Red Hat starts work on 64-bit ARM servers

Red Hat and its partners are betting that 64-bit ARM processors are ready for the data center.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Red Hat, the Linux king today and the would-be OpenStack cloud king tomorrow, is putting its money and resources on the line by betting — with its ARM Partner Early Access Program — that the 64-bit ARM architecture is ready for the data center.

Red Hat Insigna

With partners such as AMD, American Megatrends, Inc., AppliedMicro, ARM, Cavium, Dell, HP and Linaro, Red Hat intends to achieve the following goals with its Early Access Program:

  • Provide participants with early stage development software, documentation and tools.
  • Collaborate with partners to create a singular 64-bit ARM server software platform that relies on common standards.
  • Enable faster innovation within ecosystem organizations, such as Linaro Enterprise Group, by providing a common development platform to enable deployment-ready future 64-bit ARM software.
  • Gather requirements around partner needs within the ARM ecosystem and use this information to create a unified common software platform capable of supporting multiple hardware designs.

This follows up on Red Hat's effort to create the ARM's Server Base System Architecture (SBSA), which is designed to help accelerate software development and enable support across multiple 64-bit ARM platforms.

Will 64-bit ARM and open-source operating systems and clouds really deliver the bigger server bang for the smaller power buck that has been promised for the last two years? 

Red Hat isn't just working on the theory of ARM server deployment. In May 2013, Red Hat showed, with its Fedora community-based Linux, that Fedora could work efficiently on a cluster of four 24 Viridis high-density ARM servers using Calxeda System Server on a Chip (SoC).

Dell and Red Hat showed by October 2013 that Fedora, which Red Hat uses to test out the ideas that end up in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), could work well on 64-bit ARM. For once, Red Hat isn't in the lead of an open-source technology deployment. Instead it's playing catch-up to Canonical, Ubuntu Linux's parent company.

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) and Canonical recently showed off Icehouse, the latest OpenStack cloud release, using Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Support (LTS) in a KVM virtualized environment running on an X-Gene-based server rack.

That said, Red Hat expects its ARM Partner Early Access Program partners to contribute to more streamlined and applicable implementations of 64-bit ARM standards and practices. Red Hat's partners believe that the combination of their hardware abilities and Red Hat's open-source expertise will lead to the adoption of ARM in both the data center and the cloud.

Robert Hormuth, Dell's executive director, of Enterprise Platform Architecture & Technology, said in a statement, "Dell has been at the forefront of innovation in the development of low-power technologies and an integral proponent of open and standard based designs for decades. Enabling the ARM ecosystem will provide exceptional gains for our customers when it comes to performance per dollar and performance per watt. We are excited to be part of the Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program to help foster collaboration within the community and extend our deep expertise in developing workload-optimized ARM solutions."

Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager for HP Moonshot microserver datacenter solution, added: "HP and Red Hat have a long history of working together to deliver innovative open source and open standards-based solutions that enable customers to optimize Internet-scale applications, achieve breakthrough economics, and enable IT to support the rate and pace of business growth. We look forward to the role that the HP Moonshot 64-bit ARM system, which is ideal for software development and production workload deployments, will play in the Red Hat ARM Early Access Program and advancing the ARM ecosystem."

Will 64-bit ARM and open-source operating systems and clouds really deliver the bigger server bang for the smaller power buck that has been promised for the last two years? Can Red Hat become ARM data center royalty? We'll find out within the next year.

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