Dell Starts to Test ARM Microprocessors in Servers

Dell: If Customers Want ARM, We Will Provide!

by Anton Shilov
02/29/2012 | 11:11 PM

Dell, major PC company that exclusively used Intel Corp.'s microprocessors just six years ago, now not only utilizes both AMD's and Intel's chips, but is working on servers which can be powered by various ARM-architecture microprocessors. Dell claims that if consumers want, it will offer appropriate products.


"We have had ARM systems in our lab for over a year. If that is what our customers demand that’s what we will offer," said Forrest Norrod, general manager for Dell’s server solutions group, in an interview with Forbes.

Hewlett-Packard and some other manufacturers are also experimenting with ARM-based servers and startups like Calxeda are working on ARM chips with special server capabilities. ARM itself is also developing v8 32/64-bit architecture with servers in mind. Dell did not elaborate which ARM chips it uses for testing of the architecture.

Calxeda server card

Dell believes that switching from x86 to ARM will not bring too drastic changes to servers in general: all the industry standards as well as proprietary technologies will work with ARM system-on-chips.

“Our [server] management [software] is independent of the processor powering the server. If we wanted to incorporate ARM into our server lineup, to any management tool it just looks like a PowerEdge server," claimed Mr. Norrod.

HP Moonshot server prototype with Calxeda server cards

The most important advantage of ARM over x86 is its ultra low power consumption and therefore potentially better performance scalability. Still, before there are commercially available ARMv8-based SoCs with server-specific features, it does not make sense to utilize ARM chips inside machines used to host web-sites or run critical applications. Such 64-bit chips are projected to emerge in late 2013 at the earliest.

"ARM has some interesting advancements around power density. [...] I don’t believe customer are going to want to port their applications back to 32 bits from 64 bits," concluded Mr. Norrod.