Ubuntu Linux server with ARM processor rolled out by Boston Limited

The Viridis Microserver will run on ARM Cortex-A15 processors and is certified to run Ubuntu Linux 13.10

Boston Limited announced a new server based on ARM processors and certified to run Ubuntu Linux 13.10, a move that could further stir up growing interest in ARM servers.

When it ships, the Viridis Microserver will be one of the few commercially available ARM servers. Top server makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell have announced their intent to release ARM servers, but only a handful of products from small vendors are commercially available.

Other ARM server makers include Penguin Computing and Aeon Computing. Advanced Micro Devices is expected to start selling ARM servers in next year's first quarter.

Boston Limited did not respond to requests for comment on price or worldwide availability of Viridis Microserver.

There is a growing interest in ARM servers as low-power alternatives to x86 servers, which dominate the data center. Some believe that low-power ARM cores are more power-efficient in processing search, social networking and other Web requests.

ARM server adoption is expected to grow with the released of 64-bit ARM chips next year from companies like AMD, Calxeda, AppliedMicro and others. Right now ARM-based servers support 32-bit addressing.

The Viridis Microserver design is centered around Calxeda's EnergyCore ECX-2000 system-on-chip (SOC), which was released late last month and has CPUs based on ARM's Cortex-A15 design. The microserver has six ECX-2000 SOCs, each of which draws just six watts of power, has four CPU cores running at 1.8GHz, 10 Gigabit Ethernet links, 16GB of DDR3 memory and 4MB of cache.

With certification to run Ubuntu Linux, the Viridis Microserver will have the drivers to support the Calxeda chip. Software development for the ARM architecture is still in its infancy, with software packages being developed by Linaro, and Oracle and ARM working to tweak the Java programming language for ARM's 32-bit and upcoming 64-bit chips.

The natural applications for the Viridis Microserver server would be for Web hosting, or for someone who wants an ARM server to test applications, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"We haven't seen the exact market for these products emerge yet," McCarron said. "It's early to say where it'll fit."

The ultra-low power server market is still very small, and ARM-based servers will start in the 2U form factor and work their way up, McCarron said.

The Viridis Microserver was announced at the Supercomputing Conference held in Denver this week.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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