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ARM says its chips and Linux will sweep the industry

From embedded to servers
Fri Apr 05 2013, 12:15
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CHIP DESIGNER ARM has said that vendors are looking to standardise on both one chip architecture and a single operating system such as Linux across their product lines.

With many of ARM's licensees preparing to make a big splash in the server market, the firm claimed its architecture is the only one that scales from smartphones all the way up to servers. Lakshmi Mandyam, ARM director of Server Systems and Ecosystems told The INQUIRER that the ability to stick with one chip vendor and run the same operating system throughout its product stack is something "people find very interesting".

ARM expects most of its servers to end up powering open source software stacks, which strongly suggests Linux as the underlying operating system, especially since FreeBSD's ARM port is seemingly in a state of flux. According to Mandyam, companies are increasingly interested in concentrating on a single processor and software stack, saying that vertical integration - the term given to keeping everything in-house - is once again becoming fashionable.

Mandyam said, "In the industry there is a trend back towards vertical integration where if you look [back] 20 years [they] did their own ASIC, they did everything themselves and then after that it migrated to outsourced [then] to merchant silicon, but I think people are seeing a benefit for integrating again."

Mandyam used Chinese consumer and enterprise IT vendor Huawei as an example of how ARM chips are deployed from its smartphones through to its network infrastructure equipment. She said, "Huawei uses the ARM architecture for handsets, set-top boxes, routers, base stations and they have talked publicly about their server intentions."

According to Mandyam, ARM is the only vendor that can allow companies such as Huawei to stick to one architecture from smartphones to servers.

"Definitely [customers] see the advantages of standardising across one architecture from low to high and ARM's the only architecture that can scale down to the low, and allow people to do integration. The integration curve is the other curve ARM can go down and the other guys can't."

However Mandyam said the advantages of ARM weren't limited to just being able to deploy a single vendor's chips but also include the ability to deploy Linux throughout the product range. She said firms are working with Linaro's Enterprise Working Group in order to have some influence on the direction of enterprise Linux deployment because they see it as a key component to a cost-effective server.

Mandyam said, "If you look at who is participating in Linaro's enterprise group, you have end users like Facebook that are participating as well, because they see the value of getting involved early and it really shortens the time to market. If you think about the Linux kernel, it's all standardised - based on the ARM architecture. Everyone, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel at different times, you have everyone cooperating."

Despite Linaro's Enterprise Working Group containing many firms that compete against each other for business, Mandyam claims that Linux still allows them to "maintain differentiation" that is needed to get a competitive advantage.

The combination of ARM's architecture scaling from embedded devices to servers combined with a similar capability for Linux could be the combination that allows firms to cut costs and ultimately increase profits. µ


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