Linux firm Suse is expanding its hardware partner programme to speed the development of server systems based on 64-bit ARM processors that are capable of running its Enterprise Linux distribution and handling key workloads.
As part of the programme, Suse said it is making available to partners a version of Suse Linux Enterprise 12 ported to ARM's 64-bit architecture (AArch64), enabling them to develop, test and deliver products to the market based on ARM chips.
Suse has also implemented support for AArch64 into its openSUSE Build Service. This allows the community to build packages against real 64-bit ARM hardware and the Suse Linux Enterprise 12 binaries, improving time to market for ARM-based solutions, the firm said.
"Suse's ARM partner programme will provide ARM ecosystem partners access to AArch64-supported Suse Linux Enterprise 12 software and expertise, establishing relationships that will result in supported enterprise solutions on different hardware platforms to meet a variety of customer needs," said Suse's vice president of engineering Ralf Flaxa.
Among the partners included in the programme so far are chip makers AMD AppliedMicro and Cavium, while Dell, HP and SoftIron number among the systems vendors involved.
Suse said that ARM processors will be able to provide a scalable technology platform able to meet diverse computing needs in the data centre, such as web-scale workloads and rapid cloud build-out.
Through participation in the programme, partners will be able to build solutions for various applications, from purpose-built appliances for security, medical and network functions, to hyperscale computing, distributed storage and software-defined networking.
Writing on the Suse Conversations blog, senior technical strategist David Byte said that ARM systems offered intriguing potential for some areas of the server market, thanks to the fact that the CPU core is a standard design that any chip maker can licence and then augment with custom circuitry to optimise a chip for specific applications.
"There are multiple vendors using the same core technology licensed from ARM. This provides a common base for the OS vendors, like Suse, to build support in their kernel," Byte said.
"The important part is the special sauce they add to the die. By putting accelerators for network, encryption, or any other function that makes sense close to the CPU cores, they enable lower latency and higher performance characteristics to be achieved.
"If you think about this in terms of specialisation for specific use cases, the value proposition offered comes into focus fairly quickly. Couple that with low power consumption per core and you're definitely grabbing the attention of folks building solutions for large environments."
But the partner programme is not just about us providing Linux, according to Byte, as partners also need tools, support and flexibility to be successful.
"From the support perspective, Suse is here to work with our partners to ensure a supportable product is released. Our support programmes for our partners are always flexible, and when dealing with a new market, our engineering department will be engaged in the discussion about supportability as well, ensuring only the best engineered solutions make it to the end user," he said.
Suse is not the only Linux developer to see the potential in ARM-based systems. Last year, Red Hat started up its ARM Partner Early Access Programme (PEAP), while Canonical has offered ARM support in its Ubuntu platform for several years now, including a long-term support (LTS) release last year that included the OpenStack cloud computing framework.
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