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6/17/2011
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ARM Edges Into Enterprise Servers

Calxeda's Trailblazer Initiative has lined up 10 "big data" partners on an ecosystem to close ARM's gap with Intel in the enterprise server space.

While low-power ARM-based processors dominate the mobile chipset market, they have yet to achieve widespread deployment in the enterprise server space, where Intel owns a majority of the market.

Calxeda, a producer of data center server processors, is attempting to close this gap by launching the Trailblazer Initiative, aimed at creating an "ARM ecosystem." The new initiative was created with 10 other vendors who have a stake in the matter, all of whom focus on cloud computing and "big data" scalable analytic solutions, the company said.

Calxeda, founded in August 2010, says there is a "significant industry interest" in its ARM-based servers. The Trailblazer initiative was created due to a demand from customers and partners to get its chips into servers and data centers, the company said.

"We see Trailblazer as a critical step in the evolution of this marketplace, and are thrilled by the support we are receiving from the community to help it materialize," said Barry Evans, Calxeda's CEO, in a release. "The data center energy crisis is real, and the faster we can help our system vendors and partners get complete solutions in our customers' hands, the faster we can help them save money, and reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint."

Calxeda will provide Trailblazer partners and end users with access to hardware, operating system software, tools, applications, and joint sales and marketing. The software partners involved are promised updates on benchmarking and other technical information as the technology matures.

Other founding members of the Trailblazer Initiative include Autonomic Resources, Canonical, Caringo, Couchbase, Datastax, Eucalyptus Systems, Gluster, Momentum SI, Opscode, and Pervasive.

However, Intel maintains a strong hold on the server processor market, with most major server manufacturers using Intel's chips. Major server vendors have either completed or are undergoing equipment refreshes to accommodate Intel's latest Xeon E7 processors that provide up to 10 cores per processor. HP and Supermicro are among the first to max out the E7's power in 80-core, eight-socket servers. Other vendors, such as Cisco and Dell, are producing four-socket systems with up to 40 cores. Intel's Atom processors are also being used in servers.

One of the primary setbacks ARM-based processors have when it comes to breaking into the server market is the fact they only support 32-bit architecture, while many servers support the 64-bit architecture, especially when it comes to virtualization. With enterprises moving 20% to 30% of servers to a virtualized architecture, Calxeda and its supports have a difficult challenge ahead, said Sergis Mushell, principal analyst for Gartner. Plus, ARM should be a collaborator he said.

"For this to be successful and have the momentum required it should inevitably be something driven by ARM and we would need to see more major vendors on the server side," Mushell said. "It's a market dominated by Intel and the total available market is not that big."

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