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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
First ARM 64-bit Servers To Appear Next Year

ARM and Applied Micro Circuits are expected to release prototype 64-bit ARM servers to developers for testing purposes possibly by the end of this year.

Showcased last week at Hot Chips conference, Applied Micro's server is based on the X-Gene processor and the ARMv8 instruction set. The processor core is capable of issuing four instructions on every clock cycle; each system on chip has up to 32 processors cores along with an on-chip fabric that supports greater than 1Tbps of bandwidth.

Applied Micro showed in this processor that the device also includes 10G Ethernet and a number of optimized-for-purpose accelerator engines. When the networking subsystem is integrated on the same die as the processor system, the result is more energy and CPU cycle count processing of data.

Applied Micro has a development board that includes an FPGA implementation of their device running Linux now. The partnership between Applied Micro with ARM is now focused on ensuring that 64-bit software intersects the initial X-Gene devices, including operating systems and appropriate application stacks.

Although the server market is ruled by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, which make processors based on the x86 architecture, ARM hopes that the upcoming servers will attract companies looking for a power-efficient way to process large volumes of online transactions. Low-power ARM processors are found in smartphones and tablets, but some believe thousands of ARM servers could efficiently process fast-moving transactions such as search or social network requests.

HP and Dell are currently offering prototype ARM servers for testing and benchmarking.

Despite the announcements, ARM realizes that an entry into the server market would take time, since its product roadmap needed to evolve to deliver higher performance, SMP-capable processors and a software ecosystem would need to be created.

"Fast forward to today, and we are now at a point where initial platforms are being supplied out to customers and being placed in the cloud through efforts, to enable real apples-to-apples comparisons to be made on how end user server workloads perform on ARM platforms versus incumbent platforms," said Ian Ferguson, director of server systems and ecosystem at ARM.

Intel is expected to share details about its upcoming 64-bit low-power Atom server processor code-named Centerton tomorrow at its Intel Developer Forum trade show.

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