Dell announced Oct. 24 that it had taken the next step into the low-power server market through the development of a second ARM-based server platform, which it will donate to the Apache Software Foundation for software development and app porting.
The “Zinc” concept runs the Calxeda EnergyCore chip, an ARM-based processor that the company hopes will eventually be featured in data centers running specialized workloads. It follows Dell’s earlier effort, dubbed “Copper,” which it released in May. Neither server is commercially available, with Dell saying only that it would bring the hardware to market at an “appropriate time.”
Dell has said that it believes that the ARM-based server market is approaching an inflection point, and that it believes now is the right time to help foster development and testing of operating systems and applications for ARM servers. It’s a big step for the company, which has historically been an all-Intel shop, only occasionally buying processors from AMD.
“With this donation, Dell is further working hand-in-hand with the community to enable development and testing of workloads for leading-edge hyperscale environments,” Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager for Server Solutions at Dell, wrote in a statement. “We recognize the market potential for ARM servers, and with our experience and understanding of the market, are enabling developers with systems and access as the ARM server market matures.”
Any additional support by a top-tier OEM only adds credence to Calxeda, which a short time ago unveiled its roadmap to 64-bit ARM processors through 2014, via the “Midway” and “Lago” architectures.
“We are so thrilled to be at a point now where our promise of high performance, low power servers is real, live, and affecting positive improvements,” Barry Evans, Calxeda’s chief executive, wrote in a statement. “We support the Apache community and appreciate Dell stepping up with this considerable donation, and commitment.”
The company said it is hosting the Zinc server in a co-location facility in Austin for remote access by Apache. Both Dell and Calxeda will donate time and resources needed for any hardware maintenance, including a commitment to fast resets for maximum use of the server, the companies said.
Calxeda said the Zinc server is running continuous integration tools Jenkins and Buildbot. The Apache Hadoop project has performed more than a dozen builds within the first 24 hours of the servers’ deployment, and on-going builds are being performed by the Apache Derby, River, Tapestry, and Thrift projects.
Dell’s Copper system uses chips from Marvell; Dell seeded the server platforms to partners Canonical and Cloudera for testing. Dell is also staging clusters of the Dell “Copper” ARM server within the Dell Solution Centers and within the Texas Advanced Computing Center—where the “Stampede” supercomputer is being built—so developers may book time on the platforms.