Friday, November 20, 2015

Looking For An Alternative To Intel? ARM Chips May Be That Answer

Remember how hard it was to get your hands on an ARM server? Well, those days may very well be behind us as five computer makers have announced servers with ARM processors. These new servers are direct competition to x86 systems in the mainstream market and are primarily designed for internet and cloud workloads. In addition to that, they also have the 48-core Cavium ThunderX chip, which is based on 64-bit ARM architecture.

The five companies making these servers are Gigabyte, Inventec, Wistron, Penguin Computing, and E4 Computer Engineering and these servers will be based on designs that are popular in x86 servers though they will have ARM processors. However, there is an even more interesting aspect to this and that is that some of the new servers will have the ability to use Nvidia's Tesla graphics processors, which adds extra processing power for graphics, engineering, and other computing applications that require high-performance.

All of the systems generally have one or two sockets and all of them have different strengths. Gigabyte's servers can be configured with up to 24 2.5" hard drives, which makes it perfect for web serving or storage. Penguin Computing's 19" Valkre system will be shipping in 2016 and is aimed at high-performance computing and has the ability to be configured with SSDs and different I/O technologies. Wistron's WV-S7224-10 and WV-A7424 are 2U and 4U storage servers. All of the servers, however, share power and cooling resources.

A majority of the companies announcing ARM servers are capable of making and supplying servers to buyers directly, which eliminates the middleman that is usually involved in the whole selling process. Companies like Wistron and Inventec are also capable of making an impact as server vendors in China whereas some of the other companies cannot. Pricing for the servers has yet to become available from any of the five companies though the servers themselves were announced at the Supercomputing 15 conference in Austin, Texas this past week.

ARM develops and licenses its processor architecture and is best known for its mobile chips found in most smartphones. A lot of people believe that the power efficiency that is derived from the mobile chips could very well translate to low-power ARM servers though as of now only a couple of systems have been made available. The most noteworthy system is the Moonshot from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

These new servers could be the motivation that ARM needs to make a serious push towards dominating the server market. Chip makers are having a very hard time generating profits with mobile and PC chips considering margins are thin for those systems. As a result, servers could be a very profitable alternative for vendors using ARM-architecture chips. AMD is planning on offering both x86-architecture and ARM-architecture chips as it continues to rebuild its server product line.

Content originally published here
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