As they say "it takes two to tango", and now the race is officially on with Dell announcing plans for a new power-efficient server based on ARM Holding's popular reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture. Rival Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) had previously announced plans in late October 2011 to pair with ARM Holdings' Texas-based subsidiary Calxeda to make lightweight embedded ARM servers.
Dell dropped word that it would soon be following suit in February 2012, but did not flesh out details on the project until this week.
Dell's bid will see the Round Rock, Texas based electronics giant partner with the Texas Advanced Computing Cente, a research cluster at the University of Texas at Austin. Servers will also be delivered to "select hyperscale customers and partners" -- likely some of Dell's large cloud computing enterprise clients.
The company's press release was quite bullish on the new architectural entrant in the server space, commenting:
The ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, marked by increasing customer interest in testing and developing applications, and Dell believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers.
The codename of Dell's new ARM servers is "Copper". Copper servers will pack Marvell ARMADA XP series of multi-core processors.
Among the partners in the early seed program include Ubuntu (Linux) operating system-maker Canonical and Cloudera makers of the Apache Hadoop large-scale data storage framework.
ARM marketing executive vice president Lance Howarth cheered Dell's efforts, commenting, "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."
Currently ARM servers are primarily only supported by select builds of Linux. However, with Windows 8 RT bringing ARM support to the table, an ARM-compatible version of Windows Server is expected to land shortly opening new options to companies who are curious about these power efficient alternative designs.
"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."