Dell has been shipping servers based on ARM's RISC architecture chips rather than the industry standard x86 format for some time, the company has revealed to ZDNet UK.
"I have [ARM] designs I can put my hands on today," Dell's president of enterprise solutions, Brad Anderson, told ZDNet UK. "If there was broad demand I'd be shipping them, [but] customers are waiting for the software."
The software is not in place for most companies to effectively use servers based on the low-power processors, Anderson said on Monday. "The general software ecosystem is not fully developed," he said.
In November HP announced a scheme to offer low-power ARM servers to customers via the Redstone server development platform. But Dell has been shipping ARM servers to a few highly specialised and very large IT companies for "years", Anderson said.
"We've have been doing [ARM servers] for years for very tailored applications and customer offerings," he said.
Anderson noted that web hosts liked using the chips as they allow for low-cost physical separation of hosted data, which has better security than using virtualisation.
Dell is working closely with customers keen on non-x86 chips via its skunkworks Dell Datacentre Solutions unit, which builds bespoke hardware for extremely large enterprises.
"We are already working closely with the customers who we think will drive the initial systems and where the initial demand will manifest," he said.
Anderson would not say when he expects demand will become sufficient for Dell to start selling the ARM servers more generally.
Many modern server applications use 64-bit chips for efficiency or so they can address more memory, but ARM processors with a 64-bit capability are at least two years from general availability, according to ARM executives.