ARM-based servers have been given a new boost from AMD and Red Hat in the shape of the Opteron A1100-Series developer kit and the ARM Partner Early Access Programme, respectively.
The announcements from the two firms, which came on the same day, show that momentum is gathering behind the ARM architecture for use in servers.
ARM processors tend to have lower power consumption than rival architectures, meaning they can be crammed into denser configurations in the data centre, making them useful for applications such as web hosting.
AMD, which last year announced its intention to bring ARM server processors to market, has made available the AMD Opteron A1100-Series developer kit. As the name suggests, this is a server platform aimed at software developers and integrators based on its first 64-bit ARM chip, the Opteron A1100, otherwise known by its codename Seattle.
The firm claimed that the move makes it the only current provider of 64-bit ARM server hardware based on ARM's Cortex-A57 core technology.
Suresh Gopalakrishnan, vice president of AMD's Server business unit, said: "After successfully sampling to major ecosystem partners such as firmware, OS and tools providers, we are taking the next step in what will be a collaborative effort across the industry to reimagine the data centre based on the open business model of ARM innovation."
The Opteron A1100 development kit comes in a MicroATX form factor and includes a quad-core version of the Opteron A1100 with 16GB of DDR3 DRAM, and software including an ARM version of the classic LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) web server stack, based on Fedora Linux.
Software and hardware developers plus early adopters in large data centres can apply on AMD's website to get the Opteron A1100 development kit, which costs $2,999 (around £1,800) apiece.
Meanwhile, Red Hat has opened up its ARM Partner Early Access Programme (PEAP), which also aims to develop a standard ARM-based server platform for running general purpose operating system software, such as Red Hat's own Linux distribution.
Aimed at silicon vendors and system builder partners, the programme aims to "enhance partner collaboration" and "facilitate partner-initiated system designs based on the 64-bit capable ARMv8-A architecture that includes Red Hat software", the firm said.
Writing on the Red Hat developer blog, the firm's chief ARM architect Jon Masters explained that it was vital that ARM-based servers should be able to run general-purpose software, rather than ending up with proprietary solutions where one server design will only run a specific software platform and vice versa.
"I personally believe that ARM servers may become extremely popular in the market, and if this happens, it is necessary that it be possible to support such systems with a standard operating system, rather than building a custom one for each different server system that comes along, something that simply cannot scale into the enterprise," he said.
In other words, Red Hat wishes to duplicate the conditions that have produced the mature x86 server market in the nascent ARM server ecosystem, and the ARM PEAP is a key part of this.
Participants will be supplied with early-stage development software, documentation and tools, Red Hat said.
However, despite rival Canonical already offering an ARM version of its Ubuntu Linux, it appears that Red Hat has not yet committed to an ARM version of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
In response to queries from V3, a Red Hat spokesperson said: "We have made no plans or promises to support the ARM marketplace with a release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and may never do so with any solution. The common platform available to ARM PEAP participants would never, in its current form, be productised, hence why we are not assigning a name to the operating system."
The software delivered to partners via the ARM PEAP sits between Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux in terms of capabilities, the firm said.
Earlier this year, ARM released the ARM Server Base System Architecture (SBSA) specifications, which Red Hat had a hand in drawing up, along with other key players in the server market such as Microsoft, Canonical, Suse, Dell and HP.
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