Dell Kicks Off ARM Server Ecosystem Development Program

Dell Teams Up with Texas Advanced Computing Center on ARM Servers

by Anton Shilov
05/29/2012 | 10:01 PM

Dell said on Tuesday that it had begun to work on ecosystem for ARM-based servers. Dell believes that ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, marked by increasing customer interest in testing and developing applications, and Dell thinks now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers.


Dell began testing ARM server technology internally in 2010 in response to increasing customer demands for density and power efficiency, and worked closely with select Dell data center solutions (DCS) hyperscale customers to understand their interest level and expectations for ARM-based servers. As part of this effort, Dell has delivered Dell “Copper” ARM server to select customers and partners, including key ecosystem partners such as Canonical and Cloudera, to support their development activities. In addition, Dell started to provide remote access to ARM-based machines to interested developers.

The Dell Copper ARM-based server is designed for test and development of software as well as for performance evaluation of ARM architecture in general. Dell Copper 3U server machine consists of twelve sleds. Each sled features four quad-core Marvell Armada XP (1.60GHz, 2MB cache, single-channel DDR3 memory controller, PCI Express x4 interface) system-on-chips [which are called nodes] with up to 8GB DDR3 memory and 2.5" Serial ATA 7200rpm hard drive per node.

"Today Dell is delivering this same innovation focus to the ARM server market, working hand-in-hand with customers and the community to enable development and testing of workloads for leading-edge hyperscale environments. We recognize the market potential for ARM servers, and with our experience and understanding of the market, are enabling developers with the right systems and access for the current state of the ARM server market maturity," said Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of server solutions at Dell.

At present, the Dell “Copper” ARM server is not generally available. Dell will continue to help enable ecosystem development, and bring ARM servers to general availability at the appropriate time.

Dell believes ARM infrastructures demonstrate promise for web front-end and Hadoop environments, where advantages in performance per dollar and performance per watt are critical. The ARM server ecosystem is still developing, and largely available in open-source, non-production versions, and the current focus is on supporting development of that ecosystem. Dell has designed its programs to support today’s market realities by providing lightweight, high-performance seed units and easy remote access to development clusters.

Dell is staging clusters of the Dell “Copper” ARM server within the Dell solution centers and with Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) so developers may book time on the platforms. Dell also will deliver an ARM-supported version of Crowbar, Dell’s open-source management infrastructure software, to the industry in the future.

Other makers of servers, including Hewlett-Packard, the arch-rival of Dell, are also working on ARM-based server solutions. Companies like Calxeda and Nvidia Corp. are also working on server-class ARM SoCs.

"We are excited to see the growing enthusiasm and demand in the customer and developer communities for energy efficient server solutions based on ARM processor technology. Dell’s program creates a platform for the industry that demonstrates the benefits of ARM processor based system-on-chips in servers, and also enables the opportunity to develop new applications and solutions to address the divergent requirements of cloud based computing. Given Dell’s extensive experience and expertise in the hyperscale market, we’re delighted to be partnering with them at the leading edge of energy efficient server innovation to make this a reality,” said Lance Howarth, executive vice president of marketing at ARM.