microservers, but some chip makers are looking to push the architecture into mainstream systems to compete with Intel's Xeon processors and in the high-performance computing space.

ARM's data center efforts took a hit in December 2013 when Calxeda, one of the early ARM-based server chip makers, shut its doors after running out of money. In addition, reports earlier this year indicated that Samsung and Nvidia were reining in plans to offer ARM-based server chips.

Red Hat has been in the middle of the ARM data center push through such efforts as its membership in the Linaro Enterprise Group—which is driving server software development for the ARM architecture—and its participation in the development of ARM's Server Base System Architecture specification, a platform standard for servers running 64-bit ARM chips that was released in January.

In addition, the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora project last year demonstrated a compute cluster based on servers from Boston Ltd. running on ARM SoCs from Calxeda.

Through Red Hat's partner program, company officials want to give members early-stage development software, tools and documentation and create a common platform for developing 64-bit software for ARM servers.

The Red Hat officials also want to create a common, unified software platform that can support multiple hardware designs. The partner program will not only push the development of open standards, but also will put Red Hat in the center of ARM-based server designs.

"The Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program continues Red Hat's efforts to drive open standards and best practices within the 64-bit ARM ecosystem, enabling tighter collaboration with leading innovators in the ARM ecosystem," Jim Totton, vice president and general manager of Red Hat's Platform Business Unit, said in a statement. "By providing our participating partners with the tools, resources and support needed to build a common development platform, we can help facilitate partner-driven 64-bit ARM solutions that are based upon Red Hat technologies."

Intel officials are pushing back at ARM's efforts by expanding the reach of its Atom SoC platform into the data center and addressing business demands for greater choice and workload optimization in server chips. They also are highlighting the advantages of the x86 architecture that IT professionals are familiar with.

Proponents of ARM-based servers have talked about the important role open-source software will play in giving the architecture traction in the data center.

Lakshmi Mandyam, director of ARM's Server and Ecosystems unit, told eWEEK last year that "open source is the great equalizer. I don't think the gap [between ARM and Intel in server processor technology] is as much as you might think."


Originally published on eWeek.
This article was originally published on Friday Aug 1st 2014
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