Red Hat Linux to run on Qualcomm server chips

Prototype server with Qualcomm chips.

Prototype servers based on Qualcomm's upcoming ARM server chip

Credit: James Niccolai

The port will help developers write applications for Qualcomm server chips

Qualcomm has been established in mobile devices for some time now, but it's still trying to jumpstart the market for its chips in servers. So in an effort to exploit advanced features on its server chips and appeal to as many developers as possible, Qualcomm is working with Red Hat to port a version of the Enterprise Linux Server for ARM Development Preview.

All Qualcomm server and mobile chips are based on processor architecture from ARM, whose business model is based on licensing out its designs to different manufacturers. Servers based on ARM-architecture, though, are almost nonexistent commercially. Now, a full port of the Red Hat OS will allow developers to write applications for Qualcomm's server chips.

Qualcomm has not given a server chip shipment date, but said it will enter the ARM server market when it's viable. There's a handful of ARM systems available, but users are holding off buying them until more software is on the market.

The Enterprise Linux Server port will have drivers and firmware to comply with Qualcomm's server chip specifications as well as ARM's Server Base System Architecture (SBSA). SBSA is a specification for standardized hardware features across all ARM server chips.

Qualcomm introduced its first 24-core ARM server chip last October. The chip is still being tested, and has been sent to top-tier cloud providers. Developers can also test applications on Qualcomm chips through remote servers available via the Linaro Cloud service, which was announced this week.

A server with Qualcomm chips and Red Hat was shown on Wednesday at the Linaro Connect conference held in Bangkok.

Servers are built using standardized OSes, and then tweaks are needed to exploit specialized features on a chip. Qualcomm is a member of the Linaro consortium, which provides standardized ARM server software like the boot firmware and power management tools. Red Hat and Qualcomm will add specialized drivers, firmware and other software on top of that.

The ARM server market is expected to grow, albeit at a slow pace, in the coming years. Red Hat could benefit from the collaboration with Qualcomm, and get the OS into more servers. Ubuntu and CentOS are other Linux OSes that work on ARM servers.

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