Dell is considering building ARM-based servers for the datacentre market, but warned that the window of opportunity for the ARM architecture to steal market share from Intel and AMD is rapidly closing.
In an interview with V3.co.uk, Forrest Norrod, general manager of Dell's server platform division, said that the company is looking closely at ARM-based servers, because of the power and density advantages offered by the ARM architecture for certain kinds of workload.
"There are a number of customers that are extremely intrigued by ARM-based microservers, and we certainly have been doing some work there," Norrod said.
However, he added that the success of the ARM architecture in the datacentre "is not pre-ordained", so Dell is in a "wait-and-see mode" to ensure it is well positioned in the market before committing itself.
Dell is already selling C-Series microserver systems aimed at dense scale-out environments, and Norrod said that it should be possible to fit four to eight times as many ARM processors into one of these chassis compared with the current design using Intel chips.
However, the software ecosystem is the major issue, according to Dell.
"Although the ARM software ecosystem is well developed on the mobile client side, it's not there yet on the enterprise side. There's not a good enterprise Linux distribution, and there's not a good Java version for enterprise on ARM," Norrod said.
While this is not an insurmountable issue, it is now a race between ARM vendors seeking to build an enterprise ecosystem on the one hand, and Intel and AMD bringing similar power efficiency and density advantages to their x86 chips.
"A year ago I was optimistic for ARM to land a significant foothold, but it seems to be much more of a coin flip now," said Norrod.
However, Dell will be ready to support customers if the ecosystem takes off and demand is there, he added.
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