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ARM servers, system on a chip promise efficiency for hyperscale data centers

Erin Watkins

BOSTON - ARM servers with system-on-chip technology may be a real contender against x86 systems in the near future if the Fedora ARM project has anything to say about it.

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Amid Red Hat's cloud and virtualization-heavy announcements at Red Hat Summit here this week were a few hints regarding the future of “hyperscale computing” and system-on-chip (SoC) technology. Red Hat predicts that super-dense, low-energy ARM server clusters will gain popularity for high-density server clusters because these boxes require less power than x86 servers.

"I don't care how much computing power you're using, I care how much energy you're using," said Jon Masters, principal software engineer for the Fedora ARM project.

One low power server vendor, Calxeda, offers an ARM-based server called EnergyCore SoC that only requires 5 watts of power. A few other companies have created ARM-based servers as well, including Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Taiwanese MiTAC.

But, one Red Hat Summit attendee said, until ARM servers can do more than render a Mandelbrot Set and, say, actually spin up massive hard drives, ARM servers are best left to BeagleBoard and Raspberry Pi for small scale "playtime."

ARM server advocates such as Masters insist the financial industry, “big data” and Hadoop applications for hyperscale computing could benefit from ARM servers.

Linux distributions available for ARM servers include SuSE, Ubuntu and Debian. Recently, Ubuntu also released an ARM-based Amazon machine image for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS


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