ARM servers still 'several years' away, its president says

ARM needs to build a whole server market ecosystem before ARM servers are a reality, its president said

The president of ARM Holdings has sought to temper the expectations around ARM-based servers, saying those systems might not ship in volume before 2015.

"We firmly believe this is going to happen. We know it is starting to happen right now. But it's going to be several years" before ARM-based servers are sold in significant numbers, ARM president Tudor Brown said during a press briefing at the Computex trade show in Taipei on Monday.

Several companies are working on ARM-based processors for servers, including Nvidia, Marvell, and Calxeda (formerly known as Smoothstone), a company that ARM itself invested in two years ago.

ARM has attracted attention in the server market because its chips consume less power than the x86 processors made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, and because those companies' powerful Xeon and Opteron chips are considered an overkill for certain high-volume, Web-based workloads, such as serving up Web pages or search results.

ARM began its own research and development into servers in 2008, and servers will one day be an important market for the company, Brown predicted. But ARM needs to build a whole "ecosystem" around its chips before they take off.

That means ensuring that sufficient software packages are available for ARM-based chips, and persuading server manufacturers that they should invest in designing ARM hardware.

ARM is doing its part. The next version of its Cortex architeture, the A-15, will add support for virtualization and 64-bit software, two basic requirements for servers. But the company is apparently keen to manage expectations about how quickly ARM servers will come about.

"We think its going to be 2014 or 12015, realistically, before you see any volume from ARM" in the server market, Brown said.

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